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This site is created as a way to further research and publication of materials on the history of Lyakhovichi.If you have been aided in your research and wish to contribute materials and resources to further our knowledge, contact Gary Palgon and ask how you can help.

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Biographies from Lyakhovichi - (Investigations into the Jewish History of Lyakhovichi)

This page is part of our Biography section. Click on the "Biographies" button in the left-hand column to read other articles in this section.

We are pleased to publish another in a series of reader-provided insights into the lives of Lyakhovichi natives. Kathy Schnapper gives us this first look at the family of Aaron David Kamm, how the conscription laws of Russia changed this family's history, and how his children became an important part of an innovative Radical movement in the United States.

The Family of Aaron David Kam/Kaplan
and his Children who were active in the Ferrer Colony From an Email to the webmaster
by his great-granddaughter Kathy Schnapper, copyright 2008

First, let me once again applaud the work that you, your webmaster, and all of the researchers have done on the Lyakhovichi site. The website is interesting, deeply moving and, perhaps more importantly, a substantive archive for future scholarly work.

Attached are two photographs of the family of my great-grandfather, Aaron David Kamm of Lyakhovichi. In the group portrait the couple seated in the center are Aaron David Kamm and his wife Ruchel. Standing in the back row are their daughters: (left to right) Shaindel, Becky and Paula. Seated at the far right is their son Ben. The youngest son, Philip, is seated at the front center, between his parents.

Missing from the group portrait are the two oldest children: Israel, the oldest, and Sarah Leah, the second oldest. The second photograph is of Sarah, shortly after she emigrated to America when she was living in Philadelphia. The next to arrive was Israel. The second family member to arrive in Philadelphia was Israel. Unfortunately, I can not at this time locate a photograph of him, though I think some exist. Sarah and Israel worked to bring all of the others to the United States. We are a fortunate family, in that everyone survived to adulthood and our family from Lyakhovichi was re-united in Philadelphia.

The 'mystery' of the family name-change (Kamm-to-Kaplan) was told to me by my grandmother, Sarah Leah. Aaron David Kamm was about to be drafted into the army. (This is confirmed by the 1880 document on your site.) He was "adopted" by neighbors and close friends, the Kaplan family, who had a branch without a son. In doing so, my grandfather became the families 'only son' of the Kaplans and, in doing so, managed to avoid the military. Aaron Kamm (Kaplan), then married Rochel, whom I believe was a member of the Kaplan family. [This information needs further documentary verification. note by Kathy Schnapper]

The entire family changed their name from Kamm to Kaplan, when the rest of the Kaplans--already in Philadelphia--agreed to sponsor the emigration of my grandmother Sarah Leah. From then on each of our family members emigrated to the United States under their new name, Kaplan. After the move to Philadelphia Aaron David's wife Ruchel died, as did another daughter Paula. He then joined the household of his elder daughter Sarah, my grandmother.

While living in Lyakhovichi the Kamm-Kaplan family were observant Jews. Once Sarah and Israel moved to Philadelphia they, and later their siblings, came under the influence of Jewish radicalism. Sarah began to frequent lectures at the Radical Library and became interested in anarchism, in particular the ideas of the Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer. Five of the seven adult children--Israel, Sarah, Shaindel, Becky, Ben and their families settled in the Ferrer Colony in Stelton, NJ. The colony was organized around the Ferrer Modern School, a progressive school based upon anarchist ideals. Aaron David also lived in the colony, in the home of his daughter Sarah and her children. Although he remained somewhat religious--and asked that they continue to buy Kosher food--he was tolerant of the political and religious views of his children and their families.

Three of the Kamm-Kaplan children were also heavily involved in trade unionism: Sarah, Becky and Shaindel's husband Mendel were all organizers in the ILGWU.

As I mentioned in one of my letters, the archives of the Ferrer Colony are at Rutgers University. Those who lived in the colony and/or attended the school hold a reunion each September at Rutgers.

Philip Kaplan and his wife Francis remained in Philadelphia. Their daughter lives in New Jersey and their son moved to Israel in the early 1940s.

If I recall, your website is focused solely on those who lived in Lyakhovichi, so I have not included information about their spouses and children born in other places. I do have further dates from ship manifests, birth, death and marriage records.

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Sarah Kamm Kaplan
Trade Unionist, Anarchist, Lyakhovichi native, motivating force in an extended family