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Belongings packed, Shi’a bid goodbye to his pregnant wife Sluva. It must have been an emotional farewell. On that day in 1906, neither of them knew when they would see each other again, because Shi’a was leaving the Russian Empire. He was leaving for good. He was traveling to the United States to find work and to scrape enough together to pay for his family’s passage to join him there.1

To reach America, Shi’a journeyed overland to the port city of Hamburg and then set sail on the S.S. Kaiserin Augusta Victoria. After eleven days crossing the Atlantic, he arrived in New York Harbor on 11 August 1906 probably feeling tremendously excited to have finally reached his destination. Unfortunately, upon arrival he was confronted with distressing news: he was not being allowed to enter the United States. The reason, apparently, is that he had arrived in New York City with empty pockets. While most of the other immigrants aboard the ship had been prudent enough to take along between 15 and 25 dollars, Shi’a had somehow embarked from Hamburg completely penniless; the passenger manifest makes this clear.2 He had been able to pay for the ship’s fare but then had ended up with nothing left over. Whether Shi’a’s empty pockets were due to horrible planning or poverty is unclear.

image of ship

The ship that brought Shi’a to America

Be that as it may, the Ellis Island immigration authorities refused to allow him to enter the country on the ground that he was “likely to become a public charge.” They made the notation “LPC” next to his name. Shi’a was held for “special inquiry.” After detaining him in this manner for two full days and feeding him two breakfasts, two lunches, and two suppers (as the detention document specifically indicates), the authorities relented and approved his entry into the United States. Shi’a must have heaved an enormous sigh of relief. Perhaps the individual with whom Shi’a was planning to stay in America—a man who is identified on the passenger manifest as Kojsek Zacks—received word that he needed to make a personal trip from Brooklyn to pick Shi’a up.3

After his eventful arrival in New York, Shi’a found work. The type of work is unknown; later census records indicate that he made his living mostly as a presser (a person who presses or irons clothing).4 Shi’a eventually saved up enough to purchase passage for his two oldest children to follow him to America. Then, in 1910, his wife and other three children came over and the family was reunited in New York.5

While Shi’a was five foot six and dark-complexioned, Sluva was five foot one, blond and blue-eyed.6 The S.S. President Grant carrying her and the three youngest children left Hamburg and spent two weeks at sea before reaching land on 7 December 1910.7 Being almost winter, it was likely a chilly day when Sluva and the children pulled into New York Harbor on the chugging ship. It must have been a memorable event. None of them spoke English; they spoke Yiddish. Was Shi’a there to greet them? The family’s reunion would have been a dramatic moment especially because Shi’a and Sluva had not seen each other in over four years.

image of passenger manifest

Passenger listing for Sluva and her children

The family, newly arrived in America, followed the common pattern among immigrants of Americanizing their names. Shi’a became Sam. Sluva called herself Celia (though she briefly flirted with the name Sylvia). Their children took new names, too. Israel became Isadore and then later decided on the name Irving instead. Feige became Fannie. Fortunately for David, he did not need to choose another moniker because his name was essentially the same in English. It is not known what Abe’s and Dora’s birth names were. When the family reunited in New York City in 1910, Shi’a was about 44 years old, and Sluva was about 40 years old. Dora, Abe, Fannie, Irving, and David were approximately ages 15, 14, 10, 7, and 4, respectively.8

Shi’a and Sluva and their children had endured hardships to make a path to a new country. Shi’a and Sluva would never sit down for a meal with their parents again, and the children would never visit their grandparents again. Did Shi’a’s and Sluva’s parents encourage them to emigrate to America? Very possibly. It is difficult to know for sure, though.

Once reunited upon Sluva’s arrival, the family lived on the Lower East Side. In 1915 their address was 92 Cannon Street. By 1920 they had left the Lower East Side and moved to the Bronx.9 Their lives in bustling, fascinating New York City were just beginning.

NOTES

All referenced URLs were accessed on 10 October 2013.

