Rabinowitzes of Harlem

Harriet's package arrives

Harriet Berkowitz followed through on her promise and yesterday I received her package containing about 20 photocopies of her family photographs. In many cases, these are the first photos we have seen of Rabinowitz family members. There are also new photos of our father and his parents that are new to us, plus the promised invitation to Stanley Ruby's bar mitzvah. Together they begin to paint a fuller picture of the Rabinowitz family.

It is going to take me a few days to get the images all scanned and processed. Here is a start. Click on the images to enlarge.


Joseph Rabinowtiz


Lena Rabinowitz with Arthur's wife Anne, apparently at a beach club.
Brothers Henry (also called H.V. Lee) and Julius Rabinowitz flank their cousin Harry Lincoff.

A young Selma Ruby with either Joan or Stanley Ruby as an infant. (Sorry this is cock-eyed. My scanner is having trouble with the oval image.)

Invitation with elaborate menu for Stanley Ruby's bar mitzvah in 1937 at the Hotel Ocean Crest in Long Beach. The menu even includes liquor brand selections, such as Carioca rum served with hors d'ouevres.

Rabinowitz Yahrzeit scroll

Update: Walter has translations for the Hebrew names above the "Dear Mother" and "Dear Father" inscriptions. The information sheds doubt on the Rabbi Spektor theory of Joseph's genealogy, though multiple questions remain to be answered. On Joseph's side, the Hebrew reads "Dear Father, Reb Yehuda, son of Abraham .... On Lena's side, it reads "Dear Mother, Rachel Leah, daughter of Abraham.... This is the first we have seen the names Yehuda and Rachel. Abraham does not match with the theory that Joseph was the grandchild of Rabbi Spektor. In that scenario, the father should have been Chaim or possibly Aryeh.

Somehow on my first several perusals of Harriet's trove of Rabinowitz materials I missed the most important page. Two of the pages were stuck together in my pile and until just now overlooked the following commemorative document recognizing the Yahrzeit for Lena and Joseph. What is so important about it is that it provides exact dates of death for our great grandfather and great grandmother, which will finally allow us to track down their New York City death certificates, which we expect will lead us to their burial sites and also provide parent names and other information.

Here is the Yahrzeit scroll. Click to enlarge. Hebrew translations welcome.

Lena's obituary and much more

Fueled with new information from Harriet Berkowitz, and by Walter's plan to visit Mt. Hebron cemetery this weekend, I took another dive last night into the New York Times historical database and other sources. The results were outstanding.

I got going because I was musing about what Harriet has told us about Henry Rabinowitz, who ran a restaurant in Edgewater Park in the Bronx. Searching on the name and the town, I got this entry from the July 19, 1937 edition of the New York Times:

Not a certainty, but it seems like this is probably the right Henry. Interesting, considering we had an earlier wild goose chase over a Walter Ruby auto accident in the same year in Jersey City. That turned out to be a different Walter, but here is Henry living in the right neighborhood and an accident a few miles from home.

I had to pay to download the item for the Times archive, either $3.95 a pop or $15 for 10 downloads. With all my new Rabinowitz information to try, I decided to buy the more economical download pack.

One piece of Harriet's new information was the approximate date for Lena's death. That helped me to this eureka moment, an obituary item from the NY Times on January 10, 1924.

A few comments: This date does not match any of the Lena Rabinowitzes at Mount Hebron. Also her address is listed at 965 Tiffany St. Four years earlier on the 1920 census she was living at 305 Tiffany St. I may have mentioned this before but I saw again today that the mother of choreographer Jerome Robbins was named Lena Rabinowitz. I guess Robbins was a fairly common name change for various Rabinowitzes. We know that Julius's children Abner and Judith also took that last name.

Lena's maiden name was Lincoff, and her brother Bernard Lincoff came to American with Lena and Joseph and lived with the Rabinowitz family for many years. Searching on his name turned up an obituary item for him, as well, dated April 8, 1948.


We've known him as Bernard for a long time, but the obit indicates that he was known as Uncle Ben to his nieces and nephews. In Harriet's recent mailing to me, she refers to him as Harry Lincoff. First I thought Harry could have been a son of Bernard/Ben, but in Harriet's photos he looks to be a few years older than Lena's sons Julius and Henry. So I guess he went by all those names. You'll see that the obit does not mention a wife or children.

One of the other new names we have to work with is Zimkin. Harriet told us that Sadie married someone named Zimkin and had a child Arthur. The Times database did not turn out any Zimkin obituaries, but a simple Google search uncovered this page at Genealogybuff.com, which has indexed information from newspaper obituaries. And there is our Sadie, dead at age 47.

ZIMKIN Sadie 07,Feb, 1929 DN. Maiden name-Rabinowitz. Spouse-David. Funeral on Feb. 8, in N. Y. City.

Finally, I looped back around to the searchable index of New York City death records at Italiangen.org. With our new information, we can now be pretty sure that the following listings are our two great grandparents.

Surname Given Name Age Month Day Year Certificate
Number County Soundex
Rabinowitz Joseph 60 y Apr 25 1917 14014 Manhattan R153
Rabinowitz Lena R 62 y Jan 8 1924 194 Bronx R153

Walter points out that the ages don't precisely square with our recorded birthdates for the them, which had been drawn from census records and also from a reconstruction of hypothetical events following from Joseph's Spektor relationship. If our previous narrative is correct, Spektor's son Chaim dies in May 1874 and Joseph goes through religious training, is married and sent off to America, all within about 15 months of Chaim's death. If Lena is 62 at her death in 1924, then she would have been just 13 or so when married and emigrated — seemingly too young. So maybe she is really more like 65. Also, we have Joseph's birth from other records in January 1855, so he would have been 62 at the time of his death.

In any case, we will soon have additional information since we have now ordered physical copies of the two death certificates from the New York City Department of Vital Records. They cost $15 and take four to six weeks to arrive. When they do, they should provide a great deal of important information about Joseph and Lena, including their parents' names and birth nation, burial place, cause of death and lots more.

More about Harriet Berkowitz

Catching up with more of the materials sent by Harriet Berkowitz, I'll begin with photos of Harriet herself, along with family members past and present. (Click photos to enlarge.)

These first two photos are from just two weeks ago, when Harriet and her husband Stanley were visiting their daughter's family in Southern California. First, here are Harriet, Stanley and their daughter Hillary Cohen. Now we know who got the good Rabinowitz hair.


Here are Harriet and Stanley with Hillary's children Julian and Avery. It is great to see a new generation of Rabinowitz offspring. I hope they get the chance to meet their third cousins Twyla, Gene, Zach and Elana sometime soon.


Now we go back 51 years to Harriet's wedding day on August 14, 1958. Here you see Sam (Seymour) Rabinowitz and Harriet's mother (we don't have her name yet) escorting Harriet down the aisle.


And here are Harriet and Stanley looking radiant in a group photo with family members present for the occasion.

Finally we have a few items of memorabilia from Seymour. The first is a photo of a 1934 banquet at the Waldorf Astoria, a formal affair for the Board of Education, where Seymour worked for many years.


And finally a letter of appreciation written in 1921 to Seymour by Edward Flynn, the newly elected Sheriff of the County of Bronx. As Harriet notes in her annotation, Flynn became the so-called "Boss of the Bronx" and played an important role in state and national Democratic Party politics until his death in 1953. It is worth noting here, that the letter is addressed to the 965 Tiffany St. address that would be listed three years later as Lena's residence at the time of her death, not the 305 Tiffany St. address where a number of the family members lived 23 months earlier at the time of the 1920 census.

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