Louis S. Goldman

Louis Goldman was born Israel Labe Guntmacher in 1894 in Ladyzhin, Podolsky, Ukraine. The Ukraine is about the size of Texas and Ladyzhin was a small village then with about 800 Jewish families. My father-in-law said it looked just like village, Anatevka, in Fiddler on the Roof. They spoke Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish. In the 1400s, this was part of the Polish empire and Jews, who had been expelled by other European countries, were welcomed by the Polish empire since they could read and write. But in the 1600s, the Polish empire began to lose power and the fortunes of the Jews also declined. When Louis was born, it was ruled by the Russian Czars, and there were restrictions and pogroms against the Jews. Tobacco and wheat were the main crops of Ladyzhin with production controlled by the government. Jews could not own property. The houses were one-story with dirt floors and no running water and water was taken from the river, where people bathed and sent their waste. Lou’s father was a tailor and better off than most of his neighbors, as he had a little work all year long making a few coats, pants and shirts. Many in the village felt lucky to work a few months a year.

In 1905, when Lou was 11, his older brother, Yosell, age 22, was shot by Russian soldiers. He was a University student who joined the Bund, a Jewish socialist revolutionary group aligned with the Bolsheviks. His father blamed too much education for giving Yosell ideas that got him killed. He pulled Louis out of school in the 4th grade and set him to work in the tobacco fields for 20 cents a day.

The Guntmachers and Tabachnicks were very good friends and neighbors. The Tabachnicks were a large family with four boys and two girls, and the youngest girl was born in America. Their going to America left Louis very sad, because the boys were his very best friends. Dave, the oldest and his best friend, promised to find a way to get him to America. In 1910, a letter came from the Tabachnicks saying he could live with them and Dave was sending him a ticket. He couldn’t get a passport because he was only 17, but the letter was accepted by immigration on both sides of the Atlantic.

All across Europe, people worked as agents to sneak those without papers across borders. His father arranged for Lou to meet agents in Russia, Austria and Germany. The agents would gather a group together in farmhouse barns until they had about 20-30 while they searched out safe places to cross. They had to cross a river into Germany holding on tightly to overhead ropes so the current wouldn’t carry them away. In Hamburg, Louis found a ticket agent and got his steerage ticket. It took two weeks to cross, then another week in Baltimore with thousands of other immigrants and then by train to St. Louis. Going through the immigration process was when his name was changed to Louis S. Goldman.

Louis wanted to be an American. He learned to speak and read and write English as quickly as possible. He went to work in the clothing industry. In 1914, at 19 years old, he got terribly homesick and decided to go home for the Passover holiday.

It was dangerous times; war seemed imminent, but he couldn’t be persuaded to stay. He had no passport, but he figured he could bribe his way. All went well until he crossed into Russia where he was arrested. By giving the warden all the rest of the money he had, he was released and even put on a train, but it stopped short of getting him to his home town. Luckily, a wagon master knew him and took him home, where he got paid by the parents. Lou told his parents the whole story and that he would need money to return to America. They sent him to his uncle who gave him a royal dressing down for being so foolish to travel at this time, but the uncle gave him $200. Lou decided to return immediately because of the war clouds. Again, no passport and he had to go through Poland and Austria to Hamburg, Germany. His father would wire him money for the boat ticket. He stayed at a farm house and they loaded 15-20 people in the center of the wagon carrying bales of hay. At the border, soldiers bayonnnetted the hay, but fortunately, no one was hurt. They crossed a river with overhead ropes to Austria. There, while they were waiting, someone ratted them out. They pooled their money to bribe the police and gave a royal beating to the snitch. In Hamburg, Louis went to the ticket agent to get money from his dad. The agent asked him to do a favor. He had an 11-year-old boy traveling alone to St. Louis to meet his sister. The boy’s name was Elie Chadorosky (Al Price). They boarded the Pres. Lincoln and Dad brought him to St. Louis.

He and his friend, Leo Tabachnick, served in the Army during WWI overseas in France and he got his naturalization papers.

In 1922, Lou decided to get his family out of Russia. He had parents, two sisters and a young brother, all almost starved from the different armies commissioned near their town: Red, White Russians, Germans, and Austrians. He made arrangements with agents to get them over the border. In the woods on a Sabbath eve, not far from the border, his mother, a very observant Jew, insisted on lighting the candles and saying the blessing. She put two sticks in the ground, said the prayer and lit the candles. Then she blew them out because of the great danger. With bribes and luck, they did get out of Russia. They got to Belgium and booked passage on the Lapland, but his father had a hernia and had to be left behind for the operation at a Catholic hospital. He left money with the Nuns for his care and to see that he got on the ship to America when he recovered. Lou told his dad the food was Kosher or he wouldn’t have eaten.

