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Richard Maxwell treeI have spent quite a bit of time recently trying to add detail to the lineage of my wife, Chris Ann Maxwell. It’s a challenge because, contrary to what she’d always been told, her family is absolutely huge.

Where my family comes from the same part of the world (the Galicia area that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is now part of Ukraine) and lived for quite some time in the same place (Brooklyn, New York), Chris’s family is much more varied.

Some are from the Alsace-Lorraine area of France and came to Louisiana starting in the 1850s. Some are from (probably) Spain and Portugal and came to the United States by way of the Caribbean islands and Charleston, South Carolina. Many came from Ireland in the 1840s and 1850s to a town west of Boston called Taunton, Massachusetts.

It has required that I update six of the family trees I’d posted three years ago, and add a new one. The Irish side of Chris’s family comes through her father, Charles Francis “Frank” Maxwell. There’s a tree for the Maxwell line. There’s a lesser tree of his maternal line, the Ray family, which reflects how much less we know about that line so far.

Chris’s mother, Maxine (Shlivek) Shaw, who went by the stage name Maxine Stuart, descended from an Eastern European Jewish family on her father’s side, detailed in the Shlivek tree. On the ancestry of Maxine’s mother, Helen (Simon) Shlivek, the trees begin to grow very large and varied. The most direct is the Simon tree. The Goudchaux-Godchaux tree, the Marquez-Marks tree, and the Labatt family tree add further details.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Ostroff and I are second-cousins. We share the same great-grandfather. But because of the small-town nature of the shtetl, our family trees are more like vines intertwined at multiple points. My grandmother was a sister-in-law of his grandfather, so there’s the first degree of intertwining. His grandmother and my grandmother were also best friends, so there’s a vine that doesn’t show up on a family tree because it involves emotion but no DNA. Though Jim and I have spoken regularly over the last 60 years, he mentioned to me in a phone conversation a few weeks ago this bit of family lore that I’d never heard before. I was so impressed by it that I asked him to write it down to preserve it.


Clara Skolnick

Clara Skolnick, probably about 1907, when she was 15, in a photo studio in Buczacz, Austria-Hungary.

She was a Princess.

The most beautiful, well-educated and world-wise woman in her small town.

As Klara reached adulthood, she was courted by a bevy of gentleman suitors — refined, educated and suitable to marry a woman of her standing: the daughter of a wealthy brewer, acknowledged far and wide for his razor-sharp intellect and integrity.

Possessed of a yen for equality rare for a man born in the mid-19th century, Chaim Shulum Schkolnik was adamant that Klara, born 1892, as her older brothers Folic and Paul, would receive a first-class education.

Private tutors called upon the family home, surrounded by fields of hops and grains used to make beer at the on-site brewery. It was constructed by Shulum, who was said to have earned an engineering degree, on the outskirts of a small town. With about 500 people, Yazlivitz, or Jaslowiec in Polish, was a backwater shtetl in Southeast Galicia, a province of Austria-Hungary, today known as Pomortsy, Ukraine.

The three schoen yingele (Yiddish for “beautiful children”) were schooled in literature, history, mathematics, science, the Jewish religion and culture; were steeped in the ethics of Torah and Talmud, from which they read in Hebrew.

The lingua franca for instruction was a mélange, given that German, Yiddish, Polish and a Ukrainian dialect were spoken throughout Galicia.

Their homestead provided ample room for classroom instruction. It was a manse, unlike the cramped, thatched roof cottages that were home to most area residents, with a separate kitchen and indoor plumbing, a rarity. Ukrainian servants attended to the family’s needs.

Clara Skolnick in another studio portrait, sometime in her late teens, in Buczacz, Galicia, Austria-Hungary. (Collection of Jim Ostroff)

Unheard of in shtetl homes, the Schkolnik’s boasted a library of secular and religious texts, including a High Holiday machzor, prayer book, that Shulum’s wife, Surah Henya Strober, had received as a gift in the late 1860s.

The family’s financial well-being was tangible. “You could pull open drawers and find stacks of money and my mother had boxes filled with her jewelry,” Klara said years later.

Klara noted her father “never made a show” of their wealth. He emphasized doing so was wrong, explaining, “You never should do anything that might shame another person.”

The Schkolniks were adamant their daughter would be adept in the social graces. Klara recalled being schooled in the proper dress, bearing and manners for a woman of high standing; of being taught the polka, Ukrainian folk dances and most especially the waltz.

Though religiously observant, Shulum did not subscribe to the practice of arranged marriages, common among the era’s Jewish families.

Young gentlemen of the proper standing would be permitted to call upon his daughter at home. Should Klara wish to wed, though, Shulum would need to assent.

Beginning in early 1907, when Klara was 15, gentlemen visited the Schkolnik home, each signing a book she kept, akin to an autograph album.

Likely in 1909, when Klara was 17, she met Jacob Jeremiah (Yaakov Yerichim) Rosenblum, who recently had graduated from the Menschneider, then a prestigious Vienna men’s apparel design school.

Jacob J. “Yankel” Rosenblum in Vienna, Austria, while a student in a prestigious men’s apparel design school, in the middle of the first decade of the 20th Century. (Collection of Jim Ostroff)

Details of their courtship are murky, but Klara recalled falling deeply in love with Jacob, whom she called by his Yiddish name, Yankel.

Early in 1910, when Klara turned 18 and Jacob was around 22, he proposed marriage. Klara broached the subject with her father.

Shulum was repulsed. It is not known whether he had spoken with Jacob, but the reputation of the Rosenblum family, from nearby Buchach, was known to Shulum.

Jacob’s father Avrum and his grandfather Oizer, were not held in high regard, with both said to be of questionable character and integrity. Word of mouth had it that Avrum’s carousing prompted his wife, Bobscha Tepper, to divorce him, though they later remarried.

No matter young Jacob’s character and schooling, this man was not suitable to marry Shulum’s well-educated, cultured belle, who had been courted by men of substantial means and sterling reputation.

Klara and Jacob together made an appeal to Shulum, a talk made more difficult as he was ill with “galloping consumption,” a term then used to describe a wasting, terminal disease.

It was said that Shulum, a heavy smoker, developed lung cancer, and was given morphine to ease his pain.

Perhaps Shulum was under the influence of narcotics when Klara and Jacob sought Shulum’s blessing for them to wed.

This was not forthcoming. Shulum became angry, Klara related years later, telling the young couple, “If you marry, I curse you for the rest of your lives. You will never know happiness.”

Shulum soon died and within months, Klara and Jacob married. Jacob’s grandfather Oizer, who served as a notary and an official recorder of documents, witnessed their religious ceremony.

Jacob and Clara (Skolnick) Rosenblum, probably soon after their 1911 marriage in Buczacz, Galicia, Austria-Hungary. (Collection of Jim Ostroff)

Soon thereafter, Klara traveled with Yankel to Vienna, where they “danced the night away” to Strauss’ Blue Danube waltz, their mutual favorite, she recalled.

Klara loved Vienna for its high culture, nightlife and a fastidiousness for cleanliness, noting “there was not a speck of dirt anywhere. You could eat off the streets.”

