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       Date Last Updated: 18-May-2012

Vitebsk Families Stories and Pictures


The H(G)erschman family

This information was donated by EHR.

My Father Oscar Herschman (ZL) and the Story of his Family

Esther (Herschman) Rechtschafner
Kibbutz Ein-Zurim
October, 2010

This article is dedicated to our daughters:
Idit Miera Ingram
Ayelet Fruma Prigozin
Doria Zipporah Ivgi

Who are the continuation of my Father’s family.

And to Yaffa Achituv, who I must thank for being able to have a family.

Footnotes: Please click here to open the footnotes in a new window


I never knew the entire story of my Father’s family. My Father barely ever spoke about his family. A few years ago, I needed family medical history and received it from Oscar Blechman (1)(Z”L).He also wrote me that my Paternal Grandmother was born in Rezkne, Latvia. This started all of my research (2).

Recently, I heard a lecture (3) about Historical Newspaper sites and therefore found information about the Family. The information that I found on one of these links (4) shed light on my Father’s past, and therefore helped me understand why my Father had such difficulty speaking about his family.

Now, I will try to write the story, as I know it. I am using my memory (5), the memories of family members, and these newspaper articles and as the sources.

His proud daughter,







APPENDIX: Looking for Family



My father Oscar Herschman (7) was born in New York City. His parents were Esther Anne Pass Herschman and Harry Herschman. (8)

My Maternal Grandmother Esther was born in Rezekne (9), Latvia, in about 1879 (10). She was very sick at one time of her young life and therefore the name Chia (life) was added on to her name: Chia Esther-Esther Anne. The “Chia” was translated into English as “Anne”. She had an older brother Maurice and an older sister Nomi. Evidently the family decided to leave Europe, as did many Jewish families at this time. Maurice went first. He went to South Africa where he got a job in a shoe shop. He earned money and sent it back to Rezekne to his Family. His parents and sisters (11) left for New York at about the turn of the century. They arrived in New York in 1901. (12) He left South Africa for London, where he also worked in a shoe shop and then met with his family in New York, where he also worked in a shoe shop.

Nomi married a Mr. Simon Blechman (13), who came to New York with 20 dollars in his pocket (14) and later he became a millionaire. He (and afterwards with his sons) owned department stores. They lived in nice homes, had a chauffer and even had a special pantry for Passover. They had four sons: Willie, Raphael, Oscar, and Nathan (15). (16)

Maurice married Ray. He then had his own shoe-shop in Brooklyn. They had three children: Shirley Bessie (17), Bernie, and Vivian Esther (18). Vivian and I became very extremely close during the past ten years before she died. The entire family moved to Los Angeles in the late 1940’s.

My Paternal grandfather Harry Herschman was born in Vitebsk (19), Belarus, in about 1877 (20). He was from the Family of the Vilna Gaon. His family was very influential in Vitebsk. (21) However he and his siblings all left for various reasons (22). After WWI and with the persecution of the Zionists there, his parents (23) also left. They went further into Russia to Velikye-Luki (24). One brother stayed in Russia (25), one brother Ghirshman (26) went to France, as did the sister Goda (27), two brothers came to Israel: Meyer Herschman and Mathais H(G (28))ershman (29), who was a lawyer and afterwards a judge; and My grandfather (Zvi/Hershel/Gregory/Harry) went to the USA, though he was also a Zionist (30).


