Eighty Years Later, We Found Our Missing Family
I’m a Friedman
Hi. My name is Sandy. I always thought I had a book in me, not realizing it was right in front of me my whole life. I have a story to tell about my family. Sophie and Hyman, my grandparents had eight children. Lee, Ruth, Jack, Jean, Dotty, Ada, Irving,Teddy. I had 14 cousins, not including their spouses and children.
This true story is about the Friedmans, the Friers and my grandmother, Sophie. I hope you enjoy it.
In the year 1900, Sophie went to Bucharest with her mother to apply to leave Romania with her sister Lena . My great grandmother, Ethel Rosensweig, got the “kings certificate” allowing eight people named on the document to leave the country. Sophie and Lena were sailing to America alone. Sophie was 14 and Lena was ten. They were going to live with their brother Sam, who had left Romania the year before. Sam lived in New York City on Ludlow Street. The family was kosher, so they could not eat the food on the ship. Their mother gave them a salami for the trip. They obviously had little food, so that was all she could give them to eat. Sophie had three other sisters at home with her parents. The parents and girls came to America a few years later. Sophie and Lena left from Le Harve, France . Being poor, they were likely in steerage, which must have been difficult for these young girls.
I do know that when Sophie and Lena got to Ellis Island, the salami was spoiled. They had been afraid to eat it, as they didn’t know when they would need it .Their brother Sam met them at the port in New York and took them home to live with him. Sam got them jobs rolling cigarettes in their room. I’m sure they all lived in one room. I really don’t know how my grandmother (Sophie) met my grandfather, but they married and had eight children. Enter Hyman Friedman.
My grandfather was a brilliant man, everyone agrees. He was a tailor, but lost all he earned to gambling. He played cards and went to the race track. He was a heavy gambler.
Hyman would leave home and not return for weeks or even months at a time. When he left he did not leave any money or food for his family. He was a scoundrel and an evil man. Evil, yes. Leaving eight children without food or money is evil. Strangely enough, he came from a mean, evil family.
Time out. Let me explain the Friedman family. They were all “fabisene”, which translates to “bitter people” or “sourpuss”. The “queen of the fabisene” was Dora, better known as Duba. She was Hyman’s sister. Thankfully, this “fabisene” gene bypassed all of Hyman’s children. Some grandchildren got the gene, but that’s for another story.
Hyman, “the evil” had one brother and three sisters.. The brother(name unknown) left a wife and eight children in Europe, penniless and alone. The sisters never helped Hyman’s family. The phenomenon called “genetics” is very amazing to me. How can an entire family be “fabisene”…brothers, sisters, and parents. My Aunt Jean tells me that her fathers’ parents were very “fabisene”. They sat all day and read the bible. They didn’t make any conversation with the grandchildren.
My grandmother Sophie was a kind, gentle woman. She spoke Yiddish and broken english. She laughed a lot, even though she had a tough life. She got a job in their building washing floors. At the time, they lived on the lower east side of New York, on Cherry street. At 5:00am she would go down into the basement to start up the boiler. My Aunt Jean went with her. Later, she got a job cleaning a nearby office building. She was a marvelous cook. Her gefilte fish was the best. She would bring the live fish home and put it in the bathtub until she was ready to make it. Her kugel… amazing. She would make the best blueberry jam. She never yelled at my grandfather when he came home after being away for weeks or months. However, her sister, Lena, bumped into him one day. She started hitting him with her purse, shouting “you bum”! The local food stores allowed them to pay the food bill only when they were able to. They still didn’t have enough to eat.
As the children got older, they realized that they had to send the young ones to school. The children had no birth certificates, so the older siblings took the little ones to the board of health. The staff at the board of health realized that the family had no money for food. At the time, the state had food stamps, so things got easier for them. They were mailed food stamps every month. It was also at this time that the state put three of the younger children in a facility, assuming Sophie couldn’t handle eight children. This didn’t last long, as the children who had gone to the facility refused to eat and cried all the time.
The extended family
My grandfathers’ family was just like him, hateful and detestable . They never offered my family any food or money. One sister was married to a baker. Her name was Dora (Duba).She never brought the Friedman’s a crumb. Remember that name. There is more to come about her. Her children were the same. They were friends with their cousins but were just like their parents. And….they all lived in the same building.
My grandmothers’ family was not much better. One sister, also married to a baker, brought the family spoiled cream pies. For a long time, my family believed that was how cream pies were supposed to taste.
After Sophie had her last child (my uncle Teddy)), around 1929, Hyman stopped coming home for good.
The older children got jobs, began to bring money into the house and things got better for all.
