After leaving his home in Yedinitz, Bessarabia, my grandfather Sam Glicker’s older brother Shabetai started his trans-Atlantic voyage in Rotterdam, Holland on July 26, 1913, on the steamship Rotterdam. Two days after sailing from port, the journey was interrupted by an event Shabetai was sure to remember. A crew member, Jan Dunke, jumped overboard. Luckily it was a clear day and the waters were calm. A life buoy and life boat were launched and for two hours Captain Stenger doggedly steered the ship in a circular route searching for Dunke.
When the life boat was first launched with the chief officer on board, Shabetai may have been one of the 2,192 steerage passengers who made their own leap–to the conclusion that the worst had happened and the ship was sinking. The panic had passengers screaming and crying until they could be reassured by the crew. If Shabetai was on deck at the time, he may have been one of the passengers searching for a glimpse of the man in the sea. Remarkably, a small dot was spotted and Dunke was sighted swimming toward the ship. He was plucked out of the sea, and returned on board. Two hours after Dunke jumped into the sea, he was in the ship’s hospital, the S.S. Rotterdam was back on course, and Shabetai was headed for America.
Here’s the ship manifest that recorded Shabetai’s departure from Rotterdam on July 26, 1913 and his arrival in New York City on Monday, August 4:
The Rotterdam actually docked at Holland-America’s pier in Hoboken, New Jersey Sunday evening, August 3. From there, a ferry took Shabetai to Ellis Island where he was questioned and inspected by immigration officials.
I noticed the ship manifest for his trip shows a notation about a medical condition of right opacity under columns 23 and 24. According to a Mount Sinai Hospital webpage:
Corneal opacity occurs when the cornea becomes scarred. This stops light from passing through the cornea to the retina and may cause the cornea to appear white or clouded over. Infection, injury, or swelling of the eye are the most common causes of corneal opacity.”
No doubt the medical inspector observed Shabetai’s damaged eye during his routine screening for trachoma, a highly contagious eye disease. This notation corroborates the family story I heard during my childhood about my grandfather’s brother Shabetai. Shabetai’s injured eye had made him ineligible for conscription into the Russian Army.
The manifest stated Shabetai was single, 32 years old, born about 1881 in Yedinitz in Bessarabia, Russia (now known as Edinet, Moldova). Yedinitz was the town where my grandfather was born also. The manifest showed that Shabetai’s mother Bindel Glicker remained behind in Yedinitz. My grandfather Sam and several of his brothers were already living in New York City when Shabetai arrived. As his destination, Shabetai listed his brother Sam Glicker residing at 266 E. 4th Street, an address on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Sam, though, wasn’t living at this address by that time–he was living in Brooklyn on Georgia Avenue. The address on the Lower East Side was where another brother, Joseph, lived.
Shabetai moved into this apartment with Joseph, Joseph’s wife Tillie, and their children Sammy, Nathan, Bertha (and later, Lillian)–as shown on the New York State Census in 1915. By this time, my grandfather Sam Glicker had already married my grandmother Yetta and they were living in Brooklyn with their 8-month old son Irving. The 1915 Census listed Shabetai with the Americanized name “Samuel.” Yishaya (my grandfather Sam), Shabetai, and their nephew Sammy were all known to census takers by a variant of the same name–Sam, Samuel, or Sammy. It seems folks were not very imaginative when choosing an Americanized version for their Yiddish names. Shabetai was listed in the 1915 census as 35 years old and was working as a baker.
Less than two years after the 1915 Census, the United States declared war on Germany. Registration for drafting men into military service took place on June 5, 1917, June 5, 1918, and September 12, 1918. Shabetai would have been required to register on September 12 based on his age. Some men were exempt from serving, such as aliens who had not filed first papers for citizenship, but they were required to register and undergo a medical examination. Only then could they file a request for exemption. The penalty for not registering or falsifying information was a year in prison and then, if eligible, enlistment into military service.
Besides the Federal draft registration, each state conducted a survey of manpower and resources to help the war effort. Six days after the first Federal draft registration, all men and women between the ages of 16 and 50 had to register for the New York State Military Census and Inventory . The census takers gave a red slip showing enrollment in the New York State Militia to every male citizen and holder of first papers between the ages of 18 and 45. The State of New York sorted the census information so that lists of those registered could be generated on the basis of the questions asked, such as nationality.
The United States entry into the war initiated a wave of patriotism in New York City that would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for Shabetai to avoid registering for the State Military Census or the Federal Draft. Authorities devised a plan to ensure no one would be invisible. Starting on June 1, ten days before the State Military Census even began, New York City police scoured the city, house by house, building by building, block by block. Police knocked on doors and enlisted the aid of neighbors and janitors to identify everyone aged 16 to 50 and completed “spot cards” for each. Almost all residents registered for the census in the belief that police already had a record of their name, their age, and where they lived.
