Interview with Aaron Osherowitz
Interviewed by granddaughter Mimi Osher Bogen and husband Sam Bogen in 1977.
Submitted by grand-niece Gloria Auletta Bailey

Biographical Information
     Son of Eliyahu and Khaya Gita Osherowitz
     b. Romanova 1884
     Imm. to U.S.  1904
    d. Queens, NY, 1978

     Memories of Romanova and Slutsk
          Fear of Pogroms
          Origin of Name
          Baking Passover Matzos
          Attending Kheder
          Learning a Trade
    The Voyage
    Getting started on the Lower East Side

Romanova and Slutsk

     I was born in Romanova. A small city.  All Jewish people there.  When I was 6 years we moved out from there.  We moved to the big city.  The Czar's name was also Romanov – that was the name of the Czar. They made it on his name. No, parents weren't from there.  They moved in when my father was far away.  Don't know how he came there.  He was from Kurdenau. My mother was from a couple miles away around there.
     Slutsk was so big it has 21 shuls, so many Jewish were there. A big city. Father was married before that to another wife.  The children of the other wife were living in Slutsk.  A son and a daughter were married there and had children there.

     ...Two rabbis in the town.  One rabbi was here in New York, Yankel Dovid, the Rabbi.  And another, Rav Meir.  One time this Rov and another time the other Rov.
We had 21 shuls – a big town.  Yes, big shuls.

Saved by the book

     I used to go Saturday morning learn  about 2 o'clock.  At that time I was very religious.  Saturday morning – 1 or 2 in the morning.  Very religious.  I find out where they learn something in the night.  They used to start about 2 o'clock in the morning.   I had to pass the market place.  At the market place was always a lot of dogs because they sold meat there.  In the night there's always on the floor something. There was a dog like a bear, very big.  He put his paws on my shoulders and looked me in the face.  I was frightened.  Everybody had to bring a book in the shul.  I had a Khayai Odom – that's mostly all the laws from the Jews.  I got frightened, so the book fell down.  The dog smelled the book, and he ran away!
     I had a married sister, she lived 15 miles away.  She had a dream that a dog bit me.  Saturday night she sent a guy with a horse and wagon. And Sunday morning he come to see what happened to me.  Like a telephone.  Her name was Mushe.  Sara Feigie, Chaya  - all sisters from first wife.  Younger were Yosef, Zusel, sisters Baila and Ansel.  Zusel was my mothers father, so I had a brother Zisel and a sister Zisel, too.  That's right.

An accident and a move to Slutsk

     Father was a builder of wooden houses.  Had an accident when he built a shul.  Carried a big beam up in the balcony.   They let it go and it fell and broke his foot.  So he couldn't work no more.  My mother had small children, too. So my mother started to bake.  Bagels, kuchen, cookies. Hired place in market.  Just had a place.  She had to bring a box and sit on that.  She had a table and used to bring that in the market.  She only did that a few months.  Moved to another city.  3 miles moved to Romanova.

 Do you remember pogroms?

     Yes, but it wasn't in our town.  Mostly was very good to Jews.  Just like my family.  Mostly bigger towns – educated people started the pogroms – college boys.  Were not afraid because we were in another town..  We organized ourselves.  We had certain sticks.  Like you shoot slinging sticks.  But we didn't use it.  It was quiet in our town, but we were ready.  Every night we sent our committee – a few men – walking all over in the town – in case something – they should let know.  We had something, a box that made noise.  We were ready – nothing happened.

Origin of name

     Aaron is a Hebrew name.  My father's father's name was Osher.  At that time they didn't have any second names.  When the government gave out a law that everyone has to have a second name, so father took his father's name, Osher.  But Osher wasn't good enough.  It had to be with a “witz”.  In Russian every name has to have a “witz” because the Czar was Alexandrovitz, Nicholaevitz.

What kind of food did people eat?

     The same thing as here.  Some bread, some fruit.  Jewish people eat always the same thing.
Was it hard to get things like sugar?
     Was not hard to get things like sugar.  No, that time it was easy.  Everyone kept kosher.
How did people get meat?
     Butcher - Yatke –that's the Russian name for the place where they sell the meat.  It was a big place like they have in New York with all the butchers there.  Something likes a market.  The women used to go there to buy by the pound.

What about the Passover – where did you get the matzos?

     There were factories-- in houses.  We had a factory in our house, too.  We had 12 women     - We had a?   And the men with a little wheel to make the little holes with a round stick.  Father was a Zisser?, the one who put in the matza and takes out the matzo – from the big stove, a baker's stove.  The customers brought in their own flour.  They got paid for baking.  Had a man who used to bring over the matzo, called a trogger.  The person brought a big basket to the house, careful not to break it.  They paid him for the bringing. The matzo was round.  We had 12 women rolling the matzo.  We had 2 women making the dough and one boy to put the water, one boy to handle the flour.  If you handle the water you not allowed to handle the flour.  If  you handle the flour you're not allowed to handle the water.

