Random Thoughts

After leaving Twitter in early December 2022, I began to write short daily-ish posts. Here are posts at least two weeks old.

January 7, 2023. I just learned my first new word of the year: zwischendeck, which is German for “between decks” (read: steerage). I learned this word perusing the departure-end manifest of the SS State of California, which departed Hamburg, Germany on April 12, 1893; it arrived at Ellis Island 17 days later. On board were my paternal great-grandmother Hinda Zisser (later Ceasar; nee Zinman), her three children, and two other relatives. In the first hardback edition of Interrogating Memory, I mistakenly say the ship which carried them from Denenburg (in what was then Latvia) to – ultimately – Philadelphia was the SS Augusta Victoria. This is further demonstration that the work of interrogating memory never ends.

December 30, 2022. I organized everything new I have learned about my Berger ancestry – specifically their arrival in Philadelphia in 1899 and 1900 – here. Enjoy.

December 25, 2022. I was 18 years old when this was released in late November 1984, and it still blows me away. The collection of talent – Paul Young, George Michael, Sting, Phil Collins, Bono, Kool and the Gang, Bananarama, Paul Weller, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Jody Watley, Spandau Ballet, Status Quo, who-am-I-forgetting, plus Sir Bob Geldof and Sir Midge Ure – floored me. The song still holds up, nearly four decades later. Merry Christmas, everyone, from your favorite Jewish-raised atheist.

December 23, 2022. Updating December 11 update: “Jacob Trimmper” is a tailor named Jacob J. Trumper, Charles Rugowitz’s brother-in-law. Born in Pruzhany (modern-day Belarus) in 1858 (or August 1860), he married Hannah B. “Annie” Rugowitz (1865-1929) in 1882 (per 1900 US Federal Census). He died on October 1, 1915. On June 8, 1900, he, his wife and four sons lived at 922 S. 7th Street in Philadelphia. They had a boarder whose name looks like “Louis Boyer” in the Census record, though he is actually my paternal great-grandfather Louis Berger. Curiously, Louis is listed as single, even though he had been married for about nine years. It is likely his son Morris, my paternal grandfather, was living about four blocks north at 702 Clymer Street, with the woman I hypothsize is his first cousin once removed, Lena Berger.

December 20, 2022. My father, David Louis “Lou” Berger, would have turned 87 years old today. As I explore in some detail in Interrogating Memory, he had his flaws, but in our daughters I see his generosity, kindness and tolerance. He died more than 40 years ago, and I still miss him daily.

December 19, 2022. It has been six years since I launched this website with an essay about identity, duality and narrative. Little has changed since then, other than how much I have learned about all three of those things. And a LOT of data.

December 18, 2022. When a Jewish-raised atheist marries an Episcopalian-raised agnostic, worlds collide. Chanukah Sameach!

December 17, 2022. This very good boy named Luvey would have celebrated his 50th birthday today.

December 16, 2022. Perhaps the greatest Berger family mystery is this: who were David (no occupation), Hyman (salesman) and Max (huckster) Berger? They are listed in the 1909 Philadelphia City Directory at the same address as my great-grandfather Louis Berger and his young family, 2241 Callowhill Street. Presumably, the three men are closely related (three brothers? father and two sons?) to each other, while somehow related to my great-grandfather. While there are innumerable men with these names, I cannot find them in combination anywhere else.

December 15, 2022. A small emendation: while Charles Rugowitz, my great-grand uncle, is the first US arrival (NYC; September 14, 1886) by a definitive family member, Joseph (Shlomo Ahron) Berger was in Philadelphia as of July 1880 – the likely month he married London-born Lena Cohen. I think he is my first cousin, three times removed, but this relationship is not yet proven beyond doubt. He, Lena and three of their sons appear on a list of “Berger death dates” my father helped me compile in the late 70s or so…and Joseph and my great-grandfather Louis are not brothers (different father’s names on their headstones), so first cousins is my next guess.

