đHgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/Foreward.htmlgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/Foreward.htmldelayedxzŐJ˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙ČŔ±žŔ OKtext/html@ÜŚŃçŔ ˙˙˙˙b‰.HFri, 10 Jun 2005 01:22:06 GMT˘Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *zŐJŔ The B'nai Khaim in America
B’nai Khaim in America
By  Joseph M. Gillman


     This study concerns the adaptations to the American way of 
life of nearly 100 immigrant Jews, stemming from a common
ancestor, and of their American-born offspring. Nearly all of
these immigrants came here in the years 1903-1914 and
     The “common ancestor” was a candlemaker named Khaim
Kaprov who lived in Yustingrad, a ghetto town in the Ukraine,
circa 1800-1870. We call his descendants the B’nai Khaim; liter-
ally, the children of Khaim. For convenience, we shall use this
collective term to designate any single Khaim Kaprov descend-
ant, any segment of the mishpokhah, as well as the whole
mishpokhah. So, I am a B’nai Khaim, my children and grand-
children are B’nai Khaim, and the book treats of the B’nai 
Khaim – of the B’nai Khaim in America.
     The criteria for evaluating the “adaptations” of the B’nai
Khaim in America are the values and mores of the religious and
cultural life in which our immigrants were nurtured in their 
native Ukraine. I treat of this background mostly in the first
three chapters of the book. I then seek to evaluate the eco-
nomic, sociological and cultural levels which they and their
American-born offsprings have attained here over the past 60
years. In turn, all these achievements ( and failures ) are mirrored
in the degree of adherence to and departure from the precepts
and practice of traditional orthodox Judaism of the 19th-century
Ukrainian Jewry.
      The chapters on the Ukrainian home culture are based in the
main on my own recollections from childhood, reinforced and
amplified over the years by family lore. The rest of the book,
the major portion, in fact, is organized around information
secured from the B’nai Khaim in the past several years through
formal questionnaires, personal interviews and voluminous cor-
respondence. This information they supplied me either directly
or through my “lieutenants” living in various parts of the coun-
try, literally from Maine to California. All the information was
given voluntarily, although not without occasional prodding.
     In all these respects the study is intensely personal. On my
part, I knew Yustingrad, where the study begins, and its people
through closest association: I lived there until I was 14 years old
and in nearby Uman for another four years. I knew the B’nai
Khaim intimately, being one of them. I continued intimate con-
tact with most of them over the years in America through fre-
quent visits and correspondence. Through my “lieutenants” I
extended this personal relationship to the many B’nai Khaim I
could not meet individually. To do so would have been physi-
cally impossible in any case. Excluding children under age 16,
but including spouses, our “statistical population” is now over
250. It would have required a “university team” to do the study
on a personal interview basis. In no small way, however, the
study was made possible by the confidence my kin had for me.
Their willingness to cooperate reflects, in a measure, the extent
to which the traditional cohesiveness of the Jewish family still
operates in America a half-century beyond the ghetto life of old
     On the other hand, while in most cases this personal touch
was a positive asset in the pursuit of the inquiry, in several cases
it proved a handicap. Some B’nai Khaim “who knew not 
Joseph” were reluctant to divulge their “vital statistics” to a
distant relative. In the end, however, replies to our question-
naires ran 85 to 95 per cent of potential respondents, depending
on the “depth” of the questions. The “potential” is the entire
American B’nai Khaim “family tree.”
     This study had been germinating in my mind for over 40
years, but it was not until 1946 that I took the first steps to
give it concrete form. The immigrant generation was beginning
to fade away: the second generation was maturing, and the third
was pressing forward. Material was accumulating to give the 
study substance. That year I visited my uncle, the late
Rabbi Avrom Kaprov, in Bangor Maine, and obtained from him the
basic information regarding our family origins back to Zeide
(grandfather) Khaim. It was a fortunate visit for the future of
the Project: Fetter Avrom died the next year, at age 80. There
was no one else even then who knew of these early records.
     I let another dozen years go by before I followed up that
lead. In 1958 and 1959 I interested four more relatives in the 
study. These gathered preliminary statistics on B'nai Khaim of 
whom I had but limited information. Finally, in early 1962, I 
enlisted the interest of a number of younger B'nai Khaim who 
volunteered to gather the mass data I needed for the study.
Working within a most closely related family group each 
volunteer, as my "lieutenant," collected the statistics for the 
"family tree" and drew up the family charts. My helpers 
distributed questionnaires relating to the location, education and
occupation of the B'nai Khaim. to the usual vital statistics of age,
nativity, marital status. etc., and to changes in family tradition.
Often I called on them to coax recalcitrants in to compliance 
and to carry the brunt of my impatience when returns did not 
come fast enough or were inadcquate or inconsistent in content.
     The book has three objectives. The first one, of course, is the
chronicling for the present and future generations of B'nai Khaim 
of the story of their heritage. I wanted them to be able 
to say without apology. "My immigrant grandfather was an 
illiterate junk dealer," even as Carl Sandburg declared in an 
interview on his 86th birthday, recently, that his grandfather 
was an illiterate blacksmith who signed his name with an X.
     Secondly, I think, the study might serve to stimulate similar 
studies of other American-Jewish families as well as families of 
non-Jewish ethnic groups of recent immigrant origins.
     Thirdly, the findings should be useful in studies of cultural 
anthropology at a time when the question of the ethnic pluralism 
of our society is engaging the scholarly interest of academic 
sociologists as well as religious and political leaders. 
     Although this is a study of the social, economic and cultural 
experiences of a rather large family group of Yustingrad origin, 
it is not presented as a sample of the experience in America of 
all emigrants from Yustingrad and their American-born offspring. 
Nor, definitely, is it presented as the experience of 
American Jews of other immigrant origins. Ours is a study in 
cultural change of a single Jewish mishpokhah. And the changes 
I talk about are projected against the specific cultural 
background of this group.
     Moreover, any generalizations that might seem to be 
warranted by our findings must be evaluated with due regard to the 
time limitations of the coverage. The American-born 
B'nai Khaim are hardly more than two generations removed from 
their immigrant progenitors and their age-old mores. The 
definitive story of "The B'nai Khaim in America" will have to wait 
another generation or more when another descendant of 
Khaim the candlemaker will resume where we leave off. 

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