The Herschel Feldman Family
The oldest of Aaron and Judith's male children was Herschel. About to be drafted into the army, his parents had wanted to smuggle him out of the country as they had done with Mildred’s husband (Chaim Aaron Schneider) and as had been done with so many young Jewish boys at that time. But Herschel didn’t want to leave the country in such a manner. He was afraid that if he was smuggled to America to avoid the draft, and he didn’t like America, he would not be able to return to Russia so instead of leaving his country, he joined the Russian army.
The picture on the left is a picture of Herschel in Russian Uniform. After three years of being in the army, Herschel was about to come home when the First World War broke out. Instead of coming back to Bielovesz, he was sent to fight on the German front. He was captured by the Germans and taken as a prisoner of war. The picture below shows Herschel on the right side of the picture at a POW camp where he was a cook. While being held in a Prisoner of War camp, Herschel requested that he be allowed to meet some other Jewish people. The Germans let him go once a week to the schul in town, where he slowly became part of the German Jewish community. It was there that he met Emilie Osterman, his future wife and the mother of their two children, Arthur and Ruth.
Herschel and Emilie setup home in the town of Meddersheim. Their first child was Arthur who was born on Oct 19, 1919. He was named after Emilie's brother, Arthur, who fought in WWI and never returned and as was officially listed as "missing in Action". To the right is a picture of Herschel, Emilie and Arthur. Their second child was Ruth who was born July 7, 1921.
When the rest of Herschel's family from Bielovesz emigrated to America, they first traveled to Warsaw (Poland) where they got a train to Berlin where they hoped to meet Herschel. It had been over seven years since the family had been reunited. After the war, Herschel had remained in Germany with his wife Emilie. No one had yet met her [Emilie] or their son Arthur. [The Feldbaums arrived in America in May of 1921 and Ruth was not born until July 7, 1921. So Emilie must have been pregnant with Ruth at the time of Aaron's visit.] Aaron cabled ahead to tell Herschel that they were coming, in hope of spending the Passover holidays together. The train was late. Herschel arrived at the depot, but had to go home again, fearing he had missed them. But the next day he returned again to the station, this time to find his parents and two youngest sisters. When they were united, Herschel desperately wanted his family to remain with him in Germany and not go to America. He took them to the highest court to try to get permission, but was refused. The group leader taking all the immigrants to America warned the Feldbaum family that if they were not going to go to America now, they might never have the chance. Scared, they left on the next train with the group for Holland, but only after an emotional departure from Herschel whom they knew they would never see again. The image is still there of Herschel running after the train, crying.
Some time later the family received a letter from Emilie in Germany. Emilie wrote in German and no one could read her letter except for Rachel, who earlier had a job during the war translating from Russian to German. Emilie's letter said that Herschel was very sick, he had gotten tuberculosis when he was a prisoner of war and now his condition was very poor. Emilie wanted to send him to a sanatorium, but she didn't have enough money. So the older sisters and brother in America decided to set aside some money each month to send to Emilie. This was all done in secrecy so that Herschel's parents would not detect that he was ill. Rachel and Clara also wanted to contribute, but it was difficult as they gave all their earnings to their mother. They decided to ask their mother for movie money and instead of going to the movies, they would sit in the park for three hours and save what they could to send to Emilie for Herschel.
The miracle that occurred was that none of the children ever told their parents of Herschel's illness. In 1924, shortly after the letter arrived that Herschel had died, Aaron had a dream of his own son's death. Deeply worried, he went to Pauline and asked her to tell him what she knew. While Judith was still unaware, Aaron began to recite kaddish for his son in schul. One day Judith went to the market and a friend asked her, "Who does your husband say kaddish after?". Of course she didn't know, but at home immediately asked Aaron for whom he said kaddish. It was then that she found out her son had died.
When Hershel died 1925 he left a widow Emilie, who was only 33 and two children, Arthur, age 6, and, Ruth age 4. The picture on the left shows Ruth, Emilie and Arthur after Herschel passed away. The picture on the right shows Arthur and Ruth in class in Meddersheim, Germany. They continued to live in the town of Meddersheim, Germany. The only other relatives in that town were Emilie's parents, Teresa and Michael and Michael Osterman's sister, Matilda.
