Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa
and anyone else who would like to be here
The village where my mother's parents, Morris and Dora, were born might have been called Newstadt, which just means new town, but I’ve never found it on a map. Morris listed “Kowno” on his immigration record in the Ellis Island database; however, this name doesn’t definitively identify any village in the region they came from. I now think that it was mistaken for "Rovno" where I recently learned from my cousin Chuck that his family later immigrated from. His grandmother was Morris's sister.
My second cousin, Nadine Kaufman, wrote that her grandmother, Chaia Sura Stepansky Bass, sister of Dora, was born in Berezno, Ukraine, near Zhitomir. The Stepansky name seems to come from another neighboring village named Stepan -- around 80 km from Rovno, 40 km from Berezno. This area west of Zhitomir definitely seems to be the location of my mother's relatives.
Zhitomir, the big city around 300 km from these villages, is easier to trace. In 1900, Zhitomir had a population of 80,787, of which one-third were Jews. It had two Jewish publishing houses, which printed nearly half of the Hebrew books in all Russia. During the nineteenth century, Zhitomir had been one of the few centers of Hebrew book production in Russia. A man named Avram the Bookbinder is the first ancestor on the family tree that my mother wrote down in 1927. Avram lived at the beginning of the ninteenth century, two generations before my great-grandmother, the source of the information. Histories of Hebrew printing sometimes reproduce pages from books printed in Zhitomir: I wonder if any were bound by our ancestor Avram. Or, I wonder, was he simply a binder of ordinary Jewish documents and religious manuscripts, occupied, that is, with an older trade? (Statistics from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 edition, and the Encyclopedia Judaica)