Category Archives: Jewish

Arrrrrgggghhh. . .or is it Oy! . . .or Hello Sailor. . .or all of the above.

Capture of Blackbeard

Capture of Blackbeard

Genetically, I’m almost completely from the British Isles — I’m Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English. And since I’ve lived in both England and Jamaica, I ask you, why wouldn’t I love pirate stories? This past year I’ve been on a pirate kick and have read four very different swashbuckling books. Two were nonfiction and two were fiction.

First, I read Michael Crichton’s fiction book, “Pirate Latitudes”. It was set in the Caribbean around 1665 and tells the tale of how English “privateers” went after the Spanish ships carrying gold from the New World back to Spain. Nothing new here. Most considered themselves patriots in that they fought a guerrilla war against Spain and the Spanish colonies.

"Pirate Latitudes" by Michael Crighton

“Pirate Latitudes” by Michael Crighton

Crichton being the genius that he was, R.I.P., adds enough historical facts to this story to make it a plausible tale. And of course he adds his own wild ideas, some humor, some sex, some rum and away we go! The captain of the Cassandra, Charles Hunter, is the very manly hero. When Hunter hears that a Spanish galleon full of gold has docked at a nearby island, he is quickly at work putting together a motley crew of characters in preparation for attack. I won’t spoil it, but it is worth the read. I would recommend it as a summer beach read, especially if you can hear the surf breaking against the shore.

Second, I read a fantastic nonfiction book titled, “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom — and Revenge”, by Edward Kritzler.

"Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean"

“Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean”

Edward Kritzler spent a lot of time in Jamaica researching his book using historical documents preserved there in the national archives. A well known Jewish Jamaican, Ainsley Henriques, provided some of the funding for his research. Here is a link to “Pieces of the Past” from the “Jamaican Gleaner” (a Jamaican newspaper) about the Jews in Jamaica.
This article is a fascinating read by itself. I recommend reading it as it compliments the book, “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean”.

After being expelled from Spain during the late 1400s (during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella), the Jews that were able to leave lost everything. Those that ventured to the New World found revenge in piracy against the Spanish by attacking the Spanish ships. This is a chapter of Jewish history that has been overlooked. The book also does a good job of explaining this period in Spanish history and the diaspora in general. Again, I am not going to copy the story, as Edward Kritzler does much a better job of it than I ever could.

“Jewish Pirates”, needs a bit more attention than you could give it at the beach. Still, it is wild and woolly enough to keep you engrossed. It is what I’d call a very fun history book.

Third I read, “If a Pirate I Must Be. . .The True Story of “Black Bart”, King of the Caribbean Pirates”, by Richard Sanders.

"If a Pirate I must be. . ." by Richard Sanders

“If a Pirate I must be. . .” by Richard Sanders

Again, this is nonfiction. Mr. Sanders goes way beyond the mere history of “Black Bart”, the pirate. The book does a great job of explaining shipping at that time, slaving ships, the Royal Navy, tropical disease and so much more. Again, it is a really fun history book. The book also deals with Black Bart’s sexuality and perhaps reveals the origination of the greeting, “hello, sailor!”

This could be a good read for a cruise, as the ocean as a backdrop would add so much ambiance. Just don’t lose yourself and start singing, “yo, ho, ho” at the bar or the other passengers may make you walk the plank.

Last, I reread, “Treasure Island”, by Robert Louis Stevenson. If you have a Kindle from amazon, you can download it for free (which I did). Thanks, amazon!

"Treasure Island", by Robert Louis Stevenson

“Treasure Island”, by Robert Louis Stevenson

This book was so much better than I remembered. It’s a classic tale that has never lost its appeal. And, of course, the hero is the boy Jim Hawkins. The beauty is seeing how our Jim tricks and defeats the horrible Long John Silver. It is full of adventure, the silliness of adults, and lots of “pirate talk”.

Again, what a fun book to read at the beach! Or under the covers at night with a flashlight, like when you were a child.

So — that’s it for pirates for now. And, if you noticed, I never mentioned Johnny Depp even once. . .ooops.

The Story of Jack Bernstein, WWII Prisoner of War, continued. . . .

I was searching for newspaper articles this afternoon (my most favorite hobby) when I saw that had finally added the archives from The Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri. I did a quick search for “Joseph J. Bernstein”, aka “Jack”, and several articles about his capture and release from the Japanese prisoner of war camp came up.