My Grandfather Harry Herschman arrived in New York in about 1902 and apparently started to work as a garment auctioneer and merchant, (32) My Grandparents married in New York and lived in the Brownsville–East New York neighborhoods (33) of Brooklyn (34). At the time of the 1920 census they lived at 1733 Park Place (35). The family was religious and Zionistic. My father told me that his Mother used to sing the song “BeMacharshti” (36) (With My Plow) to him. My Father and his brother Meyer (37), who was born in about 1907, attended public schools (38). My Father attended Yeshivat Chaim Joseph Berlin at the age of about 14. He once told me a story of how he was on his skates and realized that it was time for Minchah (the afternoon service), so he went into the Yeshiva. He took off his skates and left them behind the last row and moved forward. After the service, he went to put on his skates. They were gone. He also attended Boys High School while living in Brooklyn. The family was evidently doing well financially. My grandfather became an American citizen (39). As far as I know, my grandmother did not speak proper English and never became an American citizen. (40) My father remarked a few times that she was a good cook and dressed nicely. (41)

My father’s family had two homes for a while: one in Brooklyn and one in upstate –New York. They actually lived there, in a town called Catskill from about 1919. My Father graduated from high school (42) with a regents (43) diploma (44), and continued to an institute of higher education in the area (45). Meyer was a high school student there. (46) The family had a car and my father drove at the age of 18. (47)

My grandfather had a dry goods store there. (48) Apparently this was good business for the store moved to a better premise. (49) There were a quite a few advertisements in the local newspaper. The store was always closed for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. (50)


Up to now, everything seems to have been very good.
One day the family was in the car, with my Father driving. A Mr. Morris Molowitz was also with them. They were on their way back to Catskill, after the celebration of the Rosh HaShana holiday. They got to a hard part of Kingston-Ellenville road called Marbletown Hill, and a Buick car appeared, coming in the opposite direction, speeding, and on the wrong side of the road. The driver was drunk. It was raining. The road was wet and very slippery for an excessive amount of asphalt had been added here earlier. The road was in bad condition and there had been other accidents at this place. My Father used the brakes while driving down the hill. The car skid and crashed sideways into the Buick (51). The collision caused both cars to fall into the ditch at the side of the road. (52) My Grandmother died on the way to the hospital. My Uncle Meyer died a few days later. My Grandfather was wounded with a broken hip, and Mr. Molowitz was seriously wounded. It is possible that my Father was also wounded, but if so a minor injury. (53) All this happened just at the Rosh Hashanah- Yom Kippur season. (54) My grandfather was hospitalized for a while and was in shock. He wasn’t told of the fate of his wife and son until a while later (55). Representatives of the Catskill community went to visit him in the hospital (56).

About a month later my father went to see what was going with the shop. (57) A while after that my Grandfather went to sell everything, including all of the fixtures (58). My Father and Grandfather went back to Brooklyn. Nomi Blechman wanted to adopt my Father (59).

There was a trial in 1925 (60), with a verdict of “no cause for action”, a setting aside of the verdict, against the driver of the Buick. There an appeal (61) and there was a retrial again about 11 years later. My Grandfather as the administrator of the estate was complaining about negligence that caused personal injuries and damages. He wanted to settle on a financial claim for the hardships that had been caused by the deaths in his family. The defense lawyer stated that my Father was a young inexperienced driver, with only about 2000 miles of experience. (62)

The verdict was “no verdict”! I suppose that it could have been worse.

This accident influenced my father’s life: The High-Holidays in particular, as well as other Jewish Holidays were always a sad and a hard for him. He remarked every year at the Seder of how his Mother would sing “VeheSheAmdah”.

He never went to the cemetery to visit the graves of his immediate family.
He never drove again. He didn’t keep his family pictures and Holy books (63) at home; but in the house of my Mother’s parents. After my Grandparents died they did get to our house but were in a closed closet. (64) He had fond memories of foods that my grandmother did cook. When he tasted something like this (fried kenadels, shmaltz, pickeled vegetables), even many years later, he remarked about it.

He had fond memories of the Jewish and Zionistic songs (65) that she sang, the way she dressed and even a few times told me that I looked like her.

Before he died he called out for her.