He married Cecelia Tabachnick, sister of best friend in 1924. They had four children. The first child died in infancy, then a son in 1927 and twins, a boy and girl in 1935. The youngest son died in 2000 and the oldest in 2002. They were/are a loving family, hardworking, honest and all good citizens. Like most Jewish immigrants, Dad loved America: it’s a wonderful land of opportunity, citizenship, to earn a good living, educate your children and freedom, especially religious freedom. This made America the golden country!

This story was submitted by Lillian Goldman with information that came from her father and research done by her nephew, Mark Goldman.


Harry Sabol

The story of Harry Sabol, as told by his son Allen

Harry was born in Russia and came to the United States in 1904 after escaping from the Czar’s army. A tailor by trade, Harry set up shop in St. Louis at 321 North Jefferson Ave. with a sign, “Who Does Your Tailoring? Try Harry Sable.”

He even established his own baseball team. According to his son, Allen, the team never won a game so Harry finally disbanded them. Later, he set up shop in Granite City, IL. He ran that shop for 21 more years and closed it in 1962, at the mere age of 84.

During World War II, Harry began selling United States savings bonds. He sold bonds on the streets, in drug stores and any place he could find people to buy them. He was easy to spot in the crowd. He would wear a red, white and blue spangle cloak and a stovepipe hat! But he ran into a little problem. One day the FBI appeared at his house. They wanted to know how he sold the bonds. Harry said he would like to sell them some. But they told him they didn’t have the money since the government took a bond a month from their paychecks. After selling more than $1.5 milllion of War Bonds, he was awarded a medal in 1943 by Earl Shackelford of the St. Louis U.S. Savings Bond office. Later in 1972, after Harry had lost the medal, it was presented to him again in a special ceremony by J. Owen Zurhellen, Jr., U.S. Mission official. Mr. Zurhellen remarked that the United States Government and people owed a debt of gratitude to Mr. Sabol for his wartime activities. He truly was a super-salesman for Uncle Sam!

At the age of 92, most men would have felt entitled to take it easy and curtail some of their activities. But Harry chose a new life in Israel and continued to renew things he liked most: tailoring, the Torah and the Talmud. In Israel, Harry chose to provide tailoring services to residents of the Chassidic village of Kiryat Bobov on the beaches of Mediterranean, just south of Tel Aviv. In exchange, he would ask that each mending job require the customer to study a set amount of pages of the Talmud in his honor. A large tailoring job required a larger number of pages and each job required being paid for in this type of currency. Most of the customers were students at the famed Bobov Yeshiva and Rabbinical seminary where young scholars are engrossed daily in the Torah and Talmud study. He was quite strict in collecting his bills!

Harry Sabol died six months before his 100th birthday.

Hilda Lebedun: Part III

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

On May first, we got to the German border and were told to disembark. We were guarded by two of them, and they were reading a newspaper. I peaked over their shoulders and was reading it, and in big black letters was: “All is lost, the Furor is Dead.” They were reading it, and the older one said, “Ach! That’s not true, the dog abandoned us.” That’s how we got to the border. We saw people with the Red Cross. There were Danish soldiers there too and they made the Germans give them their weapons.  Then we met the Danish people who greeted us with open arms. They came running with bread and cheese and chocolate, but I said, “Don’t touch us! We’re filthy, stinky, disgusting.” We were skeletons. But they just kept on saying, “Don’t worry about it, you’re free.” I still want to wish many thanks to the Danish people.  They wanted to take care of us more, but they had us go to Sweden, because that country had no bombings from the war. The Swedish Red Cross took care of us, and we worked for some Swedish families, taking care of their houses and their children.

While working in Sweden, we were waiting for some papers to enter the United States.  They had mine ready, but my sisters were not yet, so my family in New York asked me to come and then my sister would come later, but I said, “No way, we went through the camps together. We’re staying together.” After a few more months, we finally went to New York.

The first time I met my husband, he took us to a Hungarian restaurant. He kissed me on the cheek, and I told my friend to tell him, “If I was not a lady I would kick him so hard he would forget who he is.”  He answered, “You tell her she doesn’t want to kick the person she is going to marry.” I came to St. Louis with him for a visit, and I just stayed.  My husband and I raised three great children. My oldest has a PhD in sociology.  My daughter takes brain waves and heart tests, and my youngest son has a Master’s degree in social work from Washington University. They are all three in service, and I am lucky to have them.  
There was one thing that I wanted to leave with. Don’t hate. Hate is a very destructive force. I thank God because he gave me the hope and strength not to hate. We all have the same God. We are so miserable to each other, and I don’t understand why people don’t feel it in their souls: there is one God, we just pray to him in different ways. Until we learn to honor each others’ ways to pray to that one God, we always bring misery upon us. If politically there is such a dissention, why in the name of God?