Without further ado, I will add them to tell the story of Jack. If you need any more background, please refer back to the post that I published on Nov. 11, 2012 about Jack Bernstein, in honor of Veteran’s Day.

Date: Jan 6, 1943 Newspaper: Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Date: Jan 6, 1943 Newspaper: Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

sea gives up

Jack Comes Home, Photo with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Abe Bernstein

Jack Comes Home, Photo with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Abe Bernstein


Date: Nov. 4, 1945  Newspaper:  Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Date: Nov. 4, 1945 Newspaper: Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Jack and Florence

Jack and Florence

And Jack and Florence marry. Love conquers all.

Florence & Jack's engagement

Jack on his Honeymoon

Jack on his Honeymoon

What Ever Happened to Harry, Part II.

Back in January, I wrote about Harry Morris & his disappearance.  You can see the earlier post published on January 13, 2013.  His grandson Joe & I have spent many hours searching online for Harry & have never found anything.  He simply disappeared from Kansas City — leaving his wife, Flora (Blume Kremer) Morris, with six children to care for.  Because a person can’t completely vanish in today’s world, I have had a hard time accepting that he just walked out.  I understand divorce and separation, but I can’t imagine never coming back to see your children. Thanks to Flora’s other recent immigrant family members from Russia and Lithuania, she somehow managed to keep her family together. And she eventually remarried and lived to be 81 years old, living from 1890 to 1971. Flora (Blume Kremer) was a resourceful and resilient woman.
Flora Kramer

Now with better communication, computers, DNA tests, etc., it is a rare occurrence that a man (or woman) can go to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes & never return.  Harry’s grandson, Joe, has had his DNA tested on and maybe some day, someone will be a good DNA match and the pieces can be put together.

My interest in Harry Morris started when I began trying to help my daughter’s Russian & Eastern European side of her family create a family tree.  Over the last weeks, I have read many articles about the difficulties that these new immigrants had in adjusting to their lives in America.  I bought a used book titled “Mid-America’s Promise: A Profile of Kansas City Jewry” that was edited by Joseph D. Schultz & published in 1982.

Mid-America's promise
I bought this book hoping that it might contain some references to my daughter’s family members. Unfortunately, there aren’t any with the one exception of a photo of Robert “Bob” Bernstein who invented the McDonald’s Happy Meal. But, from this wonderful book I have learned how these Russian & Eastern European immigrants, at the turn of the 20th Century, ended up in Kansas City, MO.

I will try to keep this short, but a brilliant man named Jacob Billikopf was instrumental in the Kansas City immigration story. He was a recent immigrant from Lithuania who worked with other Jewish leaders to try and remedy the situation in New York. The wave of immigrants had begun to overwhelm New York’s resources and the city leader’s were quickly becoming desperate. The book explains how Jacob created the “Billikopf Route”. Many representatives of American Jewish charities traveled to Hamburg & Bremerhaven to try and convince the immigrants to land and move further west from NYC. Jacob Billikopf basically created the Galveston, TX route in order to help the immigrants find a “more assured future”. He managed Kansas City’s Jewish social services and found jobs and housing for the people willing to travel further west.

That said, it doesn’t explain what happened to Harry Morris. While many Eastern European immigrants were able to quickly assimilate, some were not. The ones who landed in NYC could hold onto their old ways, Yiddish language, and customs longer than the immigrants who moved further west. There was more pressure on those who took the “Billikopf Route” and some felt very isolated in their new country. There were also social and cultural rifts between the older German Jewish population and the new poorer Eastern European immigrants.

Desertion, the poor man’s “divorce”, happened so often among the Eastern Europeans that a National Desertion Bureau was formed to help locate the wayward Jewish husbands and fathers. Jacob Billikopf became very disturbed by the problems created by desertion and death. He and Judge Edward Porterfield wrote and passed a bill in 1911 that established a “Mothers’ Assistance Fund” in Kansas City. This bill was a forerunner to the Aid to Dependent Children programs across the country.

The problems caused by desertion didn’t occur only in Kansas City. The situation was so bad that the Jewish Daily Forward, the largest-circulation Yiddish daily in the world, began running the “Gallery of Missing Men,” a page full of mug shots of these husbands. It was published to shame them into returning to their families. Or maybe to warn other women about these scoundrels.
gallery of missing men

A Kansas City Detective Story, “What Ever Happened to Harry?”