December 14, 2022. I have learned much more about my Berger family ancestors, which may become an essay, but for now: if I had a 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, I would choose Bobby Abreu, Mark Buehrle, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner.

December 11, 2022. Mystery solved! I found my paternal great-grandfather David Louis Berger in the 1900 U.S. Census (recorded June 8). He is a boarder living at 922 S. 7th Street in Philadelphia. He is listed as single, yet this is address used by his wife Chai Miriam (Ida) on November 14 when she – with daughters Rose, Malke (Mae) and Yente (Anna) – sailed to Philadelphia from Liverpool aboard SS Belgenland. Still to be solved – where is my grandfather Morris, who (may have) arrrived on January 18, also on the Belgenland? He is likely staying with his uncle Charles Rugowitz, but no record in Census?

Update: Charles Rugowitz – recorded as “Zadig Rogowicz” and 25 years old – boarded the British steamer Eros in Hamburg, Germany on August 24, 1886. The ship sailed one day later, arriving in New York City on September 14; it may have stopped in Hull and Liverpool en route. His occupation is “kaufen,” which I believe means “shopkeeper” or “buyer.” With him is 24-year-old Jacob Trimmper, also from Pruzhany (modern-day Belarus). No record of ship named “Eros,” though NYC newspapers clearly report its arrival. No idea who “Jacob Trimmper” is. At any rate, my great-grand-uncle is thus far the first of my Jewish ancestors to immigrate to the United States. Stay tuned…

December 9, 2022. The SS Campanello manifest reveals my great-great-grandmother Chave Koslenko and her two granddaughters were initially denied entry into the United States under the “liable to become a public charge” clause of the Immigration Act of 1882. They were held on Ellis Island until 1:20 pm, April 10, 1912, receiving six meals each (two sets of breakfast/dinner/supper); the deciding official was surnamed Fitzgerald. Presumably Chave’s son Samuel vouched for them via telegram, perhaps wiring money for train tickets, though this is pure speculation.

December 8, 2022. If national Republicans genuinely want to stop Donald Trump from winning the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, they will change how they award delegates in their presidential primaries and caucuses. Rather than awarding all the delegates to a plurality winner, make it proportional above some threshold. This will keep Trump from winning scores of delegates with only 30-35% of the vote.

December 7, 2022. Another reason I need to revise and update Interrogating Memory: I have reason to believe my maternal great-great-grandmother Eva Koslenko, about whom I know almost nothing, arrived in the Uinted States in April 1912.

Update: Eureka!! Chave Koslenko of Shpola (in modern-day Ukraine) left Rotterdam on the SS Campanello on March 23, 1912. Two granddaughters (my first cousins twice removed) acompanied her. They arrived in NYC on April 7 then traveled to Philadelphia to live with her son Samuel – now surnamed Goldstein. She died of pulmonary tuberculosis just four years later, on September 8, 1916. My educated guess is she was 67 years old. I still do not know her surname, but her parents – my great-great-great grandparents are Abraham and Sophie. Wow.

December 6, 2022. Bold prediction as Georgia polls in 30 minutes: CNN and MSNBC devote far more coverage to the Trump Organization being found guilty on 17 counts of tax fraud than on Senator Raphael Warnock’s (D-GA) likely easy victory.

Update: Warnock’s “easy” victory – currently +2.7 points (well within my 2.2-4.2 projected range) – took until after 10:30 pm EST, so my bold prediction was incorrect. 🙂

December 5, 2022. Congratulations to Fred McGriff for his selection for the Baseball Hall of Fame! He received all 16 votes from the Baseball Hall of Fame contemporary era committee. I still do not understand why he never topped 40% of the vote during his prior 15 years of eligibility.

December 4, 2022. I recently watched and enjoyed the 2009 horror-thriller Triangle. It stars Australian-born Melissa George, who carries the film well. I did not realize until I looked up her career, however, that she appears, albeit in small-ish roles, in two of my 40 favorite films: Dark City and Mulholland Drive.