Last year I visited Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens, New York and spent a few hours taking photos of every headstone in the section for the Satanover Benevolent Association landsmanshaft. Mount Hebron has a very useful website where you can search for people by name or by burial society, and I discovered that there are a group of people named Scheckowitz in the burial society for Sataniv, Ukraine. This Scheckowitz family is my great white whale, and the whole story is so long, complicated, and unsatisfying that I won’t bother explaining it in this post. Instead, I’m going to start researching the members of the Satanover Benevolent Society and posting photos here (an idea that was inspired by Emily Garber’s blog). I will start with the oldest person in the section.
There are 247 burials in the Satanover Benevolent Society section at Mount Hebron, and Taube Scheckowitz was the 11th, in September of 1931.
Her headstone reads:
Sept 26, 1931
Age 92 Years
In Hebrew, it says:
Here lies buried
Toiba [Taube] daughter of Mr.
the first day of Sukkot [Tabernacles] 5692
My her soul be bound in the bond of life
Now, Taube (often spelled Toba) may not have been quite as old as her headstone said, which would have had her born in 1839. Her death certificate, with her son Isidore as the informant, gives her age as 88. Various other records have her born between 1840 and 1852. She had at least four children who emigrated to New York between 1800 and 1905. First, her daughter Lina came with her husband Alter Horowitz in the early 1900s (I’m still looking for the passenger manifest). Then, her son Pincus came in 1898 at the age of 28. Then Yetta on August 9th, 1904, who traveled with two children from Antwerp to meet her husband Itzig Pollack who was already settled on Suffolk Street. Although they were not on the same page of the passenger manifest, Taube was on the same ship. Taube’s son Isidore came the following year, in 1905.
On her passenger manifest Taube is listed as a 55-year-old widow, Russian, last resident in Woloczisk (Volochisk, then part of the Russian Empire now in Ukraine). She’s meeting her son-in-law, Itzig Pollack who was living at 175 Suffolk Street in the lower east side of New York, and a note on the record reads “Dr. certified senility.” It’s pretty likely that she lied about her age on her passenger manifest by around a decade (her age on her passenger manifest would have her born in 1849), but that wasn’t enough to get past the eagle-eyed medical inspectors at Ellis Island, who seemed to declare anyone over the age of 50 as medically senile, which was the term they used to denote the elderly, regardless of mental condition.
So Taube was widowed in Volochisk and then traveled to Antwerp with her daughter and her two young grandchildren. Sussel, who later went by Celia, was 3 years old and Mecher, who may have been named after Taube’s deceased husband Mechel, was just 7 months old. Her daughter Yetta and the children are listed as being Austrian, and living in Podvolochisk. It was less than 6 kilometers from Volochisk to Podvolochisk, so a walk of about an hour and 15 minutes. But between them was the Zbroch river, which was the dividing line of the Russian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and to go from Volochisk, in the Russian Empire, and Podvolochisk, which was in Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, required getting a transit pass. For more on life in Podvolochisk, the Yizkor book is fascinating.
On the 1910 census, she is living with her daughter Yetta (who is going by Etty) Pollack and her husband Issie, and their two children at 173 Boerum Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, along with four other Jewish families. Interestingly, Taube (here named as Tonia) is listed as the head of household. She’s a 58-year-old widow, whose birthplace and that of her parents is given as “Russian Yiddish,” presumably to differentiate from those born in Russia who were not Jewish. She is listed as not being able to speak English, with Yiddish as her preferred language, and she can read and write. Etty and Issie both speak English.
By 1920 Taube is living with her son Isidore at 20 East 114th Street in Manhattan, in an area that is now called East Harlem. Isidore’s wife, Ida Bass had died the year before, and he was living with his four children, Charles, 23, Sarah, 20, Fannie, 18, and Tessie, 11. Presumably Taube came to help manage the household in the wake of Ida’s death. Taube is 58, and listed as a native Yiddish speaker, and so are Isidore and his children, except Tessie who was born in New York.They are all listed as being able to speak English, including Taube. Isidore and Charles are both listed as egg inspectors, which is one of the primary occupations of immigrants from Volochisk, which was apparently a hotbed of egg candling.
In 1929 Isidore remarried, and by the 1930 census Taube was living at a tenement at 1026 Hoe Ave in the Bronx with her son Pincus, his second wife Tessie, and his six children. She is listed as a 90-year-old widow (so she aged 22 years in the last decade) who never attended school, cannot read and write, had not naturalized, and had no occupation. She is listed as speaking Russian. In contrast, in her two previous census records she is listed as a literate Yiddish speaker.
Taube’s death record from New York on September 26, 1931 gives us some hints about her life. Her father is listed as Isidore Spilke/Spilka and her mother is Toba Cohen. There are several other Spilkas buried at the Satanover Benevolent Society who may have been related to her. Taube’s son Pincus’ first wife was named Itte Spilka, and I believe she may have been Taube’s niece, but I haven’t yet confirmed it. The Spilkas were from the Podolia region of the Russian Empire, so this might be their connection to Sataniv, the town in Ukraine that the burial society represents which is about 40 kilometers from Volochisk and Podvolochisk.
Taube had a long life — she traveled from the Russian Empire in her 60s, and then lived in the United States for another 27 years, moving from borough to borough in New York City, living with her various children and taking care of her grandchildren. I wonder how many more children she left behind in Ukraine, or whether the four who came to the US were all of her offspring. The 1910 census asks how many living children women have, but the question is left blank on Taube’s entry.
I’ll continue in my next post with another member of the Satanover Benevolent Society.