When Hitler came to power the family decided it must get out of Germany. Given the financial resources that they had it was painfully decided that Ruth and Arthur should be sent to America first and that they would send for Emilie and her parents to come to America as soon as possible. Emilie had to sell some of her property to raise enough money for her children to travel to America. This was in 1937 and Arthur was 18 and Ruth 16. Ruth remembers the boat she traveled on, it was the President Harding, which sailed from Hamburg, Germany on November 23, 1937 and arrived in New York on December 7, 1937. (see photos below, Ruth and Arthur standing behind the President. Harding life preserver). Ruth, Emilie and Teresa's passport can be seen to the right.
In America, Arthur and Ruth lived with their Polish aunts (Herschel's sisters) Pauline, Clara and Rachel They went to work immediately earning money so they could get the rest of their family to America. Arthur went to work for his uncle Sam (Feldman), who was Herschel brother, as a furrier. His first jobs were sweeping the floor and then learning the trades of the business. Arthur was extremely hard working and eventually went in business for himself as a furrier. Ruth first got work in sewing piece goods and then as a nurse maid. Ruth met Al Heydt, in 1937, at a "New World Club" dance, where Al, upon sighting Ruth across the room, told a friend he was with that he was "going to marry that girl", they were married in July of 1940. There wedding picture can be seen on the left. Al became a butcher and had his own shop for many years and then expanded into wholesale meat distribution and was very successful.
In May of 1941 Emilie and her mother were able to get to America, but their departure was not an easy one. With the outbreak of the war, life for Jews in Germany was terrible. Emilie's father Michael Osterman was purposely run over and killed by a Nazi driving a motorcycle. Emilie and her mother Teresa had to wear Jude stars on their clothes and life was extremely difficult for them. The biggest problem was no longer financial. Emilie had sold her mother's property and Ruth and Arthur had sent them enough money to travel to America. They moved into temporary lodging in Frankfurt since there was no way they could get out of the small town of Meddersheim. Their first attempt was to travel to Russia, then to Japan and then to America, but this did not work out. They finally were able to take a train from Germany to France through Spain and then to Portugal where they took a boat to America. In Portugal, by some strange coincidence Emilie's mother,Teresa, met her sister at the train station. (There was very interesting story about Teresa's sister, Rifke, and her family and how they hid from the Nazi during the war). It is really unbelievable is that these two Jewish women, Emilie and Terea, were able to travel through Germany and France during the middle of the war. A copy of Emilie and Teresa's passports can be seen on the right. The sixteen pages of the passport detail the many countires Emilie and Teresa tried to leave through, and that the passport was only valid for a one time use for emmigration only.
When Emilie came to America in 1941 she was 49 and her mother was 83. She immediately went to work for her brother-in-law Sam Feldman at his furrier shop. Emilie was able to learn English, but her mother was too old and never learned English. In 1943 Arthur met Toby Blum, through a little trickery from Toby's Uncle Joe. It seems Arthur felt that if any young lady had to be introduced through a blind date, there was probably good reason not to go out with them. As the story goes, when they did meet, Arthur knew after his first date that Toby was the woman he was going to marry. They were married in 1944 (see photo to the left). After learning the fur trade from his uncle Sam, Arthur went into his own business with two other partners. In addition to his successful furrier business, Arthur was extremely handy. He built a full woodworking shop in his basement and added on a large dormer onto his house. He had a great love for model trains and built a very large train set that he spent a lot of his time on.
Next came the grandchildren for Emilie. Ruth and Al had two children. First was Carol Ann Heydt, who was born in 1942, and was named after Alfred Heydt's maternal grandmother, Anna. Below is a picture of 4 generations, great grandma Teresa, Grandma Emilie, Ruth and her daughter Carol.
Then came Harold Michael Heydt, who was born in 1945, and was named after his paternal grandfather Herschel Feldbaum, and his middle name came from his maternal grandfather Michael Osterman. Toby and Arthur had three children. Gary Steven Feldman was born in 1946 and was named after his paternal grandfather Herschel's hebrew name of Gherig (The Steven part of the name was for Toby's paternal grandfather). To the right is a picture of Emilie with her mother Teresa, son Artie with Gary in his lap, daughter Ruth with Harold in her lap, and her granddaughter Carol in her lap.