Klara and Jacob Rosenblum settled in Buchach where in November 1911, a daughter Rebecca (later Virginia) was born.

The family was intent on immigrating to the United States, but could not until they had a legally recognized civil wedding – which they did in 1912 – and documents attesting to these nuptials were filed with Austria-Hungary.

Oizer balked several times, demanding an escalating fee. With money in hand, Oizer notarized the civil “wedding bann” document in March 1913. Within days, the Rosenblum family sailed for the U.S., living for several months with Klara’s maternal uncle and aunt, Mendel “Max” and Nellie Struber in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The Rosenblum family moved into their own apartment on South 2nd Street, Williamsburg, but domestic life did not much suit Klara, now Clara.

In the teens, she became politically active in the women’s suffragette movement and by 1918, took to street corners protesting the U.S. entry into World War I. Her anti-war harangues in heavily German-accented English did not go over well with crowds. She was pelted with tomatoes.

Two other children came along: Theodora (“Thea”) in 1919 and Charlotte (named after Shulum) in 1924.

Jacob and a partner, Jacob Wolfthal, established a custom-made men’s suit manufacturing business. It thrived, but went under in the midst of the Great Depression.

To provide for his family, Jacob worked punishing hours in New York’s garment center. Though financial security remained elusive, Jacob was beloved by family for his sharp wit, humor and personal integrity.

Though he evinced a buoyant personality, by the 1930s Clara was beset by physical and emotional ailments, which doctors ascribed to “female hysteria.”

Jacob suffered severe chest pain one morning in August 1943. A doctor summoned to their Flatbush apartment diagnosed a heart attack, but could do nothing. Jacob’s last words, according to Thea, who stopped by on her way to work: “I don’t care anymore.”

Clara lived on in Brooklyn until 1953 when she moved into a Queens, New York, garden apartment with Thea, her husband Herb Ostroff, and their three children.

Clara’s ongoing medical ailments mounted. Severe facial pains were remediated with “nerve blocks” that left one side of her face permanently drooped. Clara also underwent electro-convulsive shock therapy at Creedmore State Hospital.

Prescribed mind-numbing drugs, she spiraled down into drug addiction until one day in October 1963, the cocktail left her in a manic, frenzied state that scared the daylights out of the three children.

Thea prevailed upon her sister Charlotte to have Clara live with her family on Long Island for a period.

Clara stayed with them for several days before Charlotte committed her mother to Pilgrim State Hospital in Suffolk County, Long Island.

Clara died there of pneumonia 10 months later. She was buried next to Jacob at Beth David Cemetery, Elmont, Queens.

Clara loved Yankel until the day she passed on, but throughout their lives together, neither knew much happiness, contentment or peace.

EDITOR’S NOTE: James J. “Jim” Ostroff (Yaakov Yerichim, Yankele) is the son of Herbert and Theodora (Rosenblum) Ostroff and a grandson of Jacob and Clara (Skolnick) Rosenblum. He is a great-grandson of Chaim Shulum and Surah Henya (Strober) Schkolnik, and of Avrum and Bosbscha (Tepper) Rosenblum. To see Jim’s other essays on our families, see here and here.


I have spent some time over the last several days trying to find

Mary Feuerstein, my maternal grandmother, probably in New York City about 1915.

more information about the Feuerstein branch of my family. My grandmother, Mary (Feuerstein) Hoffman, is my link to this vast branch.

My grandmother died in 1934, probably of a stroke resulting from untreated hypertension, leaving four children who were under 16. My mother, the youngest of those children, was 11. It was a devastating loss for all of the children, maybe especially my mother, who lived the remaining 85 years of her life with the specter of that abandonment. It became a matter of faith with my mother that she couldn’t bear to see a hungry child and would often give up most of her meal so a kid could eat. She always looked out for those who had no one else to look out for them. And she always stayed close to her extended family.

As a result of that, I have met most of the Feuerstein descendants. Or so I thought until I started delving into the research. As there is no one left alive who remembers all of the intricate family relationships, and more importantly those often hilarious anecdotes and myths that keep the history alive, I have been resorting to the factual information I can find on the Ancestry.com site.

Ancestry is an imperfect research tool. If I know that there’s a Robert Feuerstein born in New York in about 1930, how do I differentiate from the Robert Feuerstein born in New York in 1929 from the one born in 1931?

It’s a hard problem. You have to make, in many cases, a calculated guess and hope that it carries you to the right place four or five generations later. Often, it does. Sometimes the names-places-dates information leads you to the same conclusion as the DNA information. Or sometimes it leads you in a completely different direction and you have to unravel four or five entire generations.

The result of this week’s research is that I was able to roughly double the names on this branch of the family tree to about 450, largely by adding to the lineages of Mary Feuerstein’s aunts and uncles. It’s a lot more people, to be sure, that I previously had on this branch of the family tree. And in almost every case, they’re not people I know, or have even met.

I have posted the new tree here. I invite you to review it. If I’ve made errors, please let me know where and how to correct them.

Mary Feuerstein’s descendants pictured at a family gathering, probably in the mid-1960s, probably somewhere in Long Island, New York.


A few things coalesced today, and I thought I’d try to take advantage of them. The first is the “Safer At Home” order, which keeps us around the property. The second is the blossoming of the roses in our front yard. And the third was the rain, which is a relatively rare thing in southern California, so rare that we tend to get overly excited about it.

I took all three things as an opportunity to charge up the camera battery and see what I could capture without leaving the yard.

So the “little camera,” a Canon Powershot G15, did okay capturing the flowers with water droplets on them. It did a fairly nice job, but the focus, which I was using in automatic mode, seemed to capture only some of the shot crisply. (I may have to close the aperture a little more than I did to get more of the flower in focus.)

The droplets were a little sharper on this shot.

And they were okay on this one, especially the large drop accumulating on the bottom of the flower.

This one was the best, which may have something to do with the bright red color.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Ostroff is my second-cousin. His grandmother was my grandfather’s sister. Jim and I have been close friends our entire lives. More importantly, he has been close his entire life to my whole family, even though we’ve lived a continent apart for almost all of our lives. He sent me this note on Saturday.

My mom arriving at her 95th birthday party in 2018 at the El Dorado Park Recreation Center in Long Beach, CA. (Photo by Bryan C. Frank)

Gray clouds hung low. It was a dreary, blustery day, a typical March morning in Washington, as I drove in to work; a day indistinguishable from any other in this gloomy month, my least favorite.

What cheer there was come from knowing April soon would begin, bringing abundant sunshine, the pink powder puff blooms of cherry trees and gentle breezes.

In an instant, my mood crashed, for it was Friday, March 29, 2019. As I turned the corner from 14th Street onto Constitution Avenue the cellphone in my shirt pocket shrieked with a buzz. The text message from you, Paul, overcame my emotions. Ethel Skolnick had died early that morning.

Hastily pulling over, I sent a reply message with brief condolences; noted that I’d call you in a few minutes upon arriving at my office.

I tucked the phone back in my pocket. The few-block drive was a blur, as I could not help but weep. A veritable giant, one of the kindest, most influential and loving people in my life had moved beyond the realm of the living.