My Father used to go to the Blechman house to eat a meal on many Shabbatot. He spent most of the time talking to his Uncle Maurice. (67) When my Parents got married my Paternal Grandfather did not come to the wedding for Nomi and Simon Blechman were there. (68) The wedding was very nice (69). I have my Parents Ketuba (marriage certificate). It is a Jewish National Fund Ketuba. The witnesses are Lieb (Louis) Harelick (70) and Norman Muchnick (71). They were friends of my parents form Zionist organizations. My Paternal Grandfather died (72) a few years later. Interestingly, he also died between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Despite this hardship, my Father was able to go with his life.

Yes, my Father did get a college education. He studied economics (73) in NYU, and even studied for an MA; but never finished his thesis. He knew many languages; English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Greek, German. He had a very good Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education. He chose and organized his higher education for himself. He loved books and possessed many, particularly on Jewish subject matter (74). He wrote and published articles about Jewish subjects, particularly Zionism and the State of Israel; and articles on economics, particularly about countries in South America (75). He worked for the OPA. (76) He worked as English secretary for the Lubavitch Rebbe and Yeshiva (77). He had his own export–import business called Estran trading company (78). As is understood he was an intellectual, and even referred to as a “scholar (79)”. Most of his close friends were also intellectuals. Among his friends (80) were: Sam Pasner (81), Leo Zeigler (82), Louis Harelick (83), Jack Gilman (84), and Norman Muchnick (85). He had great respect for intellectual Jews all over the world. He was quite happy with my educational advances and goals. We lived in the Crown Heights (86) neighborhood, Brooklyn. At first we lived at 1125 Sterling Place, and when the apartment house we lived in changed demographically (87) we moved (88) to 387 Eastern Parkway (89). This move was also to a nicer and larger apartment, and was located on the main street of the neighborhood.

The family had always been very ardent Zionists. My Father, at one time was president of the local Mizrachi group (90). He left Mizrachi for the General Zionists (91) because of not nice politics in Mizrachi at that time. He was once put into jail for an overnight stay, due to Zionist activities. He met my Mother (92) at a meeting of the Avuka Zionist organization (93). She came from a religious-Zionistic family. She attended many Zionist activities and was a youth leader in “Young Judea (94)” in Greenwich Village. She was a member of Junior Hadassah and Hadassah (95) Women’s Organization; and took an active part in these organizations. Then she didn’t see him for two years and was sure that he had come to Israel (96). Oscar Blechman had the idea that my Father and Grandfather came on Aliyah to Israel after my Grandmother and Uncle died (97).

My Father was very active in various Zionists organizations and attended and gave many lectures on related subjects. He subscribed to many Zionist and Hebrew language periodicals. He also wrote many articles about Zionism. He loved the State of Israel very much. When I studied the Poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling and came to the line ”If all the things you work for broken, then stoop and build them up like fall down stones”; I asked my Mother what it meant. Her answer was “what your Father would do, if something happened to the State of Israel”. In about 1949, he was teaching Sunday school at the Petach Tikvah Synagogue. One Sunday, he came home very upset. The reason was that one of the teachers there had said that the State of Israel would not survive. He was actually sick for a week.

And my Parents came on ALIYA (98), and were happy to at long last be here. My Father felt at home here (99). He knew and felt that he belonged here. He knew the country. He enjoyed hearing Hebrew spoken freely. His Hebrew was quite good, perhaps too good, for he had to adjust to the Israeli slang. He relayed to bad things in the country as a good sign; for said that it was written in the Gemora that a proper country had to have thieves, etc. He enjoyed looking around, wherever he was and telling about the history of the particular place throughout the ages.

At first they lived in Ashkelon, for they were given a temporary apartment in a residence for academics. They enjoyed the friendliness of the Oriental Jews, who lived in the vicinity. They found a nice congregation in Afridar. My Father couldn’t find a job there so they decided to move to the vicinity of Tel Aviv. They bought an apartment in the Ramat HaNasi neighborhood of Bat Yam. They moved there before the neighborhood was completed. My Father had to roll up his trousers because of the sand. Therefore they felt as if they were also taking part in the building and development of our country.

