Hgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter04.htmlgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter04.htmldelayedxzJvOKtext/htmlPvb.HSun, 24 Aug 2008 15:59:04 GMTMozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *zJv The B'nai Khaim in America
Chapter 4 - Education and Occupations of the Immigrant B'nai Khaim

    They came here, 93 of them; for the most part without 
money, without skills and without friends in America. To make 
a living they had to start at the bottom among strangers in a 
strange land speaking a strange tongue. 
    In this chapter we observe how these 93 immigrant B'nai Khaim 
fitted themselves into the American environment. We 
compare their education and occupation in the old country and 
the new. We do not follow through their vicissitudes, triumphs 
and failures: that would require another book. We do note a 
few cases, however.
    The materjal for the chapter came, in the main, from answers 
to a questionnaire I circulated (May 1963) among the 
then still-living first-generation American B'nai Khaim and, in cases 
of the no-longer living, among their immediate descendants. In 
only a few cases did we (my "lieutenants," that is) have to 
resort to more distant sources. By these means we obtained 
information for 85 of the 93. The eight we missed were among 
the several who would not participate at any stage of the study, 
or for whom no one could speak reliably. 
    As was the case with most immigrants of the time, the B'nai Khaim 
who came here before World War I were mostly unmarried 
males or married males without their families. There 
were seven such married males, and 14 of the 19 unmarried 
B'nai Khaim, eight years old and over, were males. After that 
war all married males came with their spouses, and about as 
many unmarried females (17) came as unmarried males (19). 
The rest were married females who came with children to join 
husbands and fathers. The few that came after World War II, 
except one male, came as families.
    Seventy of the 93 immigrant B'nai Khaim were born in the 
Yustingrad-Knyazhe-Uman triangle; 13 were born in towns and
villages within a day's journey by horse cart from this triangle, 
in Bershad, Okhmatova, Korsun, Oukhrimova. Eight were born 
in the Kishinev-Odessa area, and two young children were born 
in Israel, to which their parents had migrated after World War I. 
    In age, our immigrants ranged from two to 73 years. With 
very few conspicuous exceptions, they all possessed about the 
same degree of semi-illiteracy. By occupation, again with a few 
exceptions, they fell within a narrow range of petty tradesmen 
and small shopkeepers, including one saloonkeeper. Among the 
exceptions in this instance were two blacksmiths, two ropespinners, 
a cabinetmaker, a Rabbi and a young Hebrew teacher. 
    The first B'nai Khaim to settle permanently in America was 
Zeide Beryl's eldest granddaughter (A2 B1 C1). She came here 
with her four children in 1903, two years after her husband, 
and made her home in Brooklyn, NY. Two more children were 
born to them here. However, since this family had been living in 
a city approximately 140 miles from the Yustingrad center of 
the mishpokhah and had had little contact with it, their 
emigration to America had no influence on later emigrations of 
the B'nai Khaim. Members of this family were among the least 
cooperative on the project. "I want to forget my miserable childhood," 
one of them declared, in refusing to participate. 
    The next B'nai Khaim to emigrate was my cousin Zalman 
(A2 B4 C2), who came to Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1905, but 
stayed scarcely two years. Everything in America seems to have 
offended his religious, social and moral sensibilities. Jews 
in America, he wrote home, trimmed their beards, like goyim, and 
were not scrupulous in observing the dietary laws. They worked 
on the Sabbath day and tended to disregard the lesser of the 
Jewish holidays. 
    Besides, he found home-life in America quite indecent. For 
instance, he wrote, husband and wife sleep in the same bed even 
during her "period." Women did not go to the mikvah"unsanitary!" 
they said. Yet in their home, he observed, 
the w.c. was right off the kitchen where you cooked, ate and 
entertained! Not at all like in Sokolievka, where you eased yourself 
squatting in the backyard without proclaiming your bodily 
needs to your guests! So, after two years of distress under these 
and similar indignities, he returned home to his wife and children, 
his beard untrimmed. There he remained until 1921 when, 
with other victims of the pogroms, he and his family made their 
way to Palestine. His children and grandchildren are now prosperous 
burghers in Israel. Their menfolk are clean-shaven; they 
do not obserVe the dietary laws, and they work on the Sabbath 
    The next B'nai Khaim to come here on a permanent basis was 
myself (A2 B2 C4). By the time I was 17 I had become convinced 
that I would never gain entrance to a gymnasia in Tsarist 
Russia and decided to emigrate to America in search of an 
education. In America, I day-dreamed, I'd "work eight hours, 
sleep eight hours, and study eight hours a day." But the letters 
cousin Zalman wrote home from America stood in the way. The 
family would not give me the money to take me to America. 
