Mysterious, dark-eyed, great-grandma Rose, the much beloved mother of my grandpa Hy.
Of my four great-grandmothers, I probably know least about Rose. She died in 1950, when my own mother was only four years old, and the stories faded with time. Here is what I know: She loved to sing, as did my grandpa and his brother Art. I even have a fuzzy recording of her singing in Yiddish. She was born around 1892 in Russia and arrived in Chicago about 1911, likely in the footsteps of her older brother Harry Sherman, who opened a successful car dealership in Chicago. There are stories too of a brother who traveled to South America and was killed in a May Day parade.
Here is what I think I know: Her maiden name was Sherman, or Sheefman. Her father was named Ari Lieb, but perhaps his name was Pireus Sheefman — the father’s name listed on her half-sister Leah’s death certificate. Leah’s grandson Gordon, who is nearly 90, told me the family name was Sheefman, and that Rose’s mother was named Casha. She was the second wife, after Leah’s mother — whose last name was Shactman — passed away. Sheefman, Shactman, and then Sherman.
Gordon told me that Rose and her family were from Kalinoka, a shtetl near Kiev. My great-uncle Art had told me that Rose was from Zhitomir. This is where it gets a bit confusing, as Zhitomir is both a town and an oblast (or province). I have been unable to locate a town called Kalinoka, but I have been able to find a town about halfway between Zhitomir and Kiev called Kalinovka, also called Kalynivka. JewishGen has a series of websites called KehilaLinks (“kehila” is another word for “shtetl”) and I was able to find quite a bit of information about Kalinovka, even if I can’t exactly locate it on a map. Gordon traveled to Kiev a handful of years ago and drove through Kalinoka/Kalinovka.
But here is the very disheartening news:
After all these years of not knowing exactly where we are from, I’ve been handed the key to finding out what became of our relatives—and it is not happy news. In the summer of 1941, the entire Jewish population of Kalinovka was murdered by German Nazis and buried in a mass grave.
Apparently there were some Jews who left Kalinovka for Tashkent in early 1941. According to one witness:
“All the Jews were killed in a mass grave, except one young woman who survived. She was buried under the dead bodies of fallen victims. Miraculously she stayed alive. Naked she ran to the nearest house where she was sheltered by a local Ukrainian family. She was somewhere between 15 and 20 years old. She managed to survive Nazi occupation hiding in a Ukrainian home till the end of the war.”
Yad Vashem lists the names of Kalinovka residents who were killed—I do not see any Shermans or Sheefmans, or any Gelfonds (Leah’s husband’s family), so it’s possible that our entire family was able to leave, and that Rose’s parents had died prior to the second world war. Let us hope that is the case.
Back to Chicago: Rose must have married Jacob Foreman in 1912, shortly after she arrived in Chicago—but we don’t know how they met. Their first son, Morris, was born in May 1913, and their second, grandpa Hy, was born in April 1915. Jacob worked as an automobile glazer in the Ford factory and became ill with “black lung”; a doctor told him if he continued to work there, he would die. But the family was poor and Jacob kept on working until he died in 1922, when their third son was only seven months old.
Rose was forced to put her two older sons, including my grandpa, into an orphanage for a time. I wish I knew more about this time in my grandfather’s life, but I never asked him explicit details. At age 7, he was on the streets of Chicago selling newspapers. He never breathed a word of discontent against his mother for having to put him into an orphanage. He loved her fiercely and protectively, and was heartbroken when she died in her sixties from cancer.
Rose remarried Max Lomonosoff in 1936, who was known affectionately in the family as Grandpa Nuss. After the war, they moved to California with the entire extended Brodsky-Foreman clan and settled in Los Angeles. Today they are buried in the Hollywood Forever cemetery. She would be tickled to know she is sharing real estate with Marilyn Monroe and Rudolph Valentino.