David Marc Feldman was born in 1948 and was named after Michael Osterman. Helene Joy Feldman was born in 1951 and was named after Toby's maternal grandmother, Hendel, and also her middle name for Judith Feldman. The Heydt's lived in Forest Hills, NY, and the Feldman's lived in West Hempstead, NY, from the 50's through the 80's. The picture below was taken in 1943 and shows 4 generations of women in Hershel's family, Teresa, Emilie, Ruth and Carol. Below is a picture taken at Harold's Bar Mitzvah. Standing in the back from left to right are: Emilie Feldman, Ruth Heydt, Alfred Heydt, Carol Heydt, Toby Feldman and Arthur Feldman. The front row is Harold Heydt, Teresa Osterman (seated - age 100), Helene Feldman, David Feldman and Gary Feldman. To the left is a picture taken at Gary's Bat Mitzvah.
In 1960 Arthur Feldman passed away. He was only 40 when he died of a heart attack. Toby remarried (Leo Karan) in 1964 and Gary, David and Helene were joined with Leo's two children, Bobbi and David. In August of 1962 Emilie's mother Teresa died at the age of 104. Emilie continued to stay at the home and suffered through numerous stokes, but her mind remained strong and she was always a constant source of information until her death in 1986 at the age of 93.
Ruth's son's (Harold Heydt's) 1986 eulogy for his grandmother Emilie follows:
"My grandmother died yesterday. In our fast-paced, high tech, computer oriented world we sometimes forget true simplicity of life. My grandmother never forgot that simplicity. Widowed as a young woman [her husband Herschel Feldbaum died in 1924] with two growing children, she lived for an inordinate amount of time, sharing their responsibility with her own mother. When the country she lived in showed increasing signs of danger for her and those around her she chose a simple path. Leave Germany. But it was not as simple as that. First and foremost the children had to get to America and get settled. What tremendous inner strength this remarkable woman must have had to allow her only son and daughter to sail off to an unknown country, to live with unknown family [Ruth and Arthur were raised by Herschel's sisters, their Polish aunts Clara, Rachel and Pauline], for an indeterminate period of time. When my mother [Ruth] and uncle [Arthur] boarded the ship taking them to the United States the farewell was simple....they were doing what had to be done and if God were willing they would be rejoined in America. As it turned out there were joyous reunions for my Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Mother and Uncle. From the trauma of separation and uncertainty they again became a family in this culture, growing closer than they had been before. She watched with pride as first her daughter and then her son married and began families of her own. She beamed with each word she used to describe her grandchildren and the things we did or said. When I think back to the subway trips to Rockefeller Center to see the Rockettes or a trip to the Bronx Zoo, I wonder about just how remarkable a person she really was. When, tragically, my uncle passed away twenty five years ago, simplicity once again ruled her thinking. My aunt, Toby, would always be her daughter-in-law, regardless of marital status. Just as Leo Karan welcomed my cousins and aunt into his family, my grandmother accepted him as a son. The simplicity of her life let her see this as a continuation of her family. She saw things in a fashion that many of us will never understand. As her life progressed she found she could no longer maintain herself on her own. She decided that she would be best off living out her life as her own mother had, residing at the Jewish Home and Hospital. Even in this she was unique. As the years passed and her body paid the toll of time, her mind remained basically intact. She never forgot a birthday, anniversary or holiday. How many times did she ask how the kids were
doing in school or had they enjoyed their summer? I realize that as
time went by I did her a great disservice. Consciously I admitted to myself that I
found visiting her unpleasant. Perhaps it was a combination of her surroundings
and my desire to remember things as they were, but I found it easier to just hear from my mother that all was well. I know now that regardless of how many times I would have visited, I still will remember only what I want to remember. My children and I share something unique in our world. We each at some time in our lives had a great-grandparent we were able to meet and get to know. Not many people in this world get that opportunity, and I hope that my children value the experience as much as I do. Emilie Feldman lived to be almost 93 years old. She left behind her eight great-grandchildren, five grandchildren, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, and two sons-in-law. My grandmother died yesterday, and I miss her very much."
In 1963 Carol Heydt married Steve Bell and had one child name Lisa and they currently reside in Florida. Harold Heydt married Sondra Schechter in 1969 and had two children, Tara and Jenna. They currently live in Florida. Gary Feldman married Judy Goldberg in 1972 and had two children, Adam and Eden, and they currently live in Florida. David Feldman married Dede Dewey in 1972 and had two children, Matthew and Brad, and currently lives in Atlanta. Helene Feldman married Larry Schwartz in 1981 and had two children, Andrew and Michael, and currently lives in New Jersey.