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Monday, December 27, 2021

Looking Back At Jewish Portland: Old South Portland

 Nadene Goldfoot

Nathan Abraham Goldfoot, b: 1871 Lithuania                                               

                                                                        Son, Morris "Meshke"  Goldfoot 
                                                       born July 1, 1908, 
  Nathan  Goldfoot                            boxed at the Neighborhood House
                                                        went pro as "Billy Meshke"
Dad did well for himself. Since his father died when he was 4, he and his brother sold newspapers like a lot of the other little Jewish boys out on the city streets. Everyone spoke Yiddish;  no English.   He had to drop out of high school to work and support his family so missed his last year.
He had been in a lot of sports and was on the baseball team, which he loved.  He missed that a lot.  He was also in track.  
 He got a job at the neighborhood kosher butcher shop next to the Lincoln Theater on 3rd and Lincoln and worked, learning the business under a strict owner,  even unable to attend my birth.  Later, he opened up his own Lincoln Wholesale Meats and I worked in it after school as his bookkeeper.                                 

Then he expanded, opening up Silver Falls Meat Packing Co in Columbia Blvd and owned giant cattle trucks. He bought cattle at auctions in eastern Oregon, and brought them to Portland, turning them into steaks, etc. I tried my hand at  collecting from the retail stores who were in arrears.  Ugh.  I'm a better teacher.   I attended Portland State at that point.  

While a newby in the meat business, Dad took in a German Jewish refugee at the nudging of his Uncle Max "Turshinsky"/Turn of La Grande who had a furniture store.  The refugee,  who got out of Germany in 1939. was Werner Oster who then married Dad's sister, Anne.  We all never went hungry for meat.  Charlie married Helen Hochfeld who's granddfather was a well-known Rabbi in Portland, Rabbi Chaim David Hochfeld from Ukraine.  Helen's father, William Hochfeld,  had opened up a department store in Grand Coulee, Washington, so Charlie  worked for him.  

My paternal grandfather, Nathan Abraham Goldfus-anglicized to Goldfoot during his stay in England, was (born in 1871), was  an immigrant from Telsiai, Lithuania and his wife, Zlata or Essie Jermulowske (born in 1886) , was an immigrant from Lazdjai, Suwalki, Lithuania. Nathan had immigrated from Lithuania to England, then to Dublin, Ireland, and took a ship to Winnepeg, Canada in 1893. In June of 1893 he was on the Londonderry and 22 years old, listed as a farm laborer, and was headed to land in Quebec.  Nine other passengers were on the ship with him.   Then he got to Portland, according to his death certificate, in 1899.                          

    Here, Charlie/Haskel, is sitting, my dad, Meshke/Morris, is standing.

 Nathan was 37 when his 1st son, Charlie, was born in 1906. My dad was born in 1908.   Nathan arrived in Portland in 1899, and I found him on the 1910 census as he died in 1912. They lived at 265 Arthur.  They had met in Council, Idaho and married in Boise.  After about a year, they moved to South Portland, Oregon.  My grandmother, Bubba in Yiddish, attended the Mead Street Shul.  

It's a place I wound up as a teacher teaching the Jewish Chabad school's K and 1st grades.  The roof was leaking during the rain and at times I actually used an umbrella in the classroom. That caused the school to move out a ways near a lake. I attended Neveh Zedek Synagogue, a Conservative one, with Rabbi Kleinman.  Nathan and Zlata Goldfoot had 4 children;  Charles, Moshe-Morris, Elsie and Ann.  My father, Morris-Maurice, was born July 1, 1908.  Charles was born September 22, 1906.                                                    

       Many Jews became peddlers all over the US when they immigrated

Nathan died before Ann was born in 1912.  He had been a peddler with one horse and wagon, supplied to him by a group, and one day the horse was startled and frightened, so ran through the streets of SE Portland as Nathan would pick up boxes from the port to be delivered in SE Portland and deliver them to businesses.  Nathan was thrown out of the wagon, a wagon without any identification on it, hit his head, and was taken to Providence-St. Vincent's Hospital in NE Portland. 