Jerry Baum

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

I grew up in St. Louis, and my father was one of the men who built Beth Israel.  He also helped bring in Rabbi Eichenstein, the Head Rabbi of St. Louis at that time. We had a fight, the Rabbi and I. When I was growing up, I’d go out with my friends, and I worked with my father in the butcher shop. So one day, the phone rings, and it’s the rabbi. He says to my father, “What is Jerome doing in the saloon?” And my father turns around and says to me, “The Rabbi wants to know what you’re doing in the saloon.” I said, “If the Zodiac Bar on top of the Chase is the saloon he’s talking about, yeah I go there, because I like the entertainment and my friends all go there.” We just didn’t see eye to eye, me and the Rabbi.

So I went through High School at Soldan, and when the war broke out, I was 17, and I wanted to join the Navy.  I said to my dad, “I’m going to join the Navy.” And he said “Why?” and I replied, “I don’t like sleeping on the ground. I don’t like sleeping on a cot. I want a mattress. I want a pillow, and I want to be comfortable.” On my boat, there was this one sailor who came from Pittsburg. He used to tease me about being Jewish, so I would throw things at him. He would call me “Kyke” or “Jew-boy,” and I used to get so mad at him that I would throw things at him. I would throw pots, pans, knives, and one day, I even threw a cleaver at him! I never hit him, but I got so mad at him. He was the only one who was allowed to do it. If anybody would say anything he would be right there, and he would get mad. Only he could aggravate me.

When I joined the Navy, I left behind Geraldine Barg, the most wonderful person in the world, who was my high school sweetheart. I proposed to her when I was 18 or 19, and she was maybe a year younger. She said, “Why don’t we wait a little longer.” After I came home from the Navy, she got married to Eugene and I got married to my first wife, Gloria Polsky. Gloria and I had a son together, but after a while, we didn’t hit it off so well anymore.  We got a divorce, but our son caught polio. We both had to take care of him, so we got back together.

I was still in the Navy, so I had to do a lot of work on the West Coast. Gloria was so angry, and she demanded that I come back to St. Louis. I asked her to come over to the West Coast, because I had a house and everything. She said to me, “You come back home right now or we’re getting a divorce.” So I came back home just long enough to get the divorce. By that time, Geraldine and Eugene had split, so I married the true love of my life, Gerladine Barg.

Torah Study Lesson

Just How Directly Responsible Am I For Cleaning Up The Evil Around Me?
By: Michele Long

In today’s Torah Study we were discussing how we don’t have to go looking for the evil around us when Suzanne brought up the question: “What level of evil are we responsible for?” She sited a man who went to prison and, when released, killed a woman. What part did we play in his life and her death? As we sorted through this question, another arose; “Did we contribute to this evil by closing our eyes to the problem?” My soul suddenly felt a very sharp prodding from this question; one I couldn’t ignore.

Time for Shabbat services came all too soon and I left with more unanswered questions. Once again, as the Source would have it, between the Keva, my eyes caught hold of the kavannahs the Bat Mitzvah teen had been guided to include in my studies today:

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted” – Albert Einstein.

“Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lots of others, or strikes out against injustice, (s)he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance” – Robert F. Kennedy.

“We have a duty to care for each member of our society. We must therefore avoid, at all cost, the urge to shut away those who are grievously afflicted as if they were a burden. The same goes for those who are diseased or marginalized. To push them away would be to heap suffering on suffering. We need, therefore, to ensure that the sick and afflicted person never feels helpless, rejected, or unprotected. Indeed, the affection we show to such people is, in my opinion, the measure of our spiritual health, both at the level of the individual and at that of society”– The Dalai Lama.

“Judaism is less about believing and more about belonging. It is less about what we owe God and more about wheat we owe each other, because we believe God cares more about how we treat each other than about our theology.” – Rabbi Harold Kushner.

She couldn’t have known of our Torah Study discussion, yet her teachings were providing some important answers and guidelines for social responsibilities. It’s not unusual for the Universe to deliver my lessons throughout the course of Shabbat in this “connect-the-dots” fashion. It feeds my soul in simple terms so that I can digest the lessons, absorbing the knowledge, and leaving fulfilled when the Shabbat lesson has come to completion. It’s not coincidental that the first article I would read in the Jewish Light later that day referred to the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration on May 1, 2008, at United Hebrew Congregation.

No, it only brings me back to my original question, “Just how directly responsible am I for cleaning up the evil around me?

Next question: “Where do I start?”