Morris Thompson's Memories of Igumen

My mother, Rachel Golub, was born and raised in Igumen (called "Hoomen" by the Jewish residents). My father, Berel Tomchin, came from the nearby village of Lyubischin (he called it "Lisofschen"), but he settled in Igumen after he married Rachel. He came to America in 1907 and when he gave his name to Immigration officers as "Berel Tomchin" they recorded it as "Barney Thompson" and that was his name from then on. He left a wife, three sons and a daughter in Igumen but he brought them all over in 1911, plus at various times being joined by his father, mother, sisters and brothers. I was born in Jersey City in 1912, and my sister in 1915.

At that time there was an active landsmannshaft called "Igumener Independent Benevolent Association" which provided aid to members in case of sickness, death in family, or other problems. The Association has a sizeable burial area in Beth David Cemetery on Elmont Rd. in Elmont, N.Y., Section H, Block 5. There is a metal gate at the entrance to this section bearing an arch with the inscription "Igumener Ind. Ben. Assn." (***Link to Morris’s photo***). I don't know whether the Association is still active, but I believe that somehow burials are still made there. I do know that the Association was quite active during the 20's, 30;s and 40's, and probably beyond. Meetings were held in the Forward Building on the East Side, near the Williamsburg Bridge, in New York (Jewish Daily Forward - known to us as "the Furverts"; -which my father considered too radical). I remember , as a boy, going to the meeting room on Sunday nights so he could pay his dues - in cash, of course - who knew from checks? The members were working class people: carpenters (like my father), garment workers, painters, plumbers, small shopkeepers ("for two cents plain") etc. Their sons went to CCNY and NYU and their grandchildren went to Yale, Cornell and Stanford.

During the 1980's, I corresponded (in Yiddish) with a cousin, Elke, living in Haifa, Israel. Her father, David Golub, my mother's youngest brother, had remained in Igumen. Elke wrote that when the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941, her father saw what was coming and packed up the family to live in Siberia. After the war they returned to Igumen, renamed "Cherven" by the Soviets, and learned that the Nazis had murdered all the Jews there, so that nobody was left from the old days.

My wife, Sophia, whose parents also came from Igumen, was born and raised in Topeka,Kansas; her family pronounced their name Shapiro (her father was Leo) as Sha-pie-ro, which is how a Kansan would naturally pronounce it.

Morris Thompson

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