It smacked me down that going forward, I never would hear your mom’s voice again; never be able to avail myself of uplifting calls that invariably began with a cheery, “GOOD MORNING, JIMMY!”

Nor would there be the happy anticipation of big boxes arriving at the front door, bulging with oranges and lemons from the Skolnick grove, nor scrumptious hamantaschen. I no longer could look forward to periodic two-hour phone visits with your mom that cartwheeled from discussing her and your dad’s many activities, all that you, Marty and Elliot and families were doing, politics, gardening and her late-in-life avocation: college basketball cheerleader.

Your mom spent an inordinate amount of time asking about the welfare of Matthew and Ellen, and later their children, and most especially how Wendy and I were doing; so very often proffering advice about life situations, which was invaluable.

In truth, your mom always was there and always cared about me.

This was evident by two “bookends”: The baby blanket Ethel bought prior to my February 1951 arrival in this world; the kingsize bed quilt she made for Wendy and I, completed in 2017 following a protracted convalescence from pneumonia. This was the last quilt she ever made….

It may seem improbable that your mom had an abiding interest in me, as I was but her first-cousin, once removed, by marriage, who lived nearly 3,000 miles away from your family for all but five months of my life.

It says something most insightful about your mom that she did. Life in the Ostroff household during the ‘50s and ‘60s was tumultuous and traumatic, owing to the emotional instability and illnesses that bedeviled my mom and Grandma Clara Skolnick Rosenblum, and my dad’s frequent layoffs from work.

None of this seemed to be of substantial concern to mom’s two sisters. They chose to focus on their families’ wellbeing, first and foremost. Perhaps this is as it should be, but a little caring would have gone a long ways.

Ethel Hoffman Skolnick was diametrically opposed in character, temperament and humanity to these two, who like my mom, were first cousins to your dad. At her very core, your mom had an innate goodness and not an iota of pretense.

Your dad and mom had a special affinity for Thea and Herb, and Aunt Clara, as did your grandparents Paul and Esther. There was a most special closeness and love, between our grandmothers, and Tante Esther and my mom.

The reasons for this, my mom told me, were profound. Esther genuinely cared about other people and possessed rare attributes. She never bore grudges; unfailingly sought to reach out to family members in need. Esther was the unquestioned family peacemaker. She reconciled relatives who proverbially or literally spit on each other after spats.

Your mom very much admired and loved Esther and, I believe, assumed Esther’s mantle after her June 1953 passing.

As Esther had been close with Thea, your mom maintained a steady correspondence with my mom, month after month for decades; made sustained and concerted efforts to remain in close touch with all of your uncles and aunts. Family and individuals, whether kin or not, mattered greatly.

To an extent, people are endowed with certain emotional proclivities which are hardened or moderated by life experiences, and on occasion, by an individual’s determination.

A comment made to me by your Uncle Leo some years ago crystalized that the latter two were decisive in forging your mom’s character.

“I am so proud of Ettie,” you uncle said, unsolicited. Leo recounted that your mom lost her mom, Mary, at a young age and with three older brothers, often had to fend for herself.

Slightly paraphrasing: “Ettie left Liberty and went to New York with almost no skills. She learned on the job, took classes and before she retired, was the comptroller of a large, international company. She was indispensable.”

Your mom had great native intelligence and tenacity, but her life was not focused solely on the pursuit of professional skills. Far more consequential, Ethel Hoffman Skolnick had an innate desire for lifelong learning and personal growth. In a real sense, your mom had the mindset of a 10-year-old. She believed that nothing was impossible for her to do and virtually every life goal was attainable.

The evidence is abundant that your mom lived every day believing she could reach for the stars, then the ones beyond, and vitally, possessed the flexibility to pirouette at various stages of her life. The Summer of ’53 Great Relocation was the diving-off platform that could send Ethel to the depths, or soaring to new heights. The latter was not assured.

While your dad had world-traipsing experiences during his Army service, your mom’s were largely confined to New York. Her family, social, cultural and work life were firmly anchored, literally within a few miles of home and remained so for two years after she and your dad married.

The Skolnick family left all of this — everything and everyone familiar — and headed West, this at a time when insular Easterners considered anything beyond New Jersey Terra Incognita.

De facto it was. Not for you. As a month-old tyke even the concept of home had not taken root. In many ways, not for your dad, as he had such wide-ranging life experiences, courtesy of Uncle Sam. It was an unsettling challenge for your mom, as she related to me. She knew not one soul. A most family-oriented person, your mom was cut off from easy interaction with her brothers and every relative.

Those early days in California were bleak, your mom related. So very many people, understandably, would cartwheel downward in this environment.

It was a hallmark of your mom’s life that she never wallowed in self-pity, or permitted difficult situations to defeat her.

Ethel possessed far more than mental toughness. She has a special spunk and spirit. By dint of her personal warmth, infectious joy and laughter, people were drawn to being with her.

There was another element in a critical triad: Your mom never accepted that aging diminished our ability to learn, nor that one’s basic character is set in stone.

As documented in letters between Ethel and Thea, your mom didn’t just make all new friends, but became a veritable magnet for people who so relished their time with her and at gatherings at your homes in Compton and Long Beach. Most of these friends were of far different cultural and religious backgrounds and experiences than your parents.

I so well remember your mom telling me that these differences, including that Jewish families were few and far between, mattered not a whit to her. I can hear her to this day. “Jimmy, I’m lucky to have so many wonderful neighbors and friends.”

As the tide of time rolled on, so many of these friends passed on, one of the difficult downsides of attaining great age; why so many in they late 70s and 80s find themselves all but friendless. Not Ethel. She continued to make new friends. It is so telling that many of these people were half your mom’s age for the very good reason that her mental outlook and joie de vivre were those of young adults.

No matter what the calendar said, Ethel Skolnick never grew old.

It is inadequate to say that your mom had a yen for lifelong learning. She did, but this was a “byproduct” of her zest for life.

As best as I can figure it, your mom possessed a shark-like M.O. She had to keep moving ahead. She did not want to fall behind, whether it be in job skills, knowledge,  popular technology or culture.

Just as your mom arrived in NYC and taught herself accounting, steno, and business, she kept up with the rapidly changing business and technological environment to become an indispensable manager in an international trade business. Not bad at all!

In the ‘50s and ‘60s Ethel’s focus was on home, raising three boys and doing so much for your dad. This was most satisfying for her. She so much loved your dad, you, Marty and Elliot. Over the years your mom often talked about how fortunate she was to have a wonderful family. In turn, you were so fortunate to have a mom who shared love and worked to give it and a sound grounding to each child.

By the mid-1970s your mom was in her 50s, an age in that era when people pret-ty much were set in their ways, settled in their routines with little impetus to alter their glide path. It truly can be said that among her generation, your mom was an outlier.

Well in her 60s, she continued to master new systems deployed on the job, a daunting task for young people. That she did was went beyond intellectual capabilities. Ethel Skolnick refused to let the times or technology pass her by — had a hankering for the new and for change. Even more significant, she envisioned no limits for personal growth nor restraints on curiosity; no reason to allow her worldview to atrophy.

In her advancing years when most people slow down, your mom sped up!