Where did you go to school?

     To kheder. In town they had a rabbi there.  Just Hebrew – not Russian.  Only Hebrew.  Started at six years old – learned 'til 13.  'Til bar mitzvah.

     ...I learned Hebrew before I went to school.  I learned at the teacher's house. There were more children.  Everyone paid for that. I started there at 4 years old.  We were there the whole day. They used to bring me, and then they used to come to take me home.  My father used to take me by the hand and bring me to school, and then they used to come to pick me up.

Learning a Trade

Then you became a tailor?  That's right.
Who taught you ? Mailech Resnick.  He was Jewish, sure.  What the difference what his name was, a name is a name.

     ...When I was 13 years I had to learn something.  There was something like a blacksmith or locksmith, was very good.  But I wasn't strong enough for that.  So they  paid $15 to learn, made a contract for 3 years.  The first year – no pay.  You have to work.  Second year $10 and eat.  The third year get $15 and eat.  Had to live there.  Was near my family in the beginning, but then my family moved out but in the same city.  Father got sick.  Mother start to bake.  Too many bakers –she couldn't make anything, moved to a small town.  She baked in the small town.  She kept baking.  Whatever I made, I brought home.  Sold the house for $400 or $500.  But little by little they spent.  And then that was the end.

Were there others learning at the same time to be a tailor?
     Another tailor?  Maybe around one or two.  There was other tailors in town, I donut know.

The Voyage

When did you come to U.S.?


How did you come?

     With a boat.  No problems leaving Russia.  We had a passport.  Come by myself.

Why did you come?

     It was better in America than in Europe. Oh, that's it. I came here because I had to be a soldier.  I was 20 years.  I didn't want to be a soldier, what for, so I went to America.  Father died in 1902.  The boat's name was Zeeland.  First we went by  boat to the city  to get the train.  Sussnowich, Germany.  Then we took another train to Antwerp.  Had money.  Had a passport.  I had an agent.  Agent took the money.  In Russia they paid my agent and he called when everything was ready.  Agents had connections.  You paid him so much and he…

     ...Came here 1905 at New Year's.  I land in NY.  No waiting for an inspector - healthy people went in in just a minute.  They looked on me.  They looked on the papers.  And that's all.

Getting started on the Lower East Side

Did you have any friends in town who came to America too?

     Yes, I had some.  I had other brother here, and I had a cousin.  I didn't need anybody.  I find work right away as a tailor.

     ....When I came to America I had here a cousin and I had here an older brother too.  I came to cousin Zissel Ginsberg, my mother's brother's son.  He lived in New York. It wasn't hard for me to get work.  Tailor could work right away.  They need that  time tailors.  I got work the next day on Division Street in New York.  Street lived on? Chrystie Street, downtown.  My older brother lived there in Chrystie Street.  Then we  got married and lived on Pike Street.  Near ? Street.   Came here in 1904.  When I came to America I came to her house. I  knew her when she was a little girl in Russia.  She lived upstairs where I was working.  They came a few years before.

When did you move to this house?

     In 1912.  Opened tailor store there.  No, that was an old house.  It was built in 1895.  The store was there, before it was a grocery store.

    ...Bought this house.  I couldn't find any rooms 1912.  It was hard to buy the house.  No toilets.  One toilet in the whole house - on the first floor.  I had these two rooms at the end of the house.  Cost me a lot of money.  Was no not water.  Had the tailor store.

Do you remember your grandparents?

     Only my mother's mother. My father's parents died young. My father's father died when he was 6 years.  I don't remember when she died, but I remember her.  She died in the 80’s.  She was old.  She died in an operation – for appendix or something. The operation was a success, but she died.  My mother I brought here in 1908.

When did you bring the rest of the family here?

     I think in 1912.  In 1906 I brought here my 2 brothers.  Then when we got married  I brought my mother and 2 children – a girl and a boy.  When I brought him here he was about 10 years old.  The boy was here a soldier – the boy was younger.  Then he was killed in the war.  His name was Louis – Label.  I brought them all here.  I had another brother – Joe – he died.  He lived here,  he was married,  he had children.  He died already.  One time I sent home $96.  So they should come here.  It cost about $50 to come here.

Did the people of your town get together in the US?

     We used to go to synagogue - Slustker Shul  on Henry Street - see someone there.  And at Pike Street – had a shul there. There was a man Kumack.  He was interested in Jewish people.  He went and bought a place called a shul.  That was a church first.  I was working there for that man in a tailor store.  He bought an old church and fixed it for a shul.  And they got a shul yet now too.

Were you in the workmen's circle?

     I belong to the Workmen's Circle since 1908,   branch 500.  I was working with people who belong to the Workmen's Circle and I joined too, since 1908.

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