Aunt Yenta (A2 B4), Zalman's mother, wept at family councils: 
"He would only become a goy there." 
    In the end, early in January, 1906, I said goodbye and, with 
four and one-half rubles in my pocket and a pillow to pawn, 
I set off, bumming my way the next two months as far as 
Grodek, a county capital in Galicia, Austria-Hungary. There I 
had to stop, My shoes had given out and my tattered overcoat 
offered little protection against the raw winds blowing from the 
Bukowina mountains. I had given my pillow to the agent who 
had arranged for me to "steal-the-border," and sold my phylacteries 
to buy food. I had to earn some money now and to 
think through the next steps. I obtained a job as a sales-clerk in 
a hardware store for which I was given room, board and a 
gulden a week, and settled down to await financial help from 
home to enable me to continue my journey. I figured that once 
I had traveled so far the family would realize I was in earnest 
and see me through. This they finally did. After four months of 
correspondence my father arrived in Grodek with fare money to 
carry us both to America. We landed at Ellis Island July 21, 
1906, six weeks after my 18th birthday. 
    Our first destination was Chelsea, where Zalman lived, but we 
did not plan to remain there long. Somewhere in America my 
father had a younger sister, Sarah Feldman, who had emigrated 
to America some 30 years earlier and whose children were all 
born here. They would help us to a start in the new world, we 
speculated, and especially help me to get the education denied 
me in Russia. My father, however, did not know her address, 
but only that she had once written him from a city that sounded 
like Boofollo and that her first-born was a son named 
Kalman. Upon the advice of seasoned immigrants, my father 
inserted an ad in a national Jewish daily, listing these 
identifications and expressing the hope that his sister would write 
him. In a very short time came a letter from a kosher butcher in 
Buffalo. He knew my aunt and her family, and he knew Kalman 
and his wife. But Aunt Sarah, now a widow, was living in Cleveland 
near one of her married daughters. He would get her address 
and send it to us. He did so, and my father at once wrote 
to his sister. 
    Meanwhile, in Chelsea, Father and I went to live in a rooming 
house and started to work in a rag shop alongside cousin 
Zalman. Father and I had arrived in Ellis Island with 65 kopeks 
between us. (What little money he had left after paying for the 
steamship tickets was stolen from him in Hamburg, our 
embarkation point.) A representative of the Jewish Immigrant Aid 
Society, predecessor of H.I.A.S., who was stationed at Ellis Island, 
wired my cousin of our plight and he promptly wired back 
$5.00 to pay our way on a freighter to Fall River and from 
there by rail to Chelsea. We arrived at Chelsea on a Thursday; 
blinked at America Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday 
started to earn our keep sorting and picking rags. I had been 
hinting that I wished for a job that would leave me time to 
resume my education. "In America," my cousin made clear, 
"one must first learn to work for a living."
   My wage at the ragshop was 75 cents a day. After a week I 
moved on to a cleaner job in a shoe factory, buffing soles for 
$6.00 a week, a padrone regularly deducting $1.00 for getting 
me the job and, presumably, for teaching it to me. After three 
weeks I rebelled against this system and found a job in a 
sodapop bottling factory at a full $6.00 a week, washing bottles and 
delivering them in a crate to a bottling cage. But here, too, I 
lasted only about three weeks. One late afternoon, as I delivered 
a crate at the cage, a bottle burst under soda-gas pressure and 
flying glass hit me. It turned out to be a minor accident-the 
glass splinters missed my jugular vein by several millimeters. 
