Like many others who left Russia in 1906, the Spiegel family would have traveled by rail to the Russian border. Since crossing the border required a passport that was difficult and expensive to obtain legally, most emigrants were smuggled across the border in the middle of the night. In fact, from 1900 to World War I, 80 percent of Jewish emigrants crossed the Russian border illegally.
Before embarking on their journey, Benjamin most likely entered into a contract with the American Line. Like other shipping companies, it maintained shipping offices throughout the Pale of Settlement. The contract was usually all-inclusive, arranging for the entire journey for his family from Russia to New York City. It might have included overland travel from Russia to a primary departure port from Europe like Bremen, passage on a feeder ship from Europe to London, rail passage from London to Liverpool, transatlantic passage from Liverpool to Philadelphia on the Westernland, and rail transportation to New York City.
A 1910 census record shows that Ben and Fannie’s family lived in East New York, Brooklyn at 321 Georgia Avenue.
Unlike so many other Jewish immigrants who settled for a while in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Spiegel family quickly found a home in the East New York neighborhood in Brooklyn. It was less densely populated than other Jewish neighborhoods at the time like the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and adjacent Brownsville. It was a younger neighborhood where you could buy a new modest home or rent an apartment in a more modern building. It was a working class immigrant neighborhood where Yiddish was widely spoken.
By 1910, the family had expanded to include two more children, Murray and Dora.
Ben was earning a living as an express driver, an occupation that he could do without a formal education or literacy skills. At that time, passengers and packages were transported to businesses and train stations by horse-drawn carriages and wagons.
The oldest child in the family, Yetta–who was about 15–was working in a tailor shop while her four oldest siblings attended school. It is likely Yetta never attended school, like so many girls at that time who were the oldest in a large family.
By 1920, Ben and Fannie were living in an apartment building at 329 Hinsdale Street in East New York. Their three youngest children–Murray, Dora, and Minnie–were enrolled in school while Jack and Harry were working. Three of their children had married. In 1914, Yetta had married Sam Glicker (see Family Friday: Yetta Spiegel Glicker). In 1915, Tillie had married Samuel Cohen. And Irving had wed Lillian.
In 1923, Ben applied for citizenship in the United States like so many other immigrants. He made a valiant attempt, but was unable to satisfactorily sign his entire name. Unable to meet this literacy requirement, Ben’s petition for citizenship was denied.
By the 1920’s Passover seders around the Spiegel table on Hinsdale Street were getting crowded with all the married children and grandchildren being born. Ben and Fannie’s granddaughter Celia Glicker recalled Benjamin leading Passover seders, and the matzo spread with schmaltz that Fannie served.
With the exception of Dora, all of Ben and Fannie’s children were married by 1933. Jack had married Mae Ferlazzo in 1920, Harry had married Rose Fiddleman in 1923. Minnie had married Morris Furman in 1929, and in 1933 Murray married Matilda Solomon. Later in the decade, Dora would marry Louis Nisenson. Eventually, Ben and Fannie’s grandchildren would number 19 in all.
Most of the children continued to live in East New York near to Benjamin and Fannie. It was a tight-knit clan, until 1935 when Fannie succumbed to renal failure. Less than a year later, Ben went into cardiac failure.
Ben and Fannie were buried at Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, NY in the burial plot reserved for the East New York Fraternal Society. The gatepost for the Society’s plot lists Ben and Fannie as board members for the organization when the gate was erected in 1928.
Jews in Ukraine: Kiev web page at http://www.geschichteinchronologie.ch/eu/ukraine/EncJud_juden-in-Kiew-ENGL.html, based on Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Jews in Kiev, vol. 10
Out of the Shtetl, In the footsteps of Eastern European Jewish emigrants to America, 1900-1914, by Gil Alroey, accessed December 27, 2012 at http://israel-stu.haifa.ac.il/staff/alroey/out-of-shtetl.pdf,
The Ships List website, FAQ page, accessed 12/19/2012 at theshipslist.com
200-mile difference in voyages mentioned in Forgotten Doors: The Other Ports of Entry to the United States, edited by M. Mark Stolarik, 1988, Associated University Presses, page 37, accessed at books.google.com July 30, 2012.
The ShipsList Email Discussion List & Mail Archives, discussion list message dated 7/15/1999 by Sue Swiggim, July 31, 1904-“Westernland”- Liverpool to Philadelphia, http://www.theshipslist.com., accessed July 27, 2012.
Availability of kosher food aboard Titanic sheds light on immigration via England, by Marshall Weiss · April 11, 2012, www.JTA.org, accessed July 31, 2012.
Jewish Genealogical Society of Philadelphia, Russian Interest Group, January 20, 2008, at http://www.jgsgp.org/Documents/Emigration%20Routes%2020_Jan_2008.pdf
Spiegel family, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1883-1945. National Archives, Washington, D.C., Roll:T840_53; List O, Line: 15 to 21.