A childhood fear of water notwithstanding, she learned not simply to swim, but nailed the butterfly and back strokes. Your mom exhibited great artistic talent, mastering quilting and needlepoint. She became a voracious reader and bookclub leader and having learned mahjong, dove into it just as headlong as she had the pool. With so much time on her hands…, your mom devoted even more to attending the grandchildrens’ Little League games and became perhaps the world’s oldest cheerleader at Momadou’s basketball skirmishes.

While a fair number of people from our parents’ generation got email accounts, your mom pushed herself to master the Mac. Utilizing photos she took and uploaded, Ethel for years made her own birthday cards. Her beautiful pictures adorned the cover and most wonderful and sincere wishes inside, all of which she printed. Truth be told, I hardly could keep with the pace of your mom’s IMs!

Personally I shall forever be grateful that your mom extended love and concern to me. This says so much about the person she was, giving of herself when there was no “reward,” simply because she felt one person can make a difference in another’s life.

I believe your mom understood the challenges posed by my growing up years — that try as my parents did, our household tumult left us bereft of any sort of normal family life. This troubled your mom who deeply cared, in a way that my aunts could not, or did not choose to become involved.

Cousin Ethel had a special ulterior motive in inviting me to join your family during August of 1970 on an extended, zigzag trip from Long Beach north to some TBD destination, given your dad’s proclivity to improvise on routing.

I felt then as I do now that your mom wanted me to experience life as part of a strong nuclear family, as well as being thrilled by sights and adventures wholly new to me.

My time with your family was a bit more than two weeks, but in its own way was life-changing.

We all had a most wonderful and fun time meandering across California and indeed I reveled in so many first-ever experiences, from climbing the Sierras in the family station wagon to tubing the American River; scaring the bejeebers out of ourselves telling ghost stories at the Lake Siskiyou camp to meandering hither and yon through a blanket of fog in Coos Bay, Oregon.

The unanticipated fun all the kids had at the Ventura restaurant into the early morning hours is one of my life’s great memories.

Far more important, the insights I gained into the dynamics of a truly good family provided a most vital perspective. The various situations I experienced as a child and teen in my household were grounded in situations unique to my family. It did not need to be this way; I could go another…, and I have.

In the intervening years your mom and I talked on average every six-to-eight weeks, almost always for around two hours. Our chats proverbially spanned the globe: Your family’s doings, politics, travel, gardening, theater, her latest quilting projects and books read, her swimming escapades. Still, the majority of the time your mom inquired as to my activities and career; how Wendy and I were doing. There was no imperative for Ethel to do so, and it took up much time she she could have devoted to other things, but still, she gave unselfishly.

On the occasion of your mom’s 75th birthday, I was asked to write some appropriate comments. The gist of what I wrote harked back to a comment my mom oft times made when referring to her cousin-by-marriage: “Special Ethel.”

There was a good reason for this sobriquet. Ethel Skolnick proved that hardly anything was impossible if we set our minds to it. She was without pretense, genuinely cared about the lives and welfare of other people and did everything she could to help them, to make their lives better.

Always will I remember that day in March of 2019 when I learned that your mom had passed on. The loss and emotional gash remain. So, too, does my gratitude to your mom for all that she did for me out of caring and love. These shall forever enrich my life and be as a guiding beacon for the the of person I can be; for what I can accomplish, even against great odds.

Special Ethel. You bet!


I didn’t want to let the day go by without acknowledging that it’s a big one for my family–the centenary of my father’s birth.

He had a huge influence on me, on my brothers, and on thousands–probably tens of thousands–of high school students who sat in desks while he discussed American history and photography for decades.

My father’s century was not an easy one to be born into–at the end of a war that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy, and less than a year after an influenza epidemic that killed millions.

His times were marked by another World War that began right after he became the first member of his family to graduate from college. It took five years from the life of a generation. But he roared back by earning a master’s degree, marrying, starting a family, buying a home, and working hard to provide the best life he could for his dependents.

And it was a good life–good times, laughter, good food, and as little adversity as there could possibly be.

A life can be measured by the others one touches. In my dad’s case, it was a huge number. And in my case, even though he has been gone since 2002, the touch continues.


I spent the long weekend making some changes to the website we hope will speed some of our genealogical research. The biggest changes are the addition of six different text-based family trees detailing what we know about the ancestors of my wife, Chris Ann Maxwell.

My ancestry is straight Galician Jewish… that is, Jews from an area between what is now Ukraine and Poland.

My wife’s is a little more complicated — one quarter Irish, by way of Taunton, Massachusetts; one quarter Irish by way of Syracuse, Onandaga County, New York; one quarter Eastern European Jewish by way of New York; one-eighth Alsace-Lorraine Jewish by way of New Orleans; and one-eighth Sepharidic Jewish from Holland (and probably Spain) by way of South Carolina.

It has taken me quite a bit of reading to even understand the basics of these cultures.

All of the genealogical lines are quite interesting. The Alsace-Lorraine families contain some luminaries, though the one my wife is proudest of is Keith Godchaux, formerly of the Grateful Dead. This does not count her blood connection to Bernard Baruch, legendary investor and advisor to many Presidents; her marital connection to Hollywood titan Jules Stein; or her direct family connection to Gustave “Gus” Levy, an investment banker and supervising partner at Goldman Sachs who developed many of the industry’s modern financial tools.

She knew about none of these connections before we started following the family strands.

It’s amazing what turns up when you do a little poking around in the DNA.


One good ocean outing begets another! This time I headed to RAT Beach. I showed up. The sun showed up. The surfers… not so much this time.

The problem Thursday afternoon was the wind. I’d guess the speed at about 20 mph, fast enough to knock the waves down and make the conditions for surfing poor. The conditions weren’t especially good for beach-strolling, either, but there was a guy doing it all the same.

RAT Beach is in the south corner of Santa Monica Bay, nestled under the cliffs of Palos Verdes. Where it gets its name is a whole other story. Some say the name is an acronym for Right After Torrance, which would describe the spot if one were going north to south. Others say it’s because of the mounds of kelp that often float ashore. Still others say it’s named after a surfer from the 60s who brought his pet rodent with him.

Aside from the gale-force wind blowing in my face whenever I turned to check the position of the sun on the horizon, it was a pleasant enough time.

And I’m sure of one thing: I left there much less beaten than the surfers who were struggling in that chop.



The warm, clear weather propelled me north yesterday afternoon to take a look at Rincon Point. It’s a spot on the Ventura-Santa Barbara county line that’s well known to surfers. It’s well known to me as well. I’ve passed by it several thousand times. Yet, I never stopped.

Yesterday was different. I timed it to get there just before the sun went down, hoping I could silhouette the surfers against a huge orange sphere sinking into the Pacific.

The surf was there. The surfers were there. But alas, the sun had its own ideas.

It turns out it sets this time of year 15 or 20 degrees north of Rincon Point. That means it was around the curve, away from the southwesterly swell.

These setbacks sometimes happen, and all you can do is make the most of them. I still had the waves and the riders. I also had a touch of that golden light of sunset.

I was surprised when I got home to review the shots. A few of them were far better than I expected they would be. They were far better than they’d looked in the viewfinder, and better than they’d looked in the LCD. They caught the motion, at least, and maybe a little bit of the mood.

