Jacob Dov and Chaya Fraida Berman

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In the next five chapters I will treat in detail the lives of ten of the most prominent Bermans and Grossmans in the history of our family, and their children: Jacob Dov and Chaya Fraida Berman; Moishe and Temma Grossman; Leah Berg and her husband; Mechel and Ethel Grossman; and Jacob and Chaya Riva Berman.

I think it is appropriate to begin with the first couple to arrive in the United States, Jacob Dov (1861-1912) and Chaya Fraida Berman (Jan 1867-1949).   In the chapter “Minneapolis: 1888-1900” I explained how Jacob Dov and Chaya Fraida arrived in Minneapolis in late 1888 and settled into their first flat at 1429 North 1st Street.  Less than two years later the young couple moved to 609 North 2nd Street, where they were reunited with other Grossmans and Bermans who had arrived from the Russian Empire.  Jacob Dov, his wife and four children moved out of the crowded flat around 1893 or 1894, when they had earned enough money to get their own place.

Jacob Dov and Chaya Fraida Berman in 1898

According to John Marcus, when Jacob Dov arrived in Minneapolis he opened a public bath house in the quarter where he lived.  At that time very few people had indoor plumbing and were therefore obliged to wash themselves for a fee at the local bath house.  By the turn of the century the place was known as “the Bud” (pronounced “Bood”).  I confirmed John’s account in the 1895 Minneapolis City Directory, in which I found Jacob Dov working and living at his bath house on 421 Washington Avenue North, between North 4th and 5th Streets.  I found an old photograph on which I have approximately located the bath house.  

Jacob Dov’s bath house, Washington Avenue North from 3rd Avenue North, photo circa 1912

 John claims that Jacob Dov’s business was particularly busy on Friday afternoons because the Jews normally took their weekly baths just before the Sabbath.  One can just imagine the orthodox Jewish men lined up in the waiting room chatting with each other in Yiddish while Jacob and Chaya Fraida ran back and forth changing and heating bath water.  According to the same directory Jacob also lived at 517 North 2nd Street with Jacob Grossman, Chaya Riva, and their children.  However, I believe the place on North 2nd Street must in fact have been the apartment where Jacob Dov and his family lived until the preceding year, 1894, just before opening shop on Washington Avenue North.  Amazingly, the modest brick edifice at no. 421 is still standing, and seems to have been restored in the last ten or fifteen years.

By 1899 Jacob Dov had relocated his business and residence to 328 7th Avenue North, between North 3rd and 4th Streets.  In the Minneapolis directory of that year the name of the business is “Brooks & Berman”, which suggests that Jacob Dov had a partner, whom he may or may not have had since the beginning.  After a hiatus of a couple of years, when Jacob Dov and his family lived by themselves on Washington Avenue North, they once again lived with the Grossmans—Moishe, Temma, et al—at their new address on 7th Avenue North.  Perhaps it was financial circumstances which forced the Grossmans to move in with their former housemates, as they had from 1890 to 1893/94.  It is likely that Moishe assisted Jacob Dov with his business, an arrangement which must have been mutually convenient.

However, in the year 1900 Jacob Dov and Moishe moved with their respective families out of 328 7th Avenue North and into separate homes.  The Bermans and Grossmans had struggled together through the arduous first years in the New World and now it was time to continue on their own.  Evidently, by that time the two families were able to afford not to live together.  Jacob Dov took out a mortgage on a business and home for his family at 420 6th Avenue North, between North 4th and 5th Streets, while Moishe, Temma and their kids moved to 6th Street North, a couple hundred yards to the west.

Click here to see enlarged copy Jacob Dov Berman 1900 CensusAccording to the 1900 Federal Census, Jacob was born in the Russian Empire in 1861.   He married in 1887 at age 26 and emigrated to the United States in the following year with his wife “Ida” and newborn daughter “Jessie”.  Both he and his wife could read, write and speak English, which would make sense after 12 years in Minneapolis.  According to John Marcus, Jacob Dov Berman was a religious man with a big red beard who went to shul everyday.  He probably dressed as he did in Kornitsa before he came to the United States.

In 1900 the couple had 6 children, all of whom were living “at home”.  They were: Zeesle “Jessie” R. (born 1 Aug 1888 in Ukraine, died Apr. 1977 in Los Angeles), who could already read, write and speak English after having attended school for some years; Shifra or “Sophie” (born 19 Dec 1890 in Minneapolis, died 2 Jan 1974), then in school; Herschel or “Harry” (born 17 Mar 1892 in Minneapolis, died 6 Oct 1970 in New Rochelle, New York), then in school; Moshe “Morris” Isaac (born 18 Dec 1893 in Minneapolis, died 21 Sep 1945 in Washington D.C.), then in school; Mary or “Marion” (born 15 Feb 1896 in Minneapolis, died July 1992 in Minneapolis), then in school since 3 months; and Noah or “Norman” (born May 1898 in Minneapolis, died 1960 in Oklahoma City).  Strangely enough, on the census document Noah is mistakenly listed as daughter “Nora”.  Perhaps Jacob Dov did not speak English as well as he claimed!  In fact, his vocation is listed as “peddler” , probably because he failed to communicate that he owned a bath house—either that, or his wife responded poorly to the enumerator’s questions while her husband was at work.  The couple had a seventh child, Emma, on January 14, 1902, who died in Minneapolis in 1963.  We know the exact birth dates of the seven children only because they were scribbled by somebody in a family prayer book, and then deciphered by Joy Marcus many years later.