 He never woke up, but died there, and my Bubba, at home on a Friday, waiting for him to come home, pregnant, didn't hear a thing about it.  Finally, several days later, someone came to her door and told her that her husband was dead.  She cursed that man for not coming immediately to tell her.  He died several years later.  

Bubba had to pluck chickens for a living.  She lost control with 3 little children and pregnant with another girl.  She had a girl 1  and 2 boys, age 4, 6 when she became a widow.  Sometimes she had to chase them under the bed with a broom.   

My grandfather, coming from Russia, didn't trust banks, so he hid his money in the barn where he kept his horse.  After his death, Bubbie looked for it but could find nothing.  She was destitute but had a brother nearby who wanted to adopt my father.  She said no, and kept them altogether.                                                                                

Here is a mid-century reproduction photograph of the original Failing Public School in Portland Oregon. Bubba's children, Charlie, Morris, Elsie and Ann attended Failing School that was in their neighborhood from 1911 on.  The school was built in 1882 and named for former Portland Mayor Josiah Failing. Photograph by Mentzer the Photographer – 203 N E Russell St in Portland Oregon. The photo has a description stating the school name and dates of operation as well as its destruction date of 1922.  The Failing I see today and have seen all my life is still standing.          

The school was closed down and the building abandoned. Located at 049 Southwest Porter Street near the west end of the Ross Island Bridge, it was a central location for the fast-growing community college. Despite the poor name for an education building, Failing provided PCC with 22 classrooms at a single location and a place for its new headquarters, which had been in an old portable building behind Benson High School.  It's been recycled into a city college building. If you cross the Ross island bridge from SE to SW and turn right and go around and then forward, you will see the school on the right.                                                      

                                                              Judge Gus Solomon, my father's peer

Gould "Gus" Jerome Solomon was born in Portland, Oregon in South Portland, too.  He was born August 29, 1906. He should have attended school with Charlie Goldfoot.  Gus's parents were Jacob (born 1872 in Hoosh, Romania, and Rose Solomon, (born 1872 in Ukraine, a Russian state). They married in Portland not long after arriving in Portland.   His mother died in childbirth and his father died young.  He was raised by relatives.  When they arrived in Portland, it was during the severe depression of 1893 to 1897.  He as a peddler, opened a small 2nd-hand store, first with Max Barrell who was also from Hoosh, and later with Morris Augustin.  By 1910, Portland was doing better and was the Pacific Northwest's leading financial, commercial, port and rail center and it ranked 28th in urban population and 55th in manufacturing value.  The Jews who had come here were in trade and commerce.  South Portland's tailor, shoemakers, and storekeepers largely served workers' families.  60% of its Jewish heads in South Portland in 1910 were either proprietors or clerks, while another 18% were on the fringe of proprietorship as expressmen or peddlers (my Zaida-grandpop that I never got to meet).  Many just eked out a living.  

In 1900 the Solomons lived on First Street in South Portland.  Jacob was a clothing merchant at age 29.  They both said they were from Poland to the census taker.  Eugene had been born in 1895 in Portland.  

By 1920 they were living in the NE section of Portland on NE Knott and 14th.  Gus was 13 and his siblings were Eugene J, 23, Sam 21, Claire 19 and Delphine 17.  They were going up in society; out of the   cozy ghetto. 

Rose was born as Rifka Rochel Rosencrantz in 1872 near Kiev, under the Czar. Helen Hochfeld's grandfather was also from Ukraine.   For Russian Jews, there were no civil rights, but there were ruinous restrictions on trading, and periodic expulsions from towns and villages.  Pogroms savaged them early in the 1880's.  They suffered from being evicted from cities, new discriminatory laws that popped up, and heightened violence that worsened conditions in the 1890's.  

Between 1880 and 1920, millions of people from Europe, the Ottoman empire, and Asia created the greatest immigration era in the US history.  In these years, 1/3 of eastern European Jewry left for the fabled USA. which in 1880 had only a quarter-million Jews, about 1/6 from eastern Europe.  By 1900, some 600,000 more eastern European Jews had arrived; 45% of them women and girls.  