Given my luck with pictures lately, I decided that was enough for this outing.


Every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I get out the camera and try something I’m not particularly good at. Last Saturday, it happened to be a panorama shot.

A panoramic shot of the South Runway Complex (runways 25L and 25R) at LAX. It’s made up of five different raw images shot from the Hill at the Jim Clutter Overlook in El Segundo. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

What plane spotters call “The Hill” is actually an official place called Jim Clutter Overlook just south of Imperial Highway in El Segundo. I pop in every now and again because there’s always something happening and it’s an incredible place to watch airplanes. The other great thing about it is that there’s something to take pictures of every few seconds, with planes landing, taking off, and moving about the taxi ways.

I’m not sure about my effort. It would have been nice if I had the patience and skill for a central subject in my shot — like say a massive airplane hurling itself into the sky. I guess I’ll have to leave that for my next visit. The enthusiasts at the left side of my frame are pretty interesting, but I discovered that in retrospect, after I’d run the five individual frames through the software to stitch them together into one big shot.

Well, that’s the nature of the process — to live, do and learn.


I had wanted to say something meaningful about the 15th anniversary of my dad’s passing. But then I received an email from my cousin Jim Ostroff. He expressed in words better than I could choose all of the notes I wanted to hit.

Dear Paul,

Late May’s arrival is so very welcome, coinciding with the start of the warm and sunny months.

This unofficial solstice has marked the start of many a wonderful summer of fun, joy and new adventures. Late May is inauspicious for us as well, as it marks the moment when your dad passed on.

I recall as if yesterday my final conversation with your dad that May of ’02, days before his death. In a wink, five, 10 and now 15 years has passed.

Milestones are an artifice—convenient markers and notches in time but little else.

My dad, probably in the 1970s, and probably posing for his photography students to test the lighting setup for a portrait session.

Far more important for me is that while nearly a half-generation has elapsed since your dad’s passing, his hold on memory and sway on individuals has not diminished.

This is extraordinary, considering that so many people depart and are all but forgotten. Their names may come up in passing, as a footnote, but no one can relate a story, or anecdote about them. Quite literally, these people go silent. None can remember their voice, what they sounded like, or anything they said. This is when a person truly dies.

Saul Skolnick lives on. I have not a doubt about this. In the years since your dad left us, here and there and at unexpected moments, people still relate stories about your dad—some funny, some serious, some very thoughtful. He may have nudged and nibbled at people at times, but there never was any animus to his M.O.

Mr. Skolnick lives on in the many, many students whose lives he affected most positively over decades of dedicated work teaching history, photography and perhaps most important of all, about life.

It is not by some odd chance that individuals have sought you out to relate stories about a most special teacher and human being who helped them, gave their lives a special direction, or gave them an invaluable gift that continues to give: a curiosity for knowledge and the world about them.

Saul, Shully, dad and grandpa lives on every day in you, in Marty and Elliot, in how you comport yourselves towards other people; your sense of humor and in individual ways, your ongoing outreach for knowledge and yes, justice, fairness and efforts to help others.

I am certain that all of these most laudable qualities that were a hallmark of your dad’s life live on in each of his grandchildren: Rebecca; Ian and Amy; Hank and Don. Each and every one is a very good and thoughtful person, with just the right sense of social awareness and humor. I have no doubt that each will make the world a somewhat better place than the one they inherited—tangible dividends of this invaluable inheritance.

I would be terribly remiss if I did not extend accolades to your mom—Ethel, Ettie, Grandma. She is a most extraordinary person who has instilled a sense of fairness, ethics, determination and fun in all of the boys and the grandchildren; is a role model for scores more, as best as I can tell.

Fifteen years has now passed since your dad, exhibiting a determination that was a hallmark of his entire life, decided to gather the family together and have one more party before slipping off into that good night.

My final conversation with my most special cousin was memorable, frank and personal. We knew this would be the last time…. Your dad’s final words have remained with me, always, as a beacon. “Goodbye, Jimmy. Be a good person.”

I’m trying, Shully. I’m still trying.




I was rummaging around an old hard drive the other day and came upon a bunch of your pictures. That started it all over again.


JLOPpers taking on Sunset Strip in July 2009. From left: Dolores Gillham, Erik Oginski, Scott Mackie, Bryan Frank. (Photo by James Kang. This and all James Kang photos in the post are used with permission of his family)

I was trying to figure out how your shots ended up on my computer. And then it came back to me. It’s when you were still shooting film – b&w film. After a Justice League of Photographers (JLOP) event, which ordinarily ended in a meal at some hour not terribly long before sunrise and all of the rest of us would review the digital snaps in the LCD screens on the back of our cameras, you’d drop the film at a lab. And then, a week or so later, long after most of us had forgotten our digital photos, you’d pick up your pictures on the way to work.


Revelers on Sunset Strip in the predawn hours of a Saturday in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)



24290021The crisp b&w’s were on CDs. Your computer in the newsroom didn’t have a CD drive, but mine did. So a couple times, I transferred the pictures on those CDs to my drive and then to a USB thumb drive so you could see what you had.


Making the scene on Sunset Strip in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

Making the scene on Sunset Strip in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

I’m remembering now, you had really good stuff!

Rap mogul Marion "Sug" Knight with a cigar after a haircut on Sunset Strip in the predawn Saturday hours in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

Rap mogul Marion “Sug” Knight with a cigar after a haircut on Sunset Strip in the predawn Saturday hours in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

Many people don’t realize that taking photos on film is a lot harder than taking pictures on digital media. Since every film picture costs money for film and processing, you tend to get a lot more careful about pushing the shutter. You only want to pay for the good ones. More precisely, you find it much less expensive to double-check your settings, your exposure, your focus than to just fire away. What you save by adhering rigidly to the fundamentals of photography can then be applied to taking even more pictures.

Film photos, particularly film photos taken on b&w film, have some particular qualities that you don’t see in digital photography. There aren’t a lot of shades of gray on Tri-X Pan (or its Fuji equivalent). At least, the gray tones are less prominent than a digital sensor will capture.


24360010The photos I turned up on my drive were from about two years before you left us. It sounds impressive when I say one set of them came from a JLOP event. Not everyone realizes that JLOP was really a moniker we needed just to create a Facebook group where we could post the pictures we took. This supposed group of ours had as its motto, “It’s not a club.”

A JLOP “event” really was a bunch of people with cameras looking for new and different places to snap our shutters. Hollywood was a favorite destination because it was active and well-populated after midnight, the hour when we would usually get off work and had the time to roam around looking for good shots. That’s all the organization it had.

Looking over these shots from our night on Sunset Strip, I’m astonished at what great shots you got. I can see from looking at the successions how you “worked” the shots – looked for the right light, waited for the right facial pose, paid attention to the composition.

A good example of "street photography," the art of capturing life as it's being lived. Through the window of Carney's on Sunset Strip, before dawn on a Saturday in July 2009.

A good example of “street photography,” the art of capturing life as it’s being lived. Through the window of Carney’s on Sunset Strip, before dawn on a Saturday in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

I told you at the time that these were nice shots. I’ll say it again. You got some great stuff.