In the 1905 Minneapolis directory Jacob Dov’s business is called “Brooks, Berman & Weinstein”.  Obviously, a third business partner, Weinstein, had joined Berman and Brooks sometime between 1900 and 1904.  In 1910, the Bermans were still living at 420 6th Avenue North, but the baths had been moved next door to #410.  Thus the Bermans were finally able to separate their living quarters from their place of business, a major step forward for the family.  Jessie and Sophie, 22 and 20 years old respectively, were working for their parents’ business as stenographers.  By then the baths must have grown into a larger enterprise than it had been in 1895, since two stenographers were required for their administration.

On October 6, 1912 Jacob Dov died at the age of 51 after having spent 24 years in the United States.  Tragically, his three youngest children were deprived of a father at only 16, 14 and 10 years of age.  Chaya Fraida, listed in the 1915 Minneapolis directory as “Ida (wid Jacob)”, moved with her family to 812 6th Avenue North and relocated the baths next door, to no. 810.  I found a photo of the block as it existed in 1936. 

6th Avenue North, 800 block, photo 1936

  In a second photo of the same year one can see no. 800, Adlin’s Meats and Groceries, and a couple of buildings to the left.  The far-left building may have been the bath house.  

800 6th Avenue North, photo 1936

By that time Jessie had married Herman Greenberg (12 June 1884-1962), the owner of a laundry.  They eventually had five children: Doris (22 Oct 1912-23 June 1917), Arnold (3 Jan 1914-8 Jan 1998), Marilyn (7 June 1916-8 Sep 2000), Shirley (3 June 1919-) and Lila (5 May 1924-).

Sophie had married Sam Marcus (23 Mar 1888-25 Aug 1957), a Russian-born Jew who had immigrated in 1893, on August 12, 1912 and had three children: Joy (25 May 1913-), David (19 June 1915-June 1999) and John (19 Oct 1917-).  According to John, “Sam could remember the Cossacks coming through and terrorizing the whole Jewish settlement.  He vividly remembered [them] on their horses with their whips and their boots and their cruelty, and the people in the settlement would just hide… somewhere until they passed.  Sam’s father went to America first and then sent for Sam and his brother John.”  Daniel Bierman told me that Sam and Sophie had an exceptionally happy marriage.  They invested in a two-story house and rented out the ground level.  From 1917 to the early 1920’s the Marcus’s lived at 1327 North 6th Street, one block down from Sophie’s uncle Aria Berman and his wife and children, the oldest of whom was Beatrice.

I had the pleasure of meeting John Marcus in San Diego on August 18, 1996.  On that occasion I interviewed him at length about our common ancestors as well as his own life experiences.  John graduated from North High School in 1935, worked for awhile, then did some course work at Phoenix Junior College and Hamline University.  In the summer of 1941, at age 23, he was in flight training in the U.S. Air Force on the California coast.  He explained, “You got 75 dollars per month while in training, all you could eat, uniforms, and when you got out you made two hundred and some dollars a month.  You were an officer.  Those were still Depression days.  It looked good.”  When John volunteered it seemed to him that the United States would stay out of the war.  After graduating from flight school in April, 1942 he was stationed briefly in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then he got his orders to go to Australia.  He flew off the north coast and also out of New Guinea.  Originally, he served as a bomber pilot, but after a crash he went into transports, which he enjoyed more than bombing!  He flew every day, hauled in supplies and flew out the wounded.  A few times he was the first plane in to certain islands that had just been taken by the allies.  In his earlier missions he flew his bomber unescorted and unprotected by fighter aircraft.

In the course of the war John got to see almost every island in the Pacific Theater, from the Admiralties, to New Britain, to the Dutch Islands.  He also got a chance to see the whole of Australia, where he fell in love with Carol Hall (27 Jan 1923-) and married on September 29, 1944 in Melbourne.  John was discharged in 1946 after completing one tour of duty and serving for five years.  He went back to Minneapolis and entered the dental supply business shortly afterwards.  His uncle Norman Berman in Oklahoma City offered to set him up in Minneapolis with a new line of teeth.  John remained in the business for 40 years, had three children, and retired to La Jolla, California with Carol in 1986.