The city contained the urban Far West's 2nd highest % of foreign-born people in 1890 and 1900, most of them clustered in the same neighborhoods.  In 1910,  Portland's population was 207,000 with some 5,000 Jews, almost 1/2 from eastern Europe, and they belonged to Portland's synagogues. in 1920, at least 11,000 religiously affiliated Jews lived in the city with 258,288 people which some 6,000 of them were living in or near South Portland.   

Rose's brothers, Abraham and Jacob Rosencrantz, brought the 22 year old Rose to Portland in 1894.  Other siblings followed later.  Similar networks of relatives and friends encouraged Atlantic crossings and helped newcomers.  

The Rosencrantz brothers became leading figures in Jewish South Portland, respected for their learning in Talmud. (Oh dear, my father was thrown out of Hebrew school because at age 4, he was already on the streets of Portland selling newspapers, already making change for people.  He told me that people came to him more than to his older brother, Charlie, who was 6.   He wouldn't listen to the teacher, and probably was noisy and disruptive.)  He never got another chance.

Abraham Isaak Rosencrantz (b:July 4,1875--d: July 17, 1936) became a well-known cantor in small congregations---Shaarie Torah and Neveh Zedek Talmud Torah---and an interim rabbi.  Jacob, called John, became a synagogue sexton. Jacob was born in 1864, died in 1938, buried in Rose city Lodge's Neveh Zedek Cemetery.    

 Jacob became a prospering merchant, though he only had a Hebrew school education in the old country.  At least he was literate in one language.  This school prepared him in about 2 years to be bar-mitzvahed. He was ambitious so attended a night school for 2 years where he learned to write a crude English, math and read from newspapers, and then he moved to key West, Florida which had a large Romanian community and lived in Tampa for 4 or 5 years.  He became a salesman, possibly  attended the World's Fair in Chicago selling merchandise there in 1893, which is when he moved to Portland, where he knew of other Romanian Jews.  I wonder if he knew Beedie and her husband, Max Etlinger who had a son, Joel and a daughter, Joannie?         

In Romania, Jews were barred from town and city peddling, their era of legal persecution of Jews, called a "cold pogrom," by historians when the government "defined Jews as enemies of the nation, removed them from the state school system, and encouraged occasional violence."  Jews were disqualified from citizenship periodically and expelled from villages, deported, and worn down by poverty. 

 So Jacob immigrated at age 14 early in 1886, one of 5,518 other Romanians.  They made up only 4% of the east European Jewish tide arriving between 1880 and 1920.   

Leon Feldstein's family came from Rumania in 1907. Other Rumanians would pop in and his mother would play the piano and guitar for people to dance.  They would have a Mameliga party which consisted of a huge tub of mameliga, a corn meal-hardened corn meal mush. Everyone was poor. Gravy was added to the mameliga, a few pieces of meat and lots of onion and garlic.     

South Portland was 14 blocks long that ran from the Willamette River westward 6 to 10 blocks to end in a large garbage dump that could have been "The Gulch", near the Ross Island Bridge, which was in front of the Goldfoot duplex that was also near the Neighborhood House.  It's said that it was a classic 1st settlement neighborhood.  European Jews and Italian Catholic immigrants lived here and got along well.  I remember a kosher Deli and and Italian Deli right across the street from each other. my father would send me over to them from our SE home on a Sunday morning to buy some kippered salmon.

The Blackman family lived near Molly and young Irv Rotenberg on First Avenue next to Mosler's Bakery where my two aunts, Elsie and Ann worked. Mosler's bagels could compete easily with the best out of New York.  People of today don't know a real bagel.  I still remember Elsie coming home early with Mom and I waiting for her with her bag of warm bagels, and we ate them without any cream cheese or anything.  Just ate those delicious bagels.  And the aroma....the best!  