An under-the-stars Shakespeare by the Sea performance in Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

An under-the-stars Shakespeare by the Sea performance in Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

Another of the CDs on my drive had your pictures of a different event in July 2009 – a Shakespeare performance in the park in Manhattan Beach. It was a lot more confining than the Strip. Yet, your pictures of it are every bit as well composed, as relaxed, as evocative as the street stuff. They have a relaxed quality to them. They tell the story in so many ways of that wonderful evening.

Chris Maxwell, having her picture taken by Bryan Frank, so she could be added to the beFrank online gallery of people who jumped for the camera. Dellis Frank was also photographed that day for inclusion in the gallery. (Photo by James Kang)

Chris Maxwell, having her picture taken by Bryan Frank, so she could be added to the beFrank online gallery of people who jumped for the camera. Dellis Frank, in the background of this picture,  was also photographed that day for inclusion in the gallery. (Photo by James Kang)


Paul and Kathy Magers, sandwiching the star of the Shakespeare performance. (Photo by James Kang)

Paul and Kathy Magers, sandwiching the star of the Shakespeare performance. (Photo by James Kang)


What's a get-together without a "red-cup picture"?

What’s a get-together without a “red-cup picture”? And no, don’t be deceived by the soft drink. Notice that the packages are sealed. (Photo by James Kang)


My daughter Rebecca, whose every creative pursuit James Kang praised and encouraged to the high heavens on social media. (Photo by James Kang)

My daughter Rebecca, whose every creative pursuit James Kang praised and encouraged to the high heavens on social media. (Photo by James Kang)

It’s been five years, James. That’s a lot of shutter-snaps. None of us gets to dictate where our lives start and where they end. But we do get to choose how we make our way through it. I want to thank you again for sharing so much with me and my family as you made your way.

It’s easy to wish there were more time. But there wasn’t. And there isn’t. For any of us. I – and the legions of people whose lives you touched in life and online – thank you for making so much of the time we spent together.

We honor you by remembering.

Previous James Kang posts:

May 29, 2011

May 31, 2011

James Kang photo galleries on Flickr (including digital photos in color he took in 2011):

James Kang Flickr photos


I drove out to Marina del Rey a couple Sundays ago to exercise my shutter finger. It had been awhile since I’d gone searching for scenes to capture, and the Marina has two things to recommend it: nice scenery and a place I’ve found I can park for free. I was bursting with enthusiasm to shoot because I’d devoted a little time over several previous days to watching tutorials about photo composition. There’s only so much I can watch about framing before I want to do some.

DSC_0403However much inspiration I was feeling wasn’t translating through the viewfinder. And I was starting to come up with all of those kinds of excuses that are so easy to make and so hard to listen to: it was too cloudy, the light was too soft, and there was nothing happening: no boats in the channel, so sun reflections on the building, no color (other than gray) in the sky.

Finding pictures is a whole lot harder than finding excuses!

I decided to power through and just practice some of the things I’d learned about composition and “working the shot” and the Rule of Thirds. It was, I’m sorry to admit, a modicum of motion for just going through the motions.

Still, there wasn’t much there. There were no couples to silhouette walking hand-in-hand into the sunset. There were no sails, either furled or unfurled, to capture against a rich sunset. There were none of the cliched things you’d hope to find in fifteen minutes at the ocean’s edge.

But I was there, even if the pictures I’d envisioned weren’t there.

Palm trees against a blue sky. Nothing says Los Angeles like palms against a blue sky. Or maybe it says Miami. Or Hawaii. Or anywhere else in the Tropics or Subtropics with water and dirt.

So I snapped the palm trees against the sky and tried to make a lesson out of moving around enough on the pavement to isolate a couple of them and get them to create “leading lines” and “points of interest” on the modified tic-tac-toe grid that controls composition.

DSC_0423There was a flag fluttering in the freeze, and if I moved back from it enough, I could get it on the yardarm from which it hung. A few steps more, and I could get the palm trees with it. Hmmm. Switch to the wide-angle lens and I could get some masts in the boat basin with the flag and the palm trees. Move several steps to the right and I could get the glow on of the sun. Okay, it’s not much but it’s something. I snapped it.

And then I moved about ten steps and saw something really offbeat. A sun through the haze. I switched to the telephoto lens and it looked… different. The silhouetted palms added something. So did the masts. So here it is: that afternoon’s big payoff.

DSC_0430-Edit-EditSometimes the shutter sees what I don’t. And I’m thankful for that.

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Looking over this trove of Strober photos Arthur Einig contributed from the last century (and one possibly from the century before that) makes me wonder even more about the lives these people lived.

This one, for instance. This is Sam Strober, son of Moshe David Strober, son of Berl Strober. We think Sam was born in the 1880s, in a shtetl somewhere in what is now the western part of Ukraine. It was probably Potok Zloty. He immigrated to the United States, but we’re not quite sure of when, and married Pauline “Pauli” Schneider in 1906.

Portrait of Sam Strober with a handlebar mustasche taken circa 1890. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Portrait of Sam Strober with a handlebar mustache, probably taken in the 1890s or early 1900s. (Collection of Arthur Einig)


Formal portrait of Pauli (Schneider) Strober and Sam Strober circa 1908. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Formal portrait of Pauli (Schneider) Strober and Sam Strober circa 1908. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

At some point, Sam lost the ‘stache. He and Pauli had seven kids. Ben, known in the family as “Benny,” was the second oldest.

Wedding photo of Ben "Benny" Strober (#596) and Irene (Levy) Strober (#860), December 16, 1934 (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Wedding photo of Ben “Benny” Strober (#596) and Irene (Levy) Strober (#860), December 16, 1934 (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Rose, known as “Rosie,” was six years younger than Benny, but two years behind him to the altar.

Wedding portrait of Rose "Rosie" Strober (#872) and Abe Kugler (#873) in Brooklyn, NY, Dec. 5, 1936. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Wedding portrait of Rose “Rosie” Strober (#872) and Abe Kugler (#873) in Brooklyn, NY, Dec. 5, 1936. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Frieda was two years older than Rosie.

Formal wedding portrait of Frieda Strober and Ben Levine, presumably in late 1930s. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Formal wedding portrait of Frieda Strober and Ben Levine, presumably in late 1930s. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Looking into the eyes of people at the most hopeful moments of their lives, when they were young and getting married, tells us something about them. They had dreams. Today, those dreams are the memories of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.


Sometime when the snow was up to the rafters in many parts of the country last winter, I was in touch with Arthur Einig. Arthur is a distant cousin who lives in Gansevoort, NY, near the New York-Vermont state line. He descends from what we have come to call the Berl #100 line, Berl Strober being the earliest descendant in the line we’ve been able to track. We don’t know the precise relationship between Berl #100 and Abraham Aaron Strober. They may have been brothers. They may have been uncle and nephew. They may have been cousins. But we know 1) they lived in the same general area of what is now Ukraine, and 2) that there is common DNA between the descendants of Abraham Aaron and Berl #100.

Descendants of Berl Strober.

Descendants of Berl Strober. (Click the chart to enlarge view.)

Arthur had a large collection of family photos and he wanted to share them. We worked out a secure shipping method, the photos arrived, I scanned them, retouched them slightly to remove distracting dust and scratches… and then kept them on the hard drive.

It’s time to start showing them.


Sam Strober (#580), son of Moshe David Strober, and his wife, Pauline “Paulie” (Schneider) Strober (#594), presumably in Brooklyn, NY sometime around their marriage in 1906.



Sam Strober (#580), son of Moshe David Strober, and his wife, Pauline “Paulie” (Schneider) Strober (#594), in a studio photograph sometime around 1945. Imprint on cardboard art deco frame indicates photo was taken by the Moss Photo Studio, 453 Stone Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.



Formal portrait of Martin “Marty” Chess and Sondra “Sally” Chess in about 1933. Unknown location, but probably Brooklyn, NY.



Sondra “Sally” Chess circa 1934 at Campbell House, Ellenville, NY.



Formal oval wedding portrait of Stanley Chess and Dorothy “Dottie” Strober on their wedding, December 25, 1926



Sondra “Sally” Chess portrait, circa 1935


Sondra “Sally” Chess and friend Leona Marchand at Campbell House in Ellenville, NY circa 1935


This, as I said, is just the beginning. Arthur sent me close to 100 images that span more than a century of family history. I’ll be posting them over time.


In January 2007, my daughter Rebecca, her sister Andrea, and I headed on a weekend roadtrip from Tampa to south Florida where, among other things, we visited my uncle, Leo Hoffman. Leo was 85 at the time, and living in Boynton Beach. I had with me a compact camera with a new feature–the ability to record an hour’s worth of video–and decided to try it out by recording some of my uncle’s recollections of his early life.

The professional shooters and audio engineers I have worked with over the decades will chide me for the many technical problems with this video, but my uncle was not someone who was used to having a camera pointed at him. I was trying to get the most candid conversation from him that I could, and the best way I knew how to do that was to tell him about the camera, start the recording, and then put the camera on a bookshelf where it would be as unobtrusive as possible.

The result? No camera fright, but frightfully bad framing, horrible lighting, and hollow sound.

I didn’t give a lot more thought to this flubbed experiment for a long time–until, in fact, last weekend when I came across the video file on a storage drive.

Much has changed in the years since I made this recording. My Uncle Leo is dead. He died in the April 2014, six weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. Though I saw him many times between January 2007 and his death, I never attempted to reshoot the big genealogy interview.

Watching this half-hour from 2007, I noted how my uncle filled in quite a few family details I hadn’t heard before. For instance, his reference to Devine Corners. He’d mentioned before that my grandfather became a postmaster at some point, I don’t remember him ever mentioning where. (My mother went searching for it yesterday on her computer, and discovered that it was a community east of Liberty, in Sullivan County, NY. She said she had no recollection of it because she was two when her family moved there.)

And best of all is a permanent record of my uncle’s George Wallace story. He told this tale many times, and it’s a good one. If you don’t want to slog through all of the other family details, it’s all the way at the end.


I’d never even heard of the Cold Spring Tavern until a friend mentioned it a few weeks ago as without a doubt the best barbeque he’d ever eaten. He described to me where it was—in San Marcos Pass, which is in the mountains just east of Santa Barbara—and that it has been continuously in business for more than a century and a half.

In Italy or Greece, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. But in California, where things seem to get the “historic” designation if they were around since the 1950s, that was saying something.

IMG_2039 copy I couldn’t understand how I’d never heard of the place. I went to school in Santa Barbara. Although that was a long time ago, it was well within the arc of the tavern’s history. I’ve been over San Marcos Pass a few times in my life. Make that a few hundred times. Never even heard a rumor about the place.

It was easy enough to find on the web. I punched it into the GPS, and a couple hours later, I was parking the car by the stream on a road off a road off of San Marcos Pass. The creek, I guessed, was Cold Spring. And I hadn’t seen a single sign along the way for the place.

The restaurant itself was rustic. I’m not talking southern California faux rustic. I’m talking real wood construction from the century before the last one, with a real stone fireplace that consumed a whole wall.

I ordered the tri-tip sandwich. Tri-tip is a big deal in central California. It’s a cut of beef that for some reason you see only on the central coast. It’s sometimes called Santa Maria barbeque. Although it’s served a number of ways, I like it on a sandwich.

IMG_2041My friend was right. The slices were about an eighth of an inch thick, the baguette was crisp on the outside and lightly toasted on the inside. It came with three sauces—a homemade barbeque sauce, which was pleasantly tangy; a salsa, that had a hint of spice and a lot of fresh tomato; and an apple horseradish sauce, that to my taste had more horseradish than apple but was still very good.

Although I’ve worked at it for several years, I’m not very good at tri-tip at home… and I can’t figure out why. I’ve used oak, which is plentiful on the central coast. I’ve seared it on all sides and then moved it to the cooler side of the grill. Whatever I’ve tried, the tri-tip has been tough.

I asked my server how they do it at the Cold Spring Tavern. She said the meat is cooked on an oak fire to medium-rare, then placed in a steamer over beer and onions to be kept warm until it’s sliced and served.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s the beer I’ve been missing!


strauber screen grabI stumbled on this little item today in an online database of Jewish vital statistics and government documents from the Galicia area of Austria-Hungary. It may be an enormous breakthrough in our genealogical research… or it may be nothing at all. (Interesting range of possibilities, don’t you think?)

So here’s why it might be significant. Abraham Strober, best known to his descendants like me as Abraham Aaron Strober, is what we call the “common progenitor.” He is the guy all the rest of the 1,400 or so names on the family tree stem from. Maybe that’s just a tad overly broad. There are several branches of the family that may descend from Abraham Aaron’s brothers, or possibly cousins. But however you dice it, Abraham Aaron is the guy at the top of our chart. He’s the oldest known ancestor.

We think, based upon information that amounts to less-than-scant evidence, that Abraham Aaron was born between 1797 and 1808. We know he had at least one son, Yoinus Folic, who is my great-great-grandfather. We think he may have had other sons. But we had never heard before this mention that he had a daughter.

The strongest part of this item is that it mentions someone by the name of Abraham Strober (or, in an alternate spelling still in use by a broad segment of his descendants, Strauber).

The weakest parts of this item are many:

It says Jute died in a hospital in Lviv, which was the biggest city in that part of the world (sometimes known by its name in German, Lemberg). Abraham Aaron lived in a tiny shtetl called Jazlowiec about thirty miles to the southeast. That doesn’t seem far to us today, but it would have been a long ride on horseback or by wagon. It says she was two and a half years old. Had he taken her to Lviv for medical treatment that he couldn’t get elsewhere? Did he live during that time in Lviv? There’s no way to know. And if this is our Abraham Strober, how far off are the ages? It’s doubtful (if we assume he was born in 1797) that he had a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter when he was 14 years old. So which date is in error? And what does it do to the rest of our family tree to make his birthdate earlier.

Clearly, from the information here, we can’t know the answers to any of these questions. But perhaps this document can lead us in the direction of other documents that will help us piece this puzzle together.


