So many emotions must have been churning in our ancestors as they reached the United States of America. With historical footage and images, this National Park Service film "Island of Hope - Island of Tears" shares what it was like as immigrants reached Ellis Island. Narrated by Gene Hackman, this award winning 1989 documentary film, tells the story of the immigrant experience during the largest migration in history, spanning the years 1890 to 1920. Directed by Charles Guggenheim and presented by the National Park Service this public domain video runs about 28 minutes.
The Torah Crown
Author, and Stavisht descendant, Lisa Brahin Weinblatt describes her search for the Torah crown that once adorned a Torah used by a Stavisht synagogue. She had learned the crown was saved by Stavisht Rabbi Yitzhak Avraham Gaisinsky as the synagogue was engulfed in flames during a 1920 pogrom. The article Synagogue Treasure From the Old Country Takes Long Way to New Home in America describes how she discovered the crown in New Jersey. The article was published in the New Jersey Jewish News on 14 June 2005, and is used with permission. Another article, Local Genealogist Tracks Down Torah Crown by Ben Harris, also relates this remarkable story of discovery in the Boston Jewish Journal of 7 October 2004. The photo was submitted by Max Gaisinsky Zaslawsky.
Rabbi Gaisinsky is mentioned often in the Stavisht Yizkor book. He is buried alongside other landsman in the The First Stavishter Benevolent Association section of the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens.
It Began with Zade Usher
This book, written by Yaffa Draznin and published in 1972, tells the story of the Bernstein-Loyev and Lewis-Mazur families, many of whom celebrated life events in Stavisht. As the family story unfolds, the author provides background into the historical events of the day and within the area. The book can be read online at Open Library. Once you register (free) with Open Library you can then "borrow" the book to read it online.
The Roots People
A daughter of a Stavishter goes back to the old country to discover her mother's roots. The 1994 article by Martha Weinman Lear was published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, 31 July 1994, and is used with permission.
We are lucky enough to read about our families from Stavisht in a number of written memories and pour over old family photos, but we are extremely fortunate that some Stavishters were invited to share their oral history with the world. Listen to Rose Lessure Mayers tell her family story to the Ellis Island Oral History Project. You will need to search on her name, Rose Mayers, and sign up to listen or read the transcript. Take some time to also listen to Samuel Sander, from the neighboring town of Zhashkov, tell his remarkable story of local pogroms, escaping to Romania, and being processed at Ellis Island.
The USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive lists nine individuals who cite Stavishche as a prominent location in their lives and who tell their stories on camera. Once you sign up on the website you can search on Stavishche to bring up these nine compelling stories. At the time this was written, video images show but the audio and transcripts are not available. Full access is available at locations around the world, however, and you can search on a map to find one near you. Only one individual tells her story in English, the others are in Hebrew (1), Russian (6), and Ukrainian (1).