His older brother David, who was a navigator on a B-26 in England, ended up completing two tours of duty.  He and John came back to the United States in 1945, one day apart, but then David went back to Europe to do a second tour.  He participated in a total of 88 missions over Germany, dropping hundreds of tons of bombs on the Nazis!  After the war David married an English woman by the name of Leon.

A newspaper article from the year 1945 entitled “Flying Brothers from City Mass Similar Records in Two Theaters” is worth citing: “Other than the fact they have been ‘delivering the goods’ to the enemy on different sides of the globe, the flying careers of David and John Marcus, 1518 Thomas Avenue North, show a marked similarity.  Brothers are both army air force captains, they have logged a long string of missions as Marauder bomber pilots and have brought themselves and their crews through unscathed.  They figure in that respect luck has dealt kindly with them and deemed themselves even luckier when they came home on simultaneous leaves today.  David, 29, flew 75 tactical missions over German-occupied territory and had nothing but praise for the excellent protection of fighter escorts and for the work of ground crews that keep the planes flying.  John, 27, who logged 300 combat hours in 28 months in the South Pacific, seconded his brothers praise for ground crews.  They are sons of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Marcus and graduates of North high school.”  It is difficult for the young men of my generation, most of whow have never been called upon to fight a war, to imagine the sacrifice and courage that was necessary to win World War II.  The Marcus family must have been worried sick!

To continue with Jacob Dov and Chaya’s family, their third child, Harry C. Berman, took over the family baths while attending the University of Minnesota.  In 1915 he had a job working as a chemist (pharmacist) but ultimately he ended up as a patent attorney in New York City.  He married Mildred Marchese (17 Aug 1900-Aug 1986) on August 19, 1927 and had two children, Jordan (29 May 1928-), also an attorney, and Judith B. (17 May 1931-).

The next of Jacob and Chaya’s children, Moshe Isaac, was a stenographer for the family business in 1915.  During World War II he served as an army physician, but was never sent overseas.  Afterwards he moved to Washington D.C. where he set up a private practice in 1921.  On June 21 of that year he married Elisabeth Rachel Lorenz (6 Nov 1894-6 Sep 1972), with whom he subsequently had three children: Josephine (19 Mar 1921-), Daniel (13 Apr 1927-), and Noah (19 Dec 1931-).  Only a week after Pearl Harbor Moshe Isaac re-enlisted and was sent to work on an L.S.T. (landing ship tank) for which he earned five battleship stars.  Daniel, himself a navy signalman, was once on a ship leaving San Diego as his father’s ship was returning to port.  He got permission from his superiors to signal his Dad, eventually meeting him in town for a half-hour!

Jacob Dov and Chaya’s next child, Marion, worked as a teacher in 1915, but eventually was employed by the Minneapolis city government.  Her younger brother Noah worked as a stenographer at the bath house in 1915, like many of his other siblings.  He ultimately ended up moving to Oklahoma City.  The youngest, Emma, lived in Minneapolis her entire life.

Chaya Fraida, Moishe Grossman’s younger sister, lived to the age of 82, outliving her husband by 37 years.  She also outlived all of her siblings and was for the last year of her life, 1949, the last survivor of her generation.  Marion Shapiro told me that Chaya, known affectionately as “Mima Chaya”, was tall like her brother and very smart.  Stephanie Grossman, Mechel and Ethel Grossman’s granddaughter, remembers Chaya as very kind, sweet and warm.  She was thin like her sister Ethel and wore her snow-white hair in a bun.  She was a good cook.

John Marcus told me that most people called her “Ida”.  He did not know much about her origins but said that she seemed much older than she was, mainly because she had come from a different world, like her husband, and had experienced difficult times.  She and Jacob Dov had worked hard their whole lives, and it really showed on their faces.  Chaya spoke Yiddish to her husband as well as to other immigrants but only English to her children.  She was an active member of Mikro Kodesh Synagogue and Jewish holidays were very important to her.  John recalls that she had a short temper at times, yet she was very warm and loving.  Two of her daughters, Mary and Emma, lived with her in Minneapolis.

She liked to have company and always held seders at her house.  The families of her two oldest children, Jessie Greenberg and Sophie Marcus, went over for Passover every year.  Her other children did not attend because they were apparently dispersed in other cities.  However, once Uncle Norman (Noah) came all the way from Oklahoma City for the holidays.  In addition, the Marcus family used to visit her every week on Saturday or Sunday.

I located the final resting place of a “Chaye Berman” in lot 17, grave 2, in the Minneapolis Jewish cemetery at 70th Street and Penn Avenue South.  I suspect this is the same woman under consideration because the dates on the epitaph“1867-1949” are accurate.  Strangely, however, I have not been able to find the grave of her husband, Jacob Dov.

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