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The Magaziners and Prenskys Come to America – 1

November 10, 2020

Louis (Leizer) and Molly (later Malvina) Magaziner. 1910 photo


By 1910 both my paternal and material grandparents had arrived in the United States.

The 1910 census has the Magaziner family living in Brooklyn at 114 Boerum St, not far from the Williamsburg Bridge. Julius’ occupation at the time is “brick layer.” (He would do other kinds of work, including decorative masonry and cleaning out steel mills before dying in 1924 in Brooklyn from having drunk poisoned prohibition era alcohol that he wsa in the habit of sipping to fortify himself from the cold before heading off the work.

Julius Magaziner was my maternal grandfather.

The family included his wife Sarah and three children. ”Leizer’s name has been Americanized to “Louis”; a sister, Molly (later Malvina) joined her brother along with a third sibling, named in the census as “Willie” (Uncle Bill). A few years into their “American experience” Yiddish was still the family’s first language.

Although arriving in the USA without knowing English, besides Yiddish, Sarah Magaziner spoke six other languages (Russian, Polish, German, Lithuanian, Swedish, Ukrainian), twenty four years later, Sarah Magaziner, the family name shortened to “Magazine”, would take a course at Erasmus High School on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn to improve her English. The notebooks of her English lesson, along with a copy of a letter written in English to her son Joseph remain as evidence of that effort.

Both the Magaziners and Prenskys had traveled a long, well worn path to get to Brooklyn. (Here I’ll detail more of the Magaziner journey, in a later entry I’ll focus on the Prenskys.) Along with his wife Sarah and son Leizer, Julius Magaziner participated in the greatest wave of immigration that the United State experienced in its history. Between 1880 and 1920, a time of the country’s post Civil War rapid industrialization, the United States received more than 20 million immigrants, the majority of the arrivals from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, among them over 2 million Jews.  While many of them concentrated in New York City, all in all they sprinkled throughout the United States, including in Colorado where I now reside.

As a part of this immigration wave, during the first decade of the twentieth century, all four of my grand parents immigrated to the United States from “the Pale”, then a western extension of the Russian Empire in central Europe, today divided between Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia and Moldavia. Jude, Sarah and Leizer Magaziner, as well as Abraham Prensky (from Grodno) and Molly Jackson (from Vilnius), all four of my grand parents were a part of this great migration, now more than a century old. At least parts of their journeys are documented in ship’s manifests, immigrantion and census documents.

The period from the 1880s through the end of World War 2 in I945 was one of great instability and war in Central Europe. It would culminate in the horrors of that war – the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews, Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, etc), physically and mentally handicapped, Gypsies and people on the political left – Communists, Socialists and religious liberals. That part of their history – the final horrible cataclysm of Nazi violence – is well known.

124 years before World War One, this region would be sliced up and partitioned between three countries – the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire and what until 1871 was Prussia but became Germany. In the late 18th century, between 1772 and 1795 the heartland of this region, Poland, was partitioned three times, freezing the existence of the Polish nation until the last days of World War One when, like a phoenix, it rose again from the ashes of that war.

From the late 1790s then, Jews, broadly speaking who had been a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth now found themselves living within the frontiers of the Russian Empire (for the most part) dominated religiously by the Russian Orthodox Church, the anti-Semitism of which has always been a defining factor of the religion. Life for the Jews in this area included geographic, social and political restrictions and as thne 19th century progressed an increasing wave of Russian-government promoted anti-Jewish violence.

The collapse of these empires at the end of World War One and the subsequent geographic and political restructuring of the region into a constellation of small states was a clumsy, violent process. A series of narronwly defined ethnic-based states emerged that proved generally intolerant to all who didn’t fit the narrow ethnic definiton of citizenry. Not only the Jews, but virtually all the ethnic groups sprinkled through the region found themselves caught up in the maelstrom.


On November 29, 1904, Jude Magaziner stepped off of a local ferry on the southern tip of Manhattan from Ellis Island where he had been process and admitted to the United States. Magaziner, who would change is first name to Julius soon thereafter, had traveled from Grodno, at the time at the western end of the Russian empire, then to Rotterdam, Netherlands where he boarded an ocean liner ferrying immigrants from Europe to the United States, the SS Statendam.

According to the Statendam’s ship manifest, a framed copy of which hangs in our living room, “Magaziner, from Russia,” nationality written as “Hebrew”, entered the United States with $7 in his pocket. The manifest claimed that he had never been in prison, was neither a polygamist nor an anarchist; it was also claimed he was in good health and was not deformed or crippled. Magaziner was headed to the home of his uncle, one Nacham Goldstein, who lived in an apartment on East 99th St. Magaziner’s stated profession was “laborer,” which he was until, 1924, when he died after three days in torturous pain, poisoned by Prohibition era alcohol that he would drink before heading out to work on cold New York winter mornings.

Family “lore” tells a different, improbable – at least according to the documents – version, that Sarah and son Leizer (along with another son who died on the ship) did board the Westernland, that they were rejected at Ellis Island because of an eye infection that apparently Grandma Sarah had and forced back to Europe where, it took several years and a certain sejour in Sweden, before Sarah and Leizer could successfully cross. The documents do not verify this version however.

Although she arrived three years later through a border crossing from Canada at Vermont, the cross Atlantic odyessy of Sarah Magaziner, his wife, is documented as well.

She would follow in 1907 along with one son, Leizer, whose American name would become Louis. According to records, their journey was more difficult than Julius Magaziner’s. There is a record from early September of 1907, of the two being rejected from a Philadelphia bound ship, the Westernland from Liverpool, crossed off the passenger list, with their names crossed out and the word “rejected” clearly stated to the right of their names. Reