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Samuel Kaplan was born in a province in Russia in 1856. There is no information available as to his background and education. He was in the Russian Army for three years. In order to get discharged from the Army he had his ear drums perforated and was hard of hearing for the rest of his life. After he was released from the Army his occupation was as a cap maker. Hannah Lezinski was born in Borisnay, Russia in 1864. No background information is available on her.

Hanna Kaplan (left) with daughters Kitty Kaplan Wallace (middle) 

and Miriam Kaplan Kravitz (right)

Samuel and Hannah met and married in Russia, we think, in 1879. It was an arranged marriage. Oppression, anti-semitism and poverty made life unbearable. He was not able to adequately care for his family. The Pogroms began in Russia about 1880. They were forced to hide many times in the cellar. Hannah insisted that everyone remain silent so that the Cossacks should not hear them. Life was difficult and oppressive.

A son, Izzy, and a daughter, Millie, were born to Hannah and Samuel. When mass migrations began from Russia to other parts of the world in the 1880's, they decided that they should leave their native land and seek a better life for themselves and their family. If the family could somehow get to a border there would be opportunities through Jewish agencies to migrate to another country. Somehow, some way, the Kaplan's walked, rode on horse and buggies, and made their way to the border. Dodging Army and informers they managed to get to London, England. Information as to how they arrived is incomplete, as the family never discussed their background with their children.

 

Izzy Kaplan, Miriam Kaplan Cravitz, and Kitty Kaplan Wallace

 

In London, Samuel found work as a cap maker, but he was a dreamer. He spent a lot of time at the synagogue as he was a very observant Jew. Hannah, a practical individual and a dominant force in the family, became a midwife. After arriving in England, the following daughters were born: Miriam in 1885, Sarah in 1889, Fairy in 1886, and Kitty in 1899.

At that time the famous Rothschild Family built row housing for the mass migration to England from Eastern Europe, and the Kaplan family lived in the East End of London in this housing development on Flower and Dean Street on the third floor. It was a walk-up apartment three blocks from Petticoat Lane. The apartment had three rooms with a coal burning fireplace. In order to obtain electricity a shilling was put in the meter every four hours. Hannah, Samuel and Kitty slept in the bedroom. The rest of the children slept on sofas and beds in the living room. Yet, they managed to find room for friends who had just migrated and who stayed with the family until they found their own place to live and work.

Hannah also supplemented their income by weaving rag rugs. She was a very creative person, with a strong character. She was always weaving or knitting or crocheting. A lot of emphasis was placed on family life, Judaism, holidays and togetherness. There were no other relatives so the family was a close knit unit. Hannah was an immaculate housekeeper and a good cook which was a challenge in those days with so little money. Each child was assigned chores and could not leave the house until their job was completed. Samuel went to the synagogue each morning before he went to work. He worked twelve and thirteen hours a day. No meal was served unless all members of the family were gathered together, and no one ever made plans to eat elsewhere. After eating, Samuel insisted that Sarah and Fairy do the clean up while the Mother rested. Afterwards they all sat around the table and sang songs. The parents often packed lunches and took their children to the park.

Top Row: R Meklir; Sandra Brenner; Jerry Brenner; Sylvia Elkowitz; Ettie Handelman; Hank Gluckman; Steve Townsend; Loie Meeron. Bottom row: Linda Steinberg; Tikway Gerendasy; Elaine Gluckman; Reka Goldstein; Susan Cranston Kwon.

 

Friday night, Shabbat, was the most important time of the week. Many times, when money was scarce, the brass candlesticks were in the pawn brokers, but redeemed before Shabbat in order to light the candles. These candlesticks were brought from Russia by the parents when they got married and are now in the possession of Ettie Handelman.

As the children grew older, Hannah was out of the house more and more, serving as a midwife. The children took over the responsibility of the house, and Hannah was a severe task-master who expected perfection. During the time that they were growing up it is interesting to note that the parents spoke Russian and Yiddish in the house and the children spoke English.

The family observed strict Kashruth. Shabbat was a sacred time in the household. On the preceding day, all the children had assigned chores, from cleaning the house, to even washing the stoop on the outside of the house. The scullery was scrubbed and no one escaped doing their job. Hannah did all the cooking in preparation for Shabbat. Even though the children were anxious to leave the table to be with their friends, they dared not. 

On Saturdays very little activity was done except going to the synagogue, and the family remained together around the house. When Shabbat was over and the evening meal finished, Hannah and Samuel visited a pub around the corner called Dirty Dick's, where they would have a drink of beer. This same pub remains in business today, as witnessed by members of the family who visited the East End of London. All of the children went to school until the age of fourteen and had to learn a trade.

At the age of fifteen, Millie married Joe Goldman in London. Joe was a wood carver. Six children were born to them in London and they decided to move to Boston where Joe obtained employment as a wood carver, where the other three children were born, and where they made their home.

Izzy, Samuel and Hannah's only son, went to Cheder and had a Bar Mitzvah. When he was fourteen he learned to be a cabinet maker but was not interested in the trade. He left home for Canada, but the immigration authorities sent him back to England. The family managed to save some money to send him back to the United States where he wanted to be. He settled in Philadelphia and worked as a paper box cutter. He married Rose, had four children, and remained all of his life in the Philadelphia area, except for a short period of time in Baltimore, Maryland. We do know that Philip was named after Samuel's father, Fivel.

 

Millie Kaplan Goldman with husband Joseph and all of her 9 children. Back row: Eva Goldman Tobin; Harry Goldman; Miriam Goldman Cohen. Middle row: Becky Goldman Schneider; Joseph; Millie; Kate Goldman. Front row: Philip Coleman; Ethyl Goldman Jacobs; Murray Goldman; Jack Goldman.

Sarah was an assertive person and after the age of fourteen she went to the Pittman School to learn shorthand. She then went to work for a noble lady as her secretary. She also studied the violin. All the monies earned by the working children went to the parents to maintain the family and allowances were doled out. Sarah turned many of their household duties over to Fairy, however, it made no difference to Samuel and Hannah that their children worked during the day - they still assumed their responsibilities at home.

At a young age Miriam married Abe Kravitz in Manchester, England. Abe was a shoemaker and they had five children.

 

Miriam and Abe Kravitz

 

Fairy went to a regular public school until the age of fourteen. She then went to work in the cap factory and also worked in a shop making cigarettes. She did the chores at home and was very adept at embroidery and all types of needlework.

Sarah met Wolf Sacks in London at a wedding. They courted for a while, but Samuel and Hannah were not in favor of the match because Wolf was a "Socialist." He went to America to seek his fortune, but returned to London to claim his bride. He again went to America, Boston, and worked with Joe Goldman for a short time. Wolf decided to go to Detroit where there were more job opportunities. In 1913, after he settled in Detroit, he sent a ticket to Sarah and they were married after her arrival. They had two children. In 1915 Sarah and Wolf saved some money, borrowed from the finance company, and brought Fairy over when she was sixteen years old.

Fairy arrived by boat, steerage passage, and stayed with Sarah and Wolf until she met Ben Buttner. Up until that time she modeled corsets to save money for tickets for her parents to come to America. In 1916 she married Ben Buttner who worked at various and sundry jobs. Two years later they started a family and had four children. Fairy also worked in whatever business Ben had. The sisters stayed very close together, and the cousins were with each other frequently.

Sarah and Wolf, Fairy and Ben were very interested in perpetuating "Yiddishkeit" (Jewish Identity) and Jewish culture, history and language. They involved themselves in organizing the Shalom Aleichem Institute and the Workman's Circle for their own personal identity. They made the break from orthodoxy, but retained many Jewish customs, traditions, and observed all Jewish holidays.

 

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