Response to an Entry #ukraine

Susan Welsh <suewelsh@...>

I wanted to respond to an email that appeared in Saturday 1/24/09's SIG

Subject: BLUMENTHAL, Help with marriage, TB and divorce
From: A G <mollyblum@...>
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2009 08:00:29 -0500
X-Message-Number: 1


I ran into another conundrum while researching the BLUMENTHAL side of my
tree. My ggrandfather David BLUMENTHAL supposedly married my
grandmother Rebecca SCHOENBERG around 1896 in Rochester, NY after she
arrived >from Kuzmin Ukraine at age 19 for an arranged marriage. David's
1st (maybe 2nd) wife supposedly died and he had 4 small children to care
for. Rebecca went on to give birth to 4 more girls- one being my
grandmother Molly BLUMENTHAL in 1905. The problem is that I received
his former wife's death certificate (her name was also Mollie (Malka)
nee GRYNGRAS/GRINGRAS/GREENGRASS) except that she did not die until
1903!! Her cause of death was TB and she died in a house a few houses
down >from where David lived with Rebecca.

My questions are:

Would it have been strange to name your daughter with a new wife after
your deceased wife?

* If the wife were truly dead, then it wouldn't have been
particularly peculiar. Perhaps a bit inconsiderate of the new wife

Does anyone know if there was an "out" so to speak if your wife was ill
with TB, in order to marry someone else? Was divorce the only option?

* Pretty much, yes. Bigamy has been frowned on post Solomon... You
should check with the beit din (rabbinical court) about whether or not
TB would qualify a person for a sefer k'ritut (scroll of cutting off),
commonly known as a get (Jewish divorce). Divorces are permitted for any
reason or no reason, -- for just cause. One such cause is "loathsome
disease." But whether TB (or consumption as it was then known) would
fall under this category, I don't know.

* The get could be obtained by the husband without his wife's
consent. However, the get would also require him to pay substantial
sums to her (in accordance with the ketubot) and might also require him
to pay for her care as he probably did.

How contagious was TB? I know of a Sanitorium in Rochester that has
long been closed.

* TB was and still is, unfortunately, a very contagious disease and
easily spread in close quarters. When Ellis Island was opened in 1892,
consumption was one of the conditions that could preclude entry into the

* It was also a very fashionable disease of the 1890's, if you can
believe this. People thought that women looked their best shortly
before they died of the disease; that writers had a flash of brilliance
before their deaths, etc. Shtetl-lore linked TB with vampirism, since
the victim coughed up blood and people with whom they were close
mysteriously caught it and began to seem drained of their blood, as

* As to sanitoriums -- they were the treatment of choice in the late
1800's. In 1854, Hermann Brehmer proposed the idea that tuberculosis
was indeed a curable disease, and the introduction of the sanatorium
cure provided the first big step toward treatment for tuberculosis. The
measures available to doctors previously had been pretty limited.
Improving social and sanitary conditions and ensuring adequate nutrition
were all that could be done to strengthen the body's defenses against TB
bacteria. Sanatoriums provided a dual function: They isolated the sick
(the source of infection) >from the general population, and they forced
the patients to rest (as well as eat healthy foods and live a regimented
hospital life), thus assisting the healing process. Now we have
antibiotics, and x-rays that can track the ameliorative process. They
didn't have that in the 1890's.

No one discussed our family history and now I am wondering if it was
because he was married to 2 women at the same time/ and or threw his
wife with TB out and brought Rebecca over >from the UKraine.

* The "overlap" as you nicely put it would probably constitute
bigamy in the civil legal system, but if your ancestor obtained a get,
he would have felt that he had handled things appropriately. Remember,
most of our ancestors weren't particularly familiar with the American
way of life and the civil requirements. And if he had married his first
wife in Europe in a religious ceremony and obtained a religious divorce,
he wouldn't have felt it necessary to do anything more.

Truly puzzling?

* Actually, I don't think it's particularly puzzling. It's a sad
case of a man who had four little girls to care for, and a wife that he
probably loved but whom he recognized was dying. He could not have an
unmarried woman in his home, and probably couldn't afford a servant.
What was he to do? I'd almost be willing to bet that his rabbi suggested
the solution! In the long run, it was humane and caring. I would
suggest that Rebecca knew of the situation, but chose not to discuss it
with the children. There are many situations in my own family history
where the people involved knew what was occurring, but chose to keep the
matter private during their livetimes.

Best wishes,

Susan Granite Welsh
Santa Barbara

Amybeth Gregory

BLUMENTHAL (Satanov, Bolekhov Ukraine, Rochester, NY, NYC) SCHOENBERG
(Kuzmin Ukraine, Rochester, NY) COHEN/KAHANA/KOGEN (Kuzmin Ukraine,
Rochester, NY) GRYNGRAS/GRINGRAS/GREENGRASS (Radizolow Poland,
Rochester, NY)

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