1 Celia [Sluva] Brenner petition for naturalization (1942), naturalization file no. 431954, Southern District of New York; Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)-Northeast Region, New York City. Sluva states in her naturalization documents that her son David was born on 1 November 1906, which suggests that Sluva must have been pregnant at the time Shi’a departed from the Russian Empire, because Shi’a arrived in New York in August 1906 (see note 2 below).

2 Manifest, S.S. Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, 11 August 1906, stamped p. 63, line 7, Shije Breimer [Shi’a Brenner], age 40; “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 751 (among other things, it shows the amount of money in each passenger’s possession.) Also, ibid., Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, S.S. Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, 11 August 1906, stamped p. 82, line 5, Schije Breimer [Shi’a Brenner]. See also Sam [Shi’a] Brenner petition for naturalization (1936), naturalization file no. 284086, Southern District of New York; “New York, Southern District, U.S District Court Naturalization Records, 1824-1946,” images database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-34679-17833-3?cc=2060123&wc=M5PR-FM3:351810301) (stating that Shi’a arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. Kaiserin Augusta Victoria on 11 August 1906).

3 Manifest, S.S. Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, 11 August 1906, p. 63, line 7, Shije Breimer [Shi’a Brenner], age 40 (identifying the individual with whom Shi’a planned to stay in New York). Also, Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, S.S. Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, 11 August 1906, p. 82, line 5, Schije Breimer [Shi’a Brenner] (listing “LPC” as the reason for detaining him). And see Sallyann Amdur and Gary Mokotoff, Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy (Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2004), 111 (“LPC” was used by immigration authorities to mean “likely to become a public charge”).

4 1920 U.S. census, Bronx County, New York, population schedule, assembly district (AD) 1, enumeration district (ED) 71, sheet 5A, dwelling 10, family 126, Samuel [Shi’a] Brenner; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1131 (his occupation is “presser”). Also, 1925 New York state census, Bronx County, New York, population schedule, AD 1, election district 43, p. 39 (penned), block 4, house 522, Samuel [Shi’a] Brenner; “New York, State Census, 1925,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing New York State Archives, State Population Census Schedules (his occupation is listed as pressing clothes).

5 Manifest, S.S. President Grant, 7 December 1910, stamped p. 46, lines 15-18, Sluwe (sic) Brenner, age 40, and three children; “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 1606 (stating that passage was paid by “husband”).

6 Sam [Shi’a] Brenner declaration of intention (1934), naturalization file no. 284086, Southern District of New York (describing his height and appearance). Also, Manifest, S.S. President Grant, 7 December 1910, p. 46, lines 15-18, Sluwe (sic) Brenner, age 40, and three children (their height, hair color, and eye color are described).

7 Manifest, S.S. President Grant, 7 December 1910, p. 46, lines 15-18, Sluwe (sic) Brenner, age 40, and three children. Also see Celia [Sluva] Brenner petition for naturalization (1942), naturalization file no. 431954, Southern District of New York (stating that she arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. President Grant on 7 December 1910).

8 One can see these various name changes on successive censuses. 1915 New York state census, New York County, New York, population schedule, p. 99 (penned), election district 13, AD 4, block 2, house 92, Sam Brenner household; “New York, State Census, 1915,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing New York State Archives, State Population Census Schedules. Also, 1920 U.S. census, Bronx County, New York, pop. sch., AD 1, ED 71, sheet 5A, dwell. 10, fam. 126, Samuel [Shi’a] Brenner household. And, 1925 New York state census, Bronx County, New York, pop. sch., AD 1, election district 43, p. 39, block 4, house 522, Samuel [Shi’a] Brenner household. And also, 1930 U.S. census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, ED 1455, sheet 4A, dwelling 21, family 84, Sam Brenner household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1526.

9 1915 New York state census, New York County, New York, pop. sch., p. 99, election district 13, AD 4, block 2, house 92, Sam Brenner household. Also, 1920 U.S. census, Bronx County, New York, pop. sch., AD 1, ED 71, sheet 5A, dwell. 10, fam. 126, Samuel [Shi’a] Brenner household.

© 2013 Dave Strausfeld

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