As reported in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, the lists compiled were intended not only for the state militia and federal army, but lists of alien residents were shared with allied countries. Still considered a subject under Russian rule, Shabetai might well have feared being returned to Russia.
Some desperate men board a ship and dive into the ocean in a moment of hopelessness, like Jon Dunke. Shabetai boarded a ship in New York City and traveled to Brazil, a country that remained neutral until declaring war on Germany on October 17, 1917.
Shabetai might have landed in the port of Santos, Brazil and traveled by railroad to the Luz Station near the Bom Retiro neighborhood of Sao Paulo, where he most likely resided. In 1912, other Bessarabian Jews had built the Kehilat Israel Synagogue in Bom Retiro. As the neighborhood grew into a center of industry in the 1920’s, including Brazil’s first Ford Motor Plant, Bom Retiro became a center for Jewish immigrants.
I heard about Shabetai’s flight to Brazil when I was a child. As I grew into adulthood, I heard nothing more about Shabetai until some time in the 1970’s when I was shown a letter, written in Yiddish. It was the last letter received by my grandfather from Shabetai, written about 1950. I can still recall the few facts I was able to glean with my limited grasp of Yiddish. The letter was sent from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Shabetai mentioned his daughter and the heartache he suffered because his daughter’s husband was a revolutionary.
I thought little more about Shabetai until I started compiling a family tree a few years ago. My grandfather had died in 1969, having outlived his other siblings, but what had become of his brother Shabetai after the 1950 letter? After finding him listed on a ship manifest and in the 1915 census, I embarked on a search for more information.
In 2012, I managed to contact Paulo Valadares, a historian in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In response to my inquiry, Mr. Valaderes sent me the following message:
I found some information about [your] grandfather’s brother:
1) JOSEPH GLIKER, Shabetai b. Israel, b. Iedenitz (1884), d. S.Paulo (03/21/1952). He is buried in the Jewish Cemetery of Vila Mariana (Q24, R11, 174).
2) RIVEKA GLIKER, b. Iedenitz (1892), d. S. Paulo (08/02/1951). [She is] buried in the Jewish Cemetery of Vila Mariana (Q25, R11,No. 168).
I now knew that Shabetai died in 1952. Determined to see firsthand the book referenced by Mr. Valadares, I made a trip to the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, D.C. The book I requested from the LOC shelves was co-authored by Mr. Valadares, The first Jews of Sao Paulo – a brief story told through the Jewish Cemetery of Vila Mariana. The book contained listings of Jewish burials compiled from cemetery and burial society records. I confirmed that page 128 listed Shabetai Gliker and his wife Riveka. I also learned from this listing that Shabetai was known as Jose in Brazil.
I don’t believe our family in New York City knew about his death. Was there no family left in Brazil to notify them? While many details about this branch of my family are still murky, one detail I put to immediate use. On the anniversary date of my great-uncle Shabetai’s death (according to the Hebrew calendar), I lit a Yahrzeit [Yiddish: anniversary of death] candle in his memory, just as my grandfather surely would have done for his brother.
When I publish my next post, I will tell you some more about my family’s Brazilian connection.
To be continued – Mystery Monday: Aida Glicker Naroviski
Hour’s Swim at Sea Cures Idea of Suicide, New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]), August 04, 1913, Page 12, Image 12. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. Accessed November 12, 2015 at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
Crazy Stoker All But Outswims Ship, The sun. (New York [N.Y.]), 04 Aug. 1913, Page 12, Image 12. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. Accessed November 12, 2015 at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
1913; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2144; Line: 8; Page Number: 76. Shabtai Glicker. Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.
Port of Entry to a Continent, webpage accessed Nov. 12, 2015 at at http://hmag.com/port-entry-continent/
Steamers Due Tomorrow, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 2, 1913, page 14, column 6. Accessed November 12, 2015 at bklyn.newspapers.com
Entrance to Holland America Line piers, Hoboken, New Jersey, photograph at Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Accessed November 12, 2015 at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/det.4a17629
New York, State Census, 1915, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 09; Assembly District: 06; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 11
The New York state military census and inventory; a report to Hon. Charles S. Whitman, governor of the state of New York, 1917. New York (State) Military census bureau. Published: (1918)
Sinagoga Kehilat Israel, article at São Paulo Antiga by Douglas Nascimento, July 14, 2015. Accessed November 25, 2015 at http://www.saopauloantiga.com.br/sinagoga-kehilat-israel/
“Os primeiros judeus de S. Paulo. Uma breve história contada através do Cemitério Israelita de Vila Mariana“, by P. Valadares, G. Faiguenboim and Niels Andreas (S. Paulo, Fraiha, 2009), p. 128.