A company doctor removed the chips, sewed up the gash and sent 
me home, telling me not to worry. But I had had my scare and 
moved to a safer job in a tanning factory. Here I tacked pickled 
hides on a drying frame one day and removed them when dry 
the next day or the day after, and day-dreamed of the great 
opportunities awaiting me in Cleveland among my American 
    By this time, Father had received a railroad ticket from his 
sister and went off to Cleveland, Aunt Sarah, it turned out, was 
too poor to send tickets for both Father and me. In fact, the 
money for Father's ticket was advanced by her son-in-law, a 
small manufacturer of workmen's shirts and overalls. (Later I 
worked for him at $4.00 a week, 11 hours weekdays and 8 
hours on Saturdays;) So I worked on in the tanning factory, 
saving for railroad fare to take me to Cleveland. I got there 
October 1, 1906. 
    Already in his letters to me, however, my father hinted at the 
meager prospects for my ambitions amidst my aunt's family. He 
found them extremely narrow in their educational outlook. 
None of them had gone to high school. "Not a single doctor, 
not even an advocat among them," he wrote me in obvious 
disappointment. When, two years later, George Bellamy of the 
Hiram House, together with a retired high school teacher who 
tutored me free in high-school subjects, arranged for me to 
enter Hiram College, Aunt Sarah solicitously wanted to know if 
"college" would teach me "at least to become a bookkeeper." 
    After two years at Hiram I transferred to Western Reserve 
University in Cleveland, from which I graduated in 1913. In 
Cleveland I earned my keep by teaching "English to foreigners" 
in the evening public schools. The first year at Hiram I pumped 
the Chapel organ for my tuition and earned my meals by washing 
dishes and scrubbing floors in a dormitory. A grant by the
Jewish Education League of Cleveland helped me through the 
second year at Hiram and paid my tuition at Western Reserve.
    This is how Cleveland became my home town in America and 
the first home for most B'nai Khaim who followed me before 
World War I. Before long some of these "Cleveland B'nai Khaim" 
moved to Buffalo, Chicago and Philadelphia, and new 
immigrants joined them in those cities. After the war, Buffalo, 
Cleveland and Chicago received most of the new immigrants. 
Today the B'nai Khaim, foreign-born and American-born can be 
found in 26 towns and cities, stretching, literally, from Maine to 
California, to Florida and Texas. If mobility is a characteristic 
of the dynamism of Americans, then the B'nai Khaim achieved 
this habit at a very early stage of their Americanization. 
    The education of most B'nai Khaim upon arrival in the 
United States was minimal. The few who had lived in the big 
cities and, therefore, were more literate constituted a 
conspicuous exception. All males above the age of four had 
attended kheder where laboriously they learned to read, although not 
necessarily to understand, prayerbook Hebrew. Some had gone 
beyond this elementary level and learned to translate from the 
Hebrew of the Torah. A very few had gone beyond that to learn 
to read the Talmud (in Hebrew and Aramaic). The kheder did 
not teach writing, not even Yiddish, the mother tongue, nor any 
secular subjects such as arithmetic, for instance, until well into 
the first decade of this century. It was not until then, also, that 
girls were first admitted to kheder. Everybody above kheder age 
learned to speak goyish, the peasant jargon of the Ukraine. 
Virtually none could speak, read or write Russian except the 
few who had lived in the big cities. Now the oncoming war 
and the Revolution brought big-city knowledge into the shtetl. The 
generals spoke Russian and so did the revolutionists. 
    Until that time, as a matter of fact, Russian and secular learning 
were virtually taboo in the shtetl; at any rate it was so in my 
town in my day. At about the turn of the century itinerant 
teachers would come to town for a season to give private lessons 
in Russian, arithmetic and geography for 50 kopeks a week per 
pupil. I was 11 or 12 when I began these lessons, and that 
became the immediate cause of my break with kheder. One day 
I brought my Russian primer to kheder. The melamed was outraged 
at this desecration of his sacred precincts. He pronounced 
the book trefposle-a profanation-threw it out of the window, 
dipped the tips of his "soiled" fingers in the glass of water at his 
side to decontaminate them and cuffed me. Smarting from hurt 
and humiliation-no melamed had ever cuffed me before-I 
walked out of the room, picked up the book and went home. I 
never again entered a kheder. I was about fed up with kheder, 
anyway. The endless repetition of trivia was becoming intolerably
     In contrast to shtetl Jews, city Jews had a greater tolerance 
for secular learning and even encouraged it, although they had 
all begun their education in a kheder. Nearly all B'nai Khaim 
reared in Uman, Kishinev or Odessa spoke Russian and were 
conversant with secular subjects. They developed appreciation 
of cultural values beyond the constrictions of the kheder. We 
shall find echoes of this awareness later in their American home. 