My Father worked a bit as an economist for Dunn and Bradd Street (100). He was happy to work at what was his chosen vocation. My Mother (101) helped him with the typing of the long reports that he wrote.

He was proud of his family background. He was proud of the fact that his Mother came from Latvia, because of the Jewish cultural and secular enlightenment of Latvian Jewry. He did speak about the glorious family that his Father came from and the important place they held in Vitebsk Jewry. He explained how we are descended from the Family of the Vilna Gaon (102). He was proud of his relatives that had come on Aliyah: his cousin Isaac (son of Meir) (103) and his wife Ava who were both lawyers (104); his Uncle Mathais (105) who was a judge under the British Mandate, his wife Devora who was a dance choreographer and their son Dov (106) who gave his life fighting for our country; and another cousin who I only know was killed when a bridge blew up. He loved his cousin Isaac very much and for many years had carried on a steady correspondence with him. He told the story of his cousin Miron Zlatin (107), who , together with his wife was in charge of the Izieu Children’s’ Home (108) in southern France during WWII; and how he told his students to be proud of the fact that they were good Jews and good Frenchmen, just a day before the Nazis came.

My Mother said that he did speak a bit about his family after our two older daughters were born. This was because Idit (109)’s middle name is Meira, after his brother Meyer, and Ayelet is named after his Father. When Doria (110) was born, I told him that I had three ideas for a name, for I wanted to name her after my Maternal Grandfather Zacharia. Since this is a masculine name does not have a feminine form, we looked for something with the same meaning. The choices were: Doria (111), Ziona, and Batya. He said he liked the name Batya for it was his Grandmother’s name (112). Thus I learnt the name of my Great Grandmother. Mordechai, my husband, decided on the name Doria. He remarked that the name Doria was actually a transliteration of the name Zacharia, for in the Gemora the Hebrew letters "Dalet" and "Zayin" were often interchanged; and only the "chaf" was missing.

He wasn’t too happy about us deciding to live on a kibbutz (113). I believe that his opinion of the kibbutz movement in general was that of an economist. Yet, he did approve of the way life on Kibbutz Ein-Zurim, and how the kibbutz was run. He approved of the idealism and cultural level of the kibbutz members. This may have had something to do with the fact that it is a religious kibbutz (114). He enjoyed spending time with us and speaking to members of the Kibbutz. The members that knew him had much respect for him because of his vast knowledge.

He thought of Yehudah Neuman as a friend and intellectual colleague of his. Yehuda is one of the older members of the Kibbutz, who was on the kibbutz when it was founded in Gush Etzion (115), in 1947. He is also a very intellectual person. He also has many books in his house (116), as my Father did. He would have approved of the aims and open outlook of Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati (117), which was located in Kibbutz Ein-Zurim. I believe he would have approved of the recent changes in the Kibbutz movement.

Now, it is a bit of a funny feeling, having summed up all I know about my Father’s life in a few pages. But yet, I have done it. I am quite sad about the accident, and the details of it, which I recently discovered; but happy that I have been able to do this. The fact that you have read it up to here makes me even happier.

Yes, the accident did influence my Father’s life and thus the lives of my Mother and me. I believe that this is the main reason why I never learned to drive. I did the theory test; and took one lesson; but could not go on. It hurts me to realize that he felt himself guilty all of his life.

It hurts me to think of all the thoughts that he probably had about it and its outcome. Yet, despite this hurt that was always with him; he did succeed in living a full and wonderful life afterwards.

He gave me the love for books, learning, family, Judaism, and of course the Land of ISRAEL. I trust that we have succeeded in passing this inheritance on to our children, and that they will succeed in passing it on to their children. We have two grandchildren named after him (118).

If I have to sum up my Father’s life I would say He loved his family, the Jewish people and the Jewish religion and perhaps above all the land of ISRAEL.

And I love his memory, and thank him for being such a devoted Father.



