Incredibly, not a single person among the living descendants of Moishe, Chaya Fraida and Ethel Grossman has heard of Jacob Grossman, even though many of them were born at least a decade before he passed away. Marion Shapiro, Norman and Sylvia Grossman and Harold (Lou’s son) knew Jacob and Chaya Riva’s children Ned, Harry and Sylvia, but had no idea how they were related. Francis Yedidia has never heard of Jacob Grossman, nor has Arthur Bierman, who also did not know that Moishe had two sisters in Minneapolis. John Marcus has heard of neither Chaya Riva nor her husband. My grandfather Bud and his brother Harold knew only Jacob and Chaya Riva’s children, the Rocklers, but were unaware of the relationship.
The fact that Jacob and Chaya Riva Grossman are remembered only by their direct descendants, and not by the descendants of their nieces and nephews, is astonishing. It is also significant that Moishe’s descendants had little or no contact with Chaya Riva’s and Ethel Pearl’s descendants, a situation which may have arisen—as I suggested above—from the fact that Ethel married her first cousin and thus offended her brother. The consequent absence of communication between Moishe and his siblings, as well as between Moishe and his uncle, was transmitted to subsequent generations. As a result, the grandchildren of our immigrant ancestors do not know most of their cousins—the children of their granduncles and grandaunts. The once tightly unified Grossman family broke into fragments and drifted apart. I can only hope that we can learn from this scenario and never repeat it!
The story of the Grossman and Berman families is a proud subchapter in the five-thousand year history of the Jewish people. From the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem through the long period of exile in Southern and Western Europe, our ancestors, guided by the Hebrew scriptures and the wisdom of generations of rabbis, have struggled to preserve their traditions and way of life. During their difficult final years in the Russian Empire, when escape seemed the only option, the Grossmans and Bermans pooled their resources and emigrated to the United States, leaving all that they had behind.
In 1888 Jacob Dov and Chaya Fraida Berman arrived in the New World directionless and with very little money. Jacob Dov had no special destination in mind that day he went shopping for train tickets with the idea of settling further west. In the years after, when his relatives followed in his footsteps and made the same journey, they knew that in a distant place called Minneapolis there was family awaiting them.
Huddled together in poor tenements around Washington Avenue North, the Grossmans and Bermans labored day and night in the hope of attaining a better life for themselves and their children. The family, synagogue and community provided the framework in which to succeed, and each generation built on the successes of the preceding one. Today, perhaps for the first time in our history, there is no immediate threat to our happiness and well-being. However, let us remember the hard work and suffering of our forebears that made our freedom and prosperity possible, and let us never forget our unfortunate relatives who met their tragic end in Sudilkov only a few decades ago.