    The fact is that of the 24 B'nai Khaim who came here before 
World War I at the age of eight or over, only four claimed to be 
able to read Russian "well" and only three to speak it well. 
They were even less proficient in their knowledge of Hebrew. 
Of the 17 males, only three claimed to be able to write Hebrew; 
these included the Rabbi and his Hebrew teacher son. Only one 
claimed to be able to speak Hebrew. Of the seven females, only 
one claimed to be able to read Hebrew, and only "fairly" well. 
All 24 could speak Yiddish, of course, but only 15 or 16 could 
read their mother-tongue. Taking all these scores together, it 
can be said that most of the B'nai Khaim who came here before 
World War I were semi-illiterate. 
    On the average, this can be said also of those who came after 
the war, despite the fact that several of them had come with 
"big-city" learning. The large contingent of virtually illiterate 
females who had come to join their pre-war emigrant husbands 
diluted the group's level of literacy. During the years of anguished 
waiting, there could have been little zest to acquire literacy; 
foremost for these women was the problem of survival. 
    The first measure of adjustment of non-English-speaking 
immigrants to the American environment is the command they 
achieve over the English language-speaking, reading, writing. 
The extent to which they achieve these facilities in large part 
determines their economic achievement potentials and, always, 
the degree of intelligent participation in and identification with 
the new culture. Obviously, the extent of command over the 
English language, and the rapidity with which it is acquired, is 
greatly affected by prior educational levels, by age at arrival and 
by the content of the old home cultural values. 
    With regard to the age factor, we find it logical to treat 
separately those who came here before the age of eight (there 
were 12 of them) and, in several other subgroups, those who 
came here after that age. Clearly, with respect to their educational
and occupation potentials the 12 immigrants must be 
treated apart and placed alongside native-born children, with 
due regard to differing influences of immigrant and American 
home cultures and family economic capability. 
    Two of the 12 were girls. Both of them subsequently graduated 
from high school; one went on to become a schoolteacher 
and the other a bookkeeper. Of the ten boys, five achieved high 
professional status: one became a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, 
one an anaesthesiologist, and two became lawyers. One 
of the lawyers earned such high esteem in his 
community (Cleveland) that, upon his untimely death in March 
1963 at age 58, the courts closed for a half-day to permit judges 
and lawyers to pay homage at his funeral. 
    The fifth of this group was, at the time of this inquiry, a 
student of architecture and civil engineering. He has since 
(1965) graduated with distinction. This B'nai Khaim was born 
in Israel and brought here after World War II at the age of four. 
    Of the other five boys, one became a pharmacist, one a chiropractor, 
one an office manager, and one a salesman. I have been 
unable to ascertain what became of the tenth boy. 
    Of special interest in this recital is perhaps the fact that four 
of the five who achieved high professional status came from 
families whom we earlier marked as of comparatively high educational
achievement in the old country, three of the four being 
grandsons of the arendar.
    Understandably, we do not come upon another such concentration 
of professional achievement until we reach the 
American-born B'nai Khaim. The higher the age at arrival the 
less possible becomes the formal education required for professional 
attainment. Only three immigrant B'nai Khaim, above 
the age of eight on arrival achieved professions. One, who came 
here in 1910 at age 17, became a physician. Another, who came 
here in 1906 at age 18, earned a master's degree in sociology 
and a Ph.D. in economics, became a college professor, served as 
economist in the federal government, has published two books 
since retirement and, at the moment, is writing this one. The 
third came here in 1925 at age 21. This means he was ten years 
old when the war broke out in 1914, and his schoolboy education 
could only have been sporadic. Yet, he came with a wide 
knowledge of the Russian language and Russian classics and, at 
the age of 21, set out to formalize his education in English. He 
completed high school and two years of college (evenings), 
while earning his keep doing "odd jobs, mostly menial," and 
became a professional translator. Later he served as translator 
for the State Department in Washington for 16 years. Now, 
retired, he does free-lance translating and is also a consultant in 
foreign language training in the public schools of a Washington 
    The formal education of B'nai Khaim who came here at ages 
8 to 15, was dictated by the req uirements of compulsory school 
attendance laws. Beyond that, the principal concern for most of 
them became how to earn a living, either for oneself or to 
contribute to the family income. Of the six males in this age 
group, four completed only from six to eight years of elementary 
school, one went through two years of college, and one 
graduated from Yeshiva and became a Rabbi. Two of the six are 
junk dealers; one runs a hand laundry, one is in the fur business, 
and one owns and operates a parking lot. 