A knock on the door
Sometime between 1955 -1960 there was a knock on “evil Duba’s” door. Remember that “evil Duba” was the sister of “evil Hyman”. A handsome young man was at the door. It was Duba’s nephew, Hymans son. Did they ever meet before? Who knows? Did he say “I’m Hyman’s son”? We know he said “ I’d like to meet my father’s other family”. We know this because this is what Aunt Duba told her children. She said to her nephew at the door “they don’t want to meet you . Go away and never come back”. We know all this because Aunt Duba told her children , and one kind daughter/cousin told the story to her cousins (the Friedman family)
That’s how we found out there was another family.
Now I enter the story. I am the oldest grandchild of Grandma Sophie. My cousin Thea (Irving’s first born)and I looked for this cousin who knocked on Duba’s door for many, many years. We never found him. We were searching for Friedmans and never thought the name was changed.
This is a sample of the ad I posted on a Jewish genealogy site. “Do you know a 50–60 year old man , last name Friedman, searching for his family on Long Island, New York, 50–60 years ago.” Of course, I never got a response.
In November, 2018, my cousins’ daughter, Jenna, sent her DNA to Ancestry.com. At the same time, Avi Frier also sent his DNA to Ancestry.com. Avi sent it because his wife was searching for lost family. Jenna was just a curious young lady. Avi is Hyman’s grandson. I am Hyman’s granddaughter. Jenna’s’ mother is Hyman’s granddaughter, my first cousin, Ilana. Ilana and I had never heard of Avi Frier.
Ancestry wrote to Avi and Jenna. Ancestry found a family match. Jenna told her mother, Ilana, and Ilana contacted Avi. At this time, the Frier family knew nothing about their father and grandfathers’ family. The Friedmans only knew there was a family out there. Avi called Ilana and me, and we found out a lot about Hyman Friedman. Avi is the son of Ralph. Ralph was the man who had knocked on Aunt Duba’s door. Hyman’s younger son is Lenny. He has no memory of his father.
The rest of the story
Hyman met a woman in Baltimore, Md, sometime in 1930/1931. He never divorced Sophie and never told his new bride that he was still married. He changed his last name to Frier. He immediately fathered two boys. Ralph was born in 1932, and again, is the same young man who knocked on Aunt Duba’s door.
Let me pause to explain Aunt Duba. Being Hyman’s sister, she was related to the Friedmans and the Friers. Both families knew Aunt Duba. Aunt Duba never told the Friedmans about the Friers.
Back to the story . After five years, the Friers moved to Cleveland, Ohio and the younger son, Lenny, was born. Lenny never knew his father because Hyman soon left this family and moved to New York and…guess what? He met another woman. Did he have children with her? Who knows? But we do know he stole $1500 from her. He also stole $5000 worth of jewelry from her. By the way, they were engaged to be married.
We heard that this woman was walking out of her temple one day and saw another woman sitting near her who was wearing her jewelry. She immediately called the police, and Hyman was arrested.
“Hyman the evil” goes to Sing Sing
The Friedmans knew Hyman was in Sing Sing. My Aunt Jean went with her mother, Sophie, to visit “evil Hyman” in prison. They took a bus from New York City. He was sick at the last visit and was in Sing Sing’s hospital. The nurses told my aunt that he had stomach trouble and the trouble was probably caused by his sisters bringing him chicken soup when they visited. (In the old days I don’t think Jewish people removed the fat from the chicken soup).
So we always thought the second wife had him arrested for bigamy. That was not true. My grandfather, Hyman, was arrested for grand larceny.
In 2018, I spent one afternoon on the computer with my grandson Jacob . We researched Sing Sing and found that in 1935–1940 there were many inmates with the name Hyman Friedman. My new cousin, Avi, called Sing Sing in 2018. They confirmed that Hyman was convicted for grand larceny. Yes, “evil Hyman” went to prison for stealing money and jewelry from a woman he was going to marry.
When I was about four or five years old, about 1943, I met my grandfather, Hyman. My grandmother took him in when he was released from Sing Sing. He then went to live with one of his sisters.
In January of 2019 we had a family reunion (or rather, “union”). My new cousin, Avi, planned it all. I met my two uncles, two aunts and many cousins. It was an amazing day. We learned so much about each family.
Hyman didn’t die in the 40’s. He died in the 50’s. Some cousins called the Friedmans in the 50’s and told them that their father died that day. These were the same cousins who laughed and played with my family. They kept the secret their entire lives. At the reunion, we learned about these traitorous cousins.
The Baltimore cousins finally met the New York cousins. They had the same face, the same laugh ,the same mannerisms. My Uncle Irving Friedman had been going to the same temple as my new uncle Lenny Frier. They may have even sat next to each other. At the reunion, we took a picture of all the women with the same curly hair. We are now in touch. We meet, we Facebook , we call each other on the phone . My new Uncle Ralph (the son who knocked on “fabisene Duba’s” door so many years ago) calls me every Friday to wish me a good Shabbas. We are one family….and all the “evils” are gone. One last thought. Evil Hyman picked wonderful women to marry and have children with. His many grandchildren and great grandchildren are amazing, brilliant offspring of the Friedman/Frier family.