Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yitzhak Lanton

Yitzhak and his cousins
(photo credit L. Boressoff)
A few years ago I posted a photo of my great-grandfather Harry Simon and his family in New York City. Well, just last night I received an email from a man named Gary whose great-grandfather was also photographed in the same studio by the same photographer standing in front of the same backdrop.

Yitzhak Lanton was born in 1881 in a town called Tartakov, currently located in the Ukraine. At that time, Tartakov was part of the Austrian Hungarian empire.

Yitzhak's wife Gittel had a brother named Sam, who emigrated to the US in 1912. He was able to secure papers for Yitzhak and Yitzhak set sail from Hamburg, Germany on a boat called the SS Vaterland on June 27, 1914.

The very next day, June 28th, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot dead in Sarajevo. This was the event that triggered the beginning of World War I.

Yitzhak's journey was for the purpose of settling in the US and then his wife Gittel and their two children Rebecca (Rhoda) and Heschel (Harry) would join him; however, because of the war, Yitzhak's family was trapped and could not leave Europe.
Harry (Heschel) Gittel, and Rhoda (Rebecca)
(photo credit unknown)

Yitzhak lived with Gittel's cousins. One of them contracted the Spanish flu. Yitzhak helped take care of his cousin and while she survived, Yitzhak contracted the same flu and was not as fortunate. He died October 10, 1918.

Yitzhak and Gittel, separated throughout the war, were never together in the US. Gittel emigrated in 1921, when her brother Sam arranged a second marriage for her.

The photo of Yitzhak and his cousins was taken by Louis Boressoff. His studio was located at 355 Grand Street in the lower east side of Manhattan. Louis arrived in New York City on August 11, 1900 and was naturalized on September 6, 1905. He advertised frequently as an artistic photographer specializing in pastels, crayons, and water colors.

If you have any photos taken by Boressoff, please share them with us.


Eric Olander said...

This post affected me deeply. I assume there was only enough money for one ticket to the US. I had tears in my eyes thinking about this poor woman and her kids waiting and struggling, while Yitzhak worked hard saving every penny until the time would come when he could send for his family.

And Gittel ... alone with her children, waiting, hoping every day for word that finally she could be reunited with her husband and start a new life ... one of promise and hope, only to have it dashed by the most brutal war in history.

I'm glad she made it and I hope her life was a good one after coming to America. I love these kinds of stories. They are filled with such courage and triumph! I'm humbled. This heroic Jewish family is what America is all about.

Anonymous said...

It apparently was very common for the husband to come here first and attempt to establish himself. My grandfather on the other side of my family did the same but fortunately he came here after WW1 so his family did subsequently join him. The Gittel and Yitzhak story was even harsher than detailed here. They had 5 children. Three of them died during the war while Yitzhak was here and Gittel had to bury them herself.

When Gittel's second husband became sick and hospitalized in the late 1940s, she cared for him daily and when he died, she continued to perform volunteer work at the hospital to the point that she was awarded a plaque by the United Hospital Fund of New York in May 1964 for 27,497 hours of service. It stated "Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital and its patients have greatly benefited from your long and unselfish concern. There are very few who have given so much- virtually a lifetime of the kind of voluntary effort which is basic to our way of life."

Gittel and Yitzhak had nine great grandchildren but Yitzhak, who died at age 37, never lived to see his own children reach adulthood. Gittel lived to see every one of their nine great grandchildren, lit a candle at my Bar Mitzvah (I was her second great grandchild) and she had 3 additional great grandchildren through her second marriage for a total of 12. The last photo of her was taken in January 1974. She was seated with her 11th great grandchild on her lap. She died in August 1974, at the age of 89. She had one more great grandchild, her 12th, that was born two years after she died.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to mention that the last post was written by Gary (me).