Harry Morris came to the United Stated from Russia. He was handsome and ended up in Kansas City, Missouri.

Harry Morris

Harry Morris

He married Flora Kramer (Kremer), daughter of Aron Kremer & Tema Malka Rykles from Kejdany,Kovno,Russia, Lithuania. After their marriage in 1909 — they had six living children Sam, Milton, Joseph, Ida, Max & Isador.

Flora Kremer Morris

Flora Kremer Morris



The Morris Children

The Morris Children

Sometime after the 1920 United States Federal Census, Harry Morris disappeared. Harry left Flora with six children & no one has ever been able to find out what happend to him. His guardian, Samuel Tranin, had gotten into trouble with the legal system, but there is no evidence that that Harry was a part of his trouble.

If anyone could offer any hints on how to find information on an almost 100 year old cold case, please let us all know. Even this long ago, it is interesting that someone could completely disappear.

Trying to Help Others with their Family Trees & even though this is sad, Happy Hanukkah

I have tried to help other friends and family search for their relatives.  The hardest search has been trying to find a family tree for my daughter’s grandmother.  Her family came from Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century. They came to the United States in order to find a better life and to escape the horrible treatment of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Jacob and Mamie Gershonowitz Kramer

Jacob and Mamie Gershonowitz Kramer

I have searched and searched, but I can’t find Mamie Gershonowitz’s entrance into the United States through Ellis Island, New York. We know that she was born (approximately) in May of 1888 in Vilnius, Vilnius, Lithuania and died on 12 August 1931 in Kansas City, Missouri. In the 1920 Federal Census, it states that she arrived in the United States in 1906. Please note that a lot of the earlier census reports had typos.

1920 United States Federal Census about Mayne Kermer
Name: Mayne Kermer
Age: 33
Birth Year: abt 1887
Birthplace: Poland
Home in 1920: Kansas City Ward 11, Jackson, Missouri
Race: White
Gender: Female
Immigration Year: 1906
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Marital Status: Married
Spouse’s Name: Jake Kermer
Father’s Birthplace: Poland
Mother’s Birthplace: Poland
Able to Read: No
Able to Write: No
Neighbors: View others on page
Household Members:
Name Age
Jake Kermer 37
Mayne Kermer 33
Samuel Kermer 9
[9 8/12]
Annie Kermer 7
David Kermer 3

There is a great site to search for Jewish ancestry records — — and this site adds new records daily. Even if you don’t have any Jewish relatives, please look at this site. There is so much history here. There are many volunteers working to translate the records.

When searching for Jewish relatives, there are many road blocks. First, language and translation. Second, the Hebrew calendar and searching for dates. Third, name changes. And finally, World War I and World War II changed the borders of countries and their names changed also.

I have found more information about my daughter’s great grandfather, Jake Kramer. Jake was born in Lithuania. But some of his records say he was born in the Russian Empire on 15 Nov. 1887 in Kiev, Ukraine (Russia). I am not sure what is correct as Eastern Europe was in turmoil. Jake died in Kansas City, MO on 25 Feb. 1965.

His father, Aron Kramer, was born about 1862 in Yanow, Kowno, Russia and died 19 April 1942 in Droga Lubienska, Janowska. Both Aron Kramer and his wife Tema Malka Kramer died during the Holocaust.

Aron Kramer

Aron Kramer

Name: Aron Krämer
Death Date: 29 Apr 1942
Death Place: Droga LubienskaJanowska
Burial Date: 2 May 1942
Burial Plot: A II
Burial Place: Lviv, Lwow, Ukraine
Comments: Lviv Cemetery Records – 1942
Cemetery Burials: 7772
Cemetery Comments: The city of Lviv, Ukraine was formerly Lvov, USSR; Lwow, Poland; and Lemberg, Austrian Empire. Included in this cemetery data are files from 1941 and 1942, written in both the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets. The data for this cemetery is contain

His wife, Tema Malka Kramer was born about 1862 in Lithuania and died about 1941.

Tema Malka Kramer

Tema Malka Kramer

Holocaust: Krakow (Poland) Transport Lists, 1940 about Małka Kremer
Name: Małka Kremer
Birth Date: 1861
Date Transported: 17 Mar 1941
Departure Location: Lublin
Marital Status: Married
Address: Krasińskiego 5
Transport Number: 61
Transportee Number: 88

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