Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sara Leah

That's my Hebrew name, Sharon Lynn in English. Sara and Leah were my father's grandmothers. Sara was still alive when he was born but Leah died when his mother was a baby. According to Ashkenazic Jewish tradition, children are given the Hebrew names of close relatives who are deceased. I was the first granddaughter (first grandchild) so I was named for two of my great-grandmothers.

Sara Mariam Zejburski was born in the town of Lomza, Poland in 1884. I found her in the 1897 Russian Census with her parents and 4 brothers (see link) under the name Zymburski/Zymburska. She also had another brother Lejba who was born and died in 1887 and 3 younger sisters, one of whom was born and died in 1898. The Zejburski family lived in Lomza for many years and I have quite a few original records that still need to be translated. Sara, her parents, and her 6 brothers and sisters came to America between 1904 and 1907, settling in Manhattan. In March 1905, Sara married Abraham Klein, a butcher. They had 6 children from 1906 to 1915. Sara divorced Abraham in 1931 for adultery.

Whenever I mention Sara Klein to my father's sister Linda, she says "Sara and her sisters were whores." She couldn't have been that bad...I was named for her. Apparently after the divorce, Sara was living with a Mr. Mendel out of wedlock. My uncle remembers visiting her once but apparently she didn't keep in touch with her children and their families...or so I thought. Her son Aaron/Harry, my grandfather, wasn't very good at keeping in touch with family. I think I finally found out where Sara's nasty reputation came from...a few weeks ago I was talking to my Aunt Linda and she told me that her father never forgave his mother Sara for living with a man out of wedlock. Some of that anger has lived on in her. There's no way to know now if Sara tried to maintain contact with her children and grandchildren and was shunned or if it was her choice not to keep in touch. I don't hold anything against her. She divorced her husband at the time when all of her sons were already out on their own and her daughter was close to getting married. She had to survive. Mr. Mendel had been a family friend for years. He was a witness in the divorce proceedings. I don't know anything about Sara's sisters yet so I don't know how they got pulled into that angry comment. For now, I'd just be happy to find out where Sara is buried. No one remembers. She died in the late 1950s and could be buried in any of the Queens or Long Island cemeteries. Unfortunately every cemetery has at least one Sara(h) Klein who died during those years. I'll find her eventually.

Leah Belinki was born in the town of Lysyanka, Ukraine, circa 1889. She traveled to America in 1906 with Kosunski cousins, coming to see her aunt and uncle Elka and Benjamin Hochfeld. She used the name Lena Belinsky in America.  Her parents never came to America, nor did her 3 sisters and 1 of her brothers. Lena was joined in New York by her brother Leib/Louis in 1908 and brother Shlome/Solomon came in 1913 but she was already dead. Lena married Louis Lutsky, also from Lysyanka, sometime in 1909 (can't find their marriage record)and they had 2 children, Israel/Irving born 1910 and Ida/Irene, my grandmother, born 1911. A few days after Ida's first birthday, Lena walked to the roof of the 3-story building in which she lived and worked and jumped from the roof (see link). The story is that she was carrying baby Ida and a neighbor, thinking Lena was going to the roof to take in the laundry, offered to hold the baby. There is also a story that when Ida was 6 months old, Lena tried to jump out the window with the baby. Because of the way women in those days popped out babies, I had always suspected that her depression was tied to hormones. A few years ago I came into contact with the daughter of Lena's brother Solomon and she told me that Lena did kill herself after finding out that she was pregnant again.

Lena is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens. I like that the family buried her in the main section of the cemetery. Suicide goes against Jewish law and many times suicides are buried in the back of the cemetery. I think the family viewed Lena's emotional problems as an illness which is why she is buried in the main section. Also, if she was viewed as crazy I probably wouldn't have been named for her.

Both of these women had hard lives. Sara survived as best she could. Lena was overwhelmed by her situation and chose to end her life at a very young age. I'm proud to be named for both of them.

1 comment:

JireneGenealogy (my nom de plume, obviously) said...

Excellent blog! I love reading the stories of these women. Thanks for sharing. Irene (JireneGen - http://jirenegen.blogspot.com/)