    Of the seven females in this age group, four had six to eight 
years of elementary-grade schooling, one had two years of high 
school education, and one attended business school for two 
years. The seventh, who was born in Israel and came here after 
World War II at the age of nine, is presently working for a Ph.D. 
in sociology while raising a family. 
    With the group who came to this country at ages 16 to 20 the 
extent of formal education of the B'nai Khaim immigrants declines 
markedly. Earning a living now becomes the paramount 
objective in life. Besides the M.D. and the Ph.D. mentioned 
earlier, only one of the eight males in this age group attained as 
much as the equivalent of a high-school education. All had attended 
evening classes in "English for foreigners" for various 
lengths of time; one attended an elementary day school. Of the 
six beside the economist and the physician, one is in the 
installment sales business; one is a candy and tobacco wholesaler; 
two own scrap-iron yards; one is an operator in a dress factory; 
one became a housepainter and paperhanger. Only two of these 
B'nai Khaim, then, had become handicraftsmen. The frequent 
recurrence of the scrap-iron business among immigrant B'nai Khaim 
reflects their early concentration in the heartland of the 
American iron and steel industry. In New York, they might 
have become cloakmakers, as indeed many of them in this area 
    In respect to formal education the females in this age group 
(16 to 20) fared better than the males. All but one of the seven 
girls had gone to night school to learn English. Five attended 
grammar school, three of whom completed eight grades and 
went on to high school, one of them for four years. All seven 
are now housewives, but one also models in a women's specialty 
shop; one owns and runs a gift shop at an airport, and a third is 
a seamstress. 
    From here on formal education of immigrant B'nai Khaim 
rapidly recedes to the vanishing point. Only about one third in 
the group who came here at ages 21 to 30 attended night classes 
in "English for foreigners." One female went through seven and 
another eight elementary-school grades; none of the males went 
beyond the night classes. None of them went to high school 
except our translator, who happens to fall in this age group. 
    In this age group we have the two B'nai Khaim who came 
here (in 1926) with the most formal education among the 93. 
One, a male, had graduated from an agricultural institute; the 
other, his wife (and cousin) had graduated from a gymnasia. In 
America; while taking college extension courses, the man 
was engaged in the furniture installment business. Now he is a 
    All of the 16 women in this age group (21-30), are housewives, 
but several of them engage in other work besides: one of 
them runs a pastry shop; another is a seamstress, and a third 
runs a grocery store. Five are garment workers; one clerks in a 
shoe store, one in a drug store, and a third teaches Hebrew and 
    Among the ten males in this age group (21 to 30) we find, 
besides the translator and realtor, three scrap-iron dealers, two 
storekeepers, one installment merchant and two handicrafts
men-a glazier and a garment cutter. With the last two we have 
accounted for the five handicraftsmen to be found among the 
93 first-generation B'nai Khaim. Two males and nine females 
reported themselves as working in factories. 
    In America, as in the old country, the B'nai Khaim engaged 
mostly in trade and the services rather than in hand labor. It is 
noteworthy also that none of the B'nai Khaim studied thus far 
has been found engaged in industrial pursuits-in the production 
of goods-except for the few who worked as employees in the 
needle trades. 
    Finally, we have the 19 B'nai Khaim who came here at age 31
or over-seven females and 12 males. Strictly speaking, all of the 
seven women have been "housewives," in the sense that they 
have kept house for their families, but four of them engaged in 
outside work at the same time. One of them until past the age 
of 80 tended a fruit and vegetable stall in the produce market. 