People here chose to live close to each other and it was a wonderful way to live, like we think about the old country and its shtetl-life  of Fiddler On the Roof.  In this small area, anything that anybody needed for good living was available within walking distance.  There was the library within a few blocks.  There were 6 synagogues.  You could take your pick of the one you'd rather be dead that caught in; and they were within a few blocks.  

There were grocery stores such as Korsun's, Louis Leveton's drugstore, Sig Sichel's Cigar shop on 3rd Ave., the laundry, the hospital, the community center.  The Solomon Apartments, built by Jacob Solomon was at First and Caruthers. Dave Schneiderman had a pool hall, often crowded with older boys and its foot patrolman, Mr. Nichols. Calistro and Halperin had a delicatessen between Caruthers and Sheridan that catered to both the Italian and Jewish trade, since its owners came from each ethnic group.  Simon Director, Isaac Friedman and Joseph Nudelman had competition for my father's market with kosher meat markets within a few blocks of each other along First Avenue. They had it all in this South Portland ghetto.  It was sweet living and really everybody helped each other.  Along First Avenue, a little north at first and Grant, was Robison's dry goods store, a mini-department store used by South Portlanders.  It was Mrs. Robison's sons, Charles and Edward, who donated funding to help establish the Robison Home, the Jewish community's modern care facility for the elderly.  


Gus J. Solomon, Liberal Politics, Jews and the Federal Courts by Harry H. Stein-Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland, 2006

The Jews of Oregon 1850-1950 by Steven Lowenstein, 1987

The Downtown Jews-a walking tour through Portland's early business district by Polina Olsen , 2009


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Tribe of Levi That Moses Was From

 Nadene Goldfoot                                            

Jacob had 12 sons who were the origins of the famous 12 Tribes of of Jacob.  Levi was Jacob's 3rd son with Leah, his first wife.  The Levites were the tribe that Moses and his brother, Aaron, were from.


Aaron was made high priest by Moses, and all his sons were to follow in his footsteps.  His DNA has been found to be called J1 or the Cohen gene.  Supposedly, all the Levites should have carried the same Y haplogroup of Jacob, and Jacob would have been carrying the same as his father, etc.                         

Scientists have found that this is true of the Cohens who lived under special conditions like not marrying a divorced woman, other  conditions, but is not proving to be true for the group designated as the Levites.                                       

                 Daniel Eskow, Levite, Russian Jewish,  painting by me

Levites:  In very ancient times, all the male descendants of the tribe of Levi were consecrated by Moses to serve in the  the Temple and to instruct the people.                       

 In those days, the 1st-born of each family served as priest, but because of the loyalty of the Levites during the incident of the Golden Calf, they replaced the first born of everyone. 

Each family of Levites was assigned specific duties connected with the transport and assembly of the parts of the future Temple in the wilderness.  The family of Aaron was singled out for service as priests within the Temple-to-be (as a temporary site, referred to as the Tabernacle.)                             

             Bon Voyage party before moving to Israel to teach

After the conquest of Canaan, the Levites were enjoined to teach the Torah to the people, being therefore excluded from any territorial inheritance but receiving 48 towns with their environs throughout the country, as well as a tithe of the agricultural produce.  This arrangement worked somewhat differently to practice.   Daniel, above, finally became a high school history teacher, and he was amazing at it in Oregon.


Certain towns assigned to the Levites were only captured a long time after the conquest, or not at all, and there is no evidence to show how effective was the collection of tithes.  Consequently, some of the Levites served at High Places, especially in the Northern Kingdom after Jeroboam had instituted independent worship.  

According to Chronicles at the very end of the Tanakh, when the Temple service was organized, traditionally by David, the Levites were divided into groups, each engaging in different work (singers, instramentalists, gatekeepers, assistants to the priests during the sacrifice, etc.  Like the priests, every group was divided into 24 sections, each serving for a week at a time.                        

Out of the tribe of Levi, with the Cohens being the direct line of Aaron, the Levites outnumbered the Cohens.They had become a 2nd-class priesthood.  They got to read from the Torah after the Cohens.  Temple-sacrifice privileges--at the very core of Jewish sacred ritual--were limited to the sons of the high priest Zadok (Cohens), whereas Levites became responsible for more mundane tasks such as day to day upkeep of the Temple, guarding the door, and transporting the Ark of the Covenant.                                                      

     Danny in Israel, teaching.  Under Israeli pressure now in my painting. He's wearing the Israeli style prayer shawl.  