One of the unexpected surprises of Dale Leshaw’s photo collection was that it included pictures of quite a few descendants of Israel “Sruel” Strauber and Milke (Weisler) Strauber than we’d previously seen. Remember that the Strauber-Strober-Struber family is massive. It really does take a scorecard! My great-grandmother Surah Henya (Strober) Schkolnik (1851-1928) was the only daughter of Yoinas Folic Strober and, we believe, was the second-born of her family. Israel “Sruel” Strauber (1867-1940) was the fifth born, the baby of the family.

Sruel, as he was known to the family (a common Yiddish nickname for the given name Israel), and Milke had eight children. Annette (Dale Leshaw’s grandmother) was the second oldest.

Here’s Sruel’s branch of the family tree.


Click to enlarge the graphic

So if we count the descendants of Sruel and Milke, we’re talking about a lot of people. Notice that a good many of the lines stop short of the current generation. That indicates we haven’t (yet) been in touch with people in those direct lines to fill them in for us. Basically, there may be two or three times the number of descendants, but we just don’t know about them.

Among the amazing pictures from Dale’s collection is this one.

Lenore Strauber, left, with her father, Jerry Strauber, at an unknown time (possibly sometime around 1950) in an unknown location.

Lenore Strauber, left, with her father, Jerry Strauber, at an unknown time (possibly sometime around 1950) in an unknown location.

Gary had told me that his mother had corresponded with her cousin Lenore, who was known by a different name. She was Sister Grace, a nun somewhere on the eastern seaboard. I spent a little time playing with search engines and came up with this article. She is indeed a nun named Sister Grace Frances Strauber, SFP. And a nurse. And the former CEO of a major Catholic hospital in Hoboken, NJ.  The article explains that her father was Jewish and her mother Episcopalian, and that after a brief childhood illness and care in a Catholic hospital, she converted. This was the first picture I’d seen of Lenore/Sister Grace. There are some from 2011 at the link.

Wedding photo of Sharon and Gilbert Strauber, unknown time and place.

Wedding photo of Sharon and Gilbert Strauber, unknown time and place.

Gilbert Strauber is a son of Lenore “Lee” and Michael “Mitch” Strauber, and thus a nephew of Dale’s grandmother Annette, and Dale’s mother’s first cousin. We have been in touch with his son Warren, but somehow never filled in some of the vital statistics about his parents. But now we have a wonderful photo of them to prompt us into collecting the vitals.


Joan Strauber and Eric Corringham at their wedding, unknown date and place.

Joan Strauber was the daughter of Henry E. and Mildred Strauber. Henry was another of Annette Strauber’s younger brothers. He became a county commissioner in Pasco County, FL and died in office in the 1970s. There’s now a street named after him on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which I wrote about last year.

Among the photos were a number of Strauber cousins playing together when they were small children.

Edmund Strauber and Pearl Schekman, 1933

Edmund Strauber and Pearl Schekman, 1933

Pearl Schekman is the second daughter of Annette (Strauber) and Saul Schekman. She was born in 1932, so it’s entirely this is not her but her older sister Ruth. Edmund Strauber is the older son of Lenore “Lee” and Michael “Mitch” Strauber.

Edmund Strauber, Ruth Schekman, and Wallace Dunchelman in about 1940.

Edmund Strauber, Ruth Schekman, and Wallace Dunckelman in about 1940.

Another picture of Strauber first-cousins at play. This is from about 1940, we think, and shows Edmund Strauber, the second son of Lenore “Lee” and Michael “Mitch” Strauber, Ruth Schekman, the first daughter of Annette (Strauber) and Saul Schekman, and Wallace Dunckelman, the younger son of Sylvia “Kitty” (Strauber) and Carl Dunckelman.

We have not been in contact with any members of the Corringham or Dunckelman branches of the family, and thus have no anecdotal information about succeeding generations.

The Noble family. From left to right, Maurice Noble, Ellen Noble, Pearl (Schekman) Noble, Andy Noble, and Michael Noble, probably in the mid-60s.

The Noble family. From left to right, Maurice Noble, Ellen Noble, Pearl (Schekman) Noble, Andy Noble, and Michael Noble, probably in the mid-60s.

Pearl (Schekman) Noble is the second daughter of Annette (Strauber) and Saul Schekman. She married Maurice Noble and had three children, Ellen, Andy, and Michael Noble.

First cousins Wallace "Wally" Dunckelman and Ruth Schekman in 1933 on Long Island.

First cousins Wallace “Wally” Dunckelman and Ruth Schekman in 1933 on Long Island.

SIBLINGS AND SPOUSES -- From left to right, unknown woman, unknown woman, Michael "Mitch" Strauber, Lenore "Lee" Strauber, Lay Leshaw, Ruth (Schekman) Leshaw.

STRAUBER SIBLINGS AND SPOUSES — From left to right, unknown woman, unknown woman, Michael “Mitch” Strauber, Lenore “Lee” Strauber, Saul Sheckman, Annette (Strauber) Schekman in Miami, FL on November 22, 1967.

Sean and Lesley Stout, grandchildren of Sylvia "Kitty" (Strauber) Dunckelman, probably in the mid-60s.

Sean and Leslie Stout, grandchildren of Sylvia “Kitty” (Strauber) Dunckelman, probably in the early 1970s.

Sean Stout and Leslie Stout with their grandmother, Sylvia "Kitty" (Strauber) Dunckelman in unknown location in October 1969.

Sean Stout and Leslie Stout with their grandmother, Sylvia “Kitty” (Strauber) Dunckelman in unknown location in October 1969.

* – IDs in the seventh photo have been changed. (5/31/2015 – 5:10p PT)


I had lunch a few months back with Dale Leshaw, a distant cousin of mine who also happens to live in the Los Angeles area. My great-grandmother Surah Henya (Schkolnik) Strober was the sister of Dale’s great-grandfather, Israel (Sruel) Strauber. Put another way, Dale and I share a great-great grandfather, Yoinaton Folic Strauber. Put still another way, Dale and I are third cousins. Put in the simplest way, we’re really distant cousins who didn’t know the other existed until this genealogy stuff came up several years ago.

In the days after our lunch, Dale scanned a number of family photos from his collection and shared them with me so I could post them here.

Israel (Sruel) and Milke (Weisler) Strober on rooftop, presumably in Brooklyn, NY, in 1927.

Israel (Sruel) and Milke (Weisler) Strober on rooftop, presumably in Brooklyn, NY, in 1927.


Annette Strauber, probably in 1916, when she would have been about 18 years old. Location unknown.


Sylvia “Kitty” Strauber with her niece Ruth Schekman, daughter of Kitty’s sister Annette, in 1926. Location unknown.


Left to right: Saul Schekman, Ruth Schekman, Pearl Schekman, Annette (Strauber) Schekman, in Atlantic City, NJ, in 1936.


The Schekmans at Roton Point (presumably CT) in 1928. The Schekmans seated on running board of car, left to right: unknown person, Saul Schekman, Ruth Schekman, Annette (Strauber) Schekman. Others in photo unidentified.


Annette Strauber on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY in 1924.

* – ID’s on the fourth and fifth photos have been changed to correct errors. (9:10pm PT)

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