One clerked in a drug store; two took in sewing on the side. 
Three of the seven came to this country as housewives; three 
started in the produce market, and one as a seamstress. Two of 
the three who started in the produce market are now the wives 
of two wealthy real estate men-the wealthiest in the 
mishpokhah, it is claimed. At least five of the seven speak 
English quite well. 
    Of the 12 males in this top age group, only two have a good 
command of the language. One Was born in Canada and learned 
his English there. (He came here in 1946 at age 35.) The other, 
who came here in 1959 at age 47, possesses command of several 
European languages and got a start in English in the years he 
lived in Israel, his last home before coming to America. 
Previously he had lived in Russia and/or Rumania, as the 
Province of Bessarabia in which he was born was shifted between 
these two countries with the fortunes of the two World 
Wars. This B'nai Khaim has the distinction of having been a 
prisoner of war and of having survived a year in a Nazi 
concentration camp. He is a graduate in political economy from 
a European university and is now a practicing accountant in 
    In the spring of 1964 he brought his younger brother and 
sister-in-law here from Rumania where the brother was a textile 
engineer, and his wife was an architectural engineer. Both 
promptly found suitable employment in California. Our count 
of the immigrant B'nai Khaim ends with these two members. 
    Of the rest of the 12 males in this top age group, two were 
scrap-iron dealers; four sold market produce; one runs a laundromat; 
our Canadian-born B'nai Khaim is a realtor; one was the 
late Rabbi Avrom Kaprov. The tenth is our arendar. When 
he and his wife came (to Buffalo) in 1923 their two daughters 
who had preceded them by two years opened a fruit store for 
them in a Polish neighborhood (the arendar spoke Polish). Some 
years later they moved to Chicago where they opened a grocery 
store, "working hard (especially Mother)," writes their California 
daughter. "Father still could not get used to this kind of 
work," she explained. 
    These, then, were the 93 who planted the B'nai Khaim Tree 
in America. Our treatment of them of necessity had to be rather 
statistical. But there is a story. behind each of these statistics 
"that would fill a book," which we cannot pursue here
hardships and successes, triumphs and failures, and tragedies. 
We must turn now to our next task, to treat of the fruit on that 
B'nai Khaim Tree-the second-generation American B'nai Khaim. 
However, before we do that we have two more observations to 
make about the old. 
    In the preceding chapter I noted that the descendants of 
Khaim the candlemaker tended to be of short stature. (This was 
true of most shtetl Jews, for that matter.) While short in 
stature, however, they seem to be long of life. Once they survived 
infancy, they seem to go on into real old age. Thirty-five 
of the immigrant B'nai Khaim died by mid-196S. More than 
half of these had lived past the biblically allotted three-score-
and-ten, and five lived beyond four-score. Here are the statistics:

B'nai Khaim, Age at Death            Male      Female
-------------------------            ----      ------
Under 60                              8          5   
60 to 70                              2          3   
70 to 75                              4          1   
75 to 80                              4          3   
80 +                                  4          1   
                                    -----      ------
Total                                22         13

   At this writing one female B'nai Khaim is nearing 85, and one 
male B'nai Khaim is on his way to 80. 
   Finally, a word about what might be termed "transition to 
Americanization." This is the proclivity of immigrant B'nai 
Khaim males to marry native-born spouses. Of the 33 male 
immigrant B'nai Khaim who married in America, 12 (over 36 
per cent) married native women. As would be expected, nine of 
these 12 were of our under-8 age group. The economist and 
the translator also married native-born women. Of the female 
immigrant B'nai Khaim who married here, less than 14 per cent 
married native-born men. Of the two females in the under-8 
group one married a foreign-born and one a native-born spouse. 
Altogether, ten of our 12 under-8 age group married native-born 
spouses; one married a foreign-born, and one is still single. In 
fairness it should be added that our female candidate for a 
Ph.D. in sociology who came to America from Israel at the age 
of nine also married a native. 

CandleMaker Kaprov
E-Mail: CandleMaker_Kaprov@Yahoo.com

Main page