In 2nd Temple times, the Priests outnumbered the Levites, and apparently shared their tithes.  In halakhah, or the law, the Levite is regarded as 2nd to the Priest, and has the privilege of having the Priest's hands before the latter blesses the people.  They had less influence and prestige than the Cohanim.  The Levite position was therefore ambiguous:  of high status but impoverished, "priestly" but not high priests.  Dan never felt impoverished in the status of a Levite but very proud to be one and took it seriously.  Sadly, he died without being DNA tested. 

However, their responsibilities grew to include composition and performance of liturgical music, as well as teaching, administration and interpretation of Jewish law and ritual.  These functions became especially important during the Hellenistic period and, long before the destruction of the 2nd Temple, helped steer Jewish worship away from the Temple and into the homes and new synagogues.

About R1a-Y2619 Ashkenazi Levites

According to a 2003 study, about 52% of Ashkenazi men with a tradition of Levite descent belong to the R1a haplogroup. That haplogroup is less common among Ashkenazim without a tradition of Levite descent (and R1a-Y2619 men without a tradition of Levite descent are often able to determine from genealogical records or tombstones that their direct male line is in fact Levite). The haplogroup is found only rarely among Sephardim (both Levites and non-Levites).

Men belonging to this R1a cluster of Ashkenazi men have become known as R1a1a Ashkenazi Levites or, more recently, as R1a-Y2619 Ashkenazi Levites (Y2619 is a single-nucleotide polymorphism ("SNP") that is shared by all R1a1a Ashkenazi Levites.) It is possible that the origin of this haplogroup comes from Khazaria.

Many Levites have been found to carry the R-M17 haplogroup line, and it is now thought to have originated from Khazaria. The Khazar Empire stood to the east of the area of the Ashkenazi Jews, between the Dnieper and Volga rivers, and reached south into the modern nation of Georgia. Khazaria was established by Central Asian Turkic speaking people whose empire converted to Judaism when confronted that they were trading with Christians, Jews and Muslims, and so the Bulan or king actually chose Judaism and all followed. The people were no doubt Slavic and carriers of R-M17. We can't be sure, but it's a good possibility.

Today, the tribe of Levi, made up of the Cohanim and Levites, is the only tribe left out of the 12 Tribes of Jacob, though one would have thought that it wound be the tribe of Judah! Why is that? Similar to the modern-day Cohanim, non-Cohen Levites are estimated to account for some 4% of the contemporary Ashkenazi community and somewhat less of the Sephardi population. They are found in synagogues all over the world. Remember, they were scattered among all the tribes, and didn't have their own plot of land. In more observant congregations, Levites continue to discharge their historical religious functions. While they no longer have occasion to enforce rectitude at sword point as they once did, in some congregations, they still wash the hands of the Cohanim before the contemporary "priests" deliver their blessings.

In my experience, I have 3 DNA matches of the Y haplogroup E-L117, father and son, with son being very musical, a pianist, and another being a musician, playing the clarinet in his band. Could they also be Levites? Or could this just be coincidence? I wonder about the Cantors of Judaism? How many of them are Levites?

One would think that the general public of Jews, who are called the Israelites, would be the group who suffered the most in the Holocaust, being the remainder of the tribe of Judah, not counting the Cohens and Levites. Jews remaining are only 0.02% of the world population. Jews make up 2% of the USA population.

We're a very small group that should be protected, yet we still suffered from anti-Semitism. We're a group made smaller on our own as well by marrying outside out faith and assimilating., as well. We also have a 3rd danger of our own people turning against us in their desire to be liked by their own peer group; self-hating Jews. Sometimes I think they're out biggest danger.


Updated with title: 12/29/2021, 10pm Pacific Time 

Book: Jacob's Legacy : A Genetic View of Jewish History