Left-Harry Herschman; right- Esther Herschman



Left- Oscar and Meyer, right Oscar as a baby



Left- Nomi Pass Bechman with 3 of her 4 sons (Willie, Raphael, Oscar, Nat); middle- Grandparents with Daughters Nomi and Esther, right- Esther's son Oscar Herschman



Left-Simon Blechman; right- Nomi and Simon Blechman



My Father’s Grandmother Basya Pass



My Father’s Great-grandfather Dov Ber Herschman



My Father’s Grandmother Chia Golda (Chiena) Herschman



My Father’s cousin Miron Zlatin (



My Father Oscar- After coming on Aliyah, in Ashkelon, 1965.



My Mother Nettie – New York, just before coming on Aliyah, 1964.



This photograph was taken on the boat, when my Parents were leaving New York to come on Aliyah, in January 1965.
Left to right-top row: Mrs. Sarah Harelick (old friend), X, Mrs. Segal (friend and neighbor), Jack Gilman (old friend), Mr. Segal (friend and neighbor) , Auntie Rose (Marcus- my Mother’s brother Norman’s wife), Ethel Gilman (old friend), Mr. Louis Harelick (old dear friend), Oscar Herschman, Nettie Herschman, Uncle Lionel (Marcus- my Mother’s brother).



My Father’s cousin Isaac Herschman, and his wife Ava, in their house in Ramat Gan, in 1962.

More Family pictures can be found at:

APPENDIX: Looking for Family

H(G)erschman family
I am looking for 2 things:
1. How we are descendents of the Vilna Gaon.
2. If any relatives are alive today.

My late Father Oscar Herschman (born 1903, NY; died 1988, Israel), was born in America. His father was Harry (Zvi, Gregory) Herschman and he came to America at the time of the turn of the century. He came from a family that was originally from Vitebsk (now Belarus) and were descendents of the Vilna Gaon. The entire family is mentioned in the Vitebsk Memorial Book.

My Great-grandparents were Shlomo Zalman H(G)erschman and Chia Golda (Chiena). She was the daughter of Mayer and (Chia) Bas(t)ya. She was my Father's Grandmother. He came from Vitebsk as did his family. He was the son of Dov Ber and Sara. He and his wife moved to Velikye Luki after WWI, after the beginning of the persecution to the Zionists in Vitebsk and after all of his children left Vitebsk. He died in Velikye Luki on 23/11/1923 (15 Kislev Tarpad). His wife died in Velikye Luki on 24 Tamuz Tarpad (1923). It is possible that the connection to the Vilna Gaon is by the way of a woman in the family.

This is the information that I know of about my Grandfather's siblings.
His brother, Mr. Ghirshman, went to France. His wrote a book entitled "IRAN" (
His sister, Goda went to France, where she lived with her son Miron Zlatin and his wife, who ran an orphanage in Izeui. He was deported to Estonia and killed during the Holocaust. They had no children. He was born on September 21, 1904, in Orche, Russia. My Father corresponded with him, before he was killed. His name appears on the web.
His brother stayed in Russia and became a doctor.
His brother Meir, came here to Israel; his son Isaac, was married to Chava (Ava Levin). They had no children. We knew them well.
His brother Mathias came to Palestine, was married to Devora, and had a son Dov. Mathias was a judge here under the British Mandate. Devora was a dancing teacher (choreographer). Their son was killed before the war of Independence. We knew her well.
A cousin of my Father's came to Israel before the War of Independence and was killed when a bridge was blown up.
A son of a cousin of my Father's managed to get out of Russia about 30 years ago and was on his way to Israel. He met an American girl in Greece and went to America with her. He lived in the Boston area, got divorced, and moved to California.

My Father and his Aunt Devora told us everything about the family. We thought we knew the story, but realized that we are missing a few links. The names Ginsberg and Markowitz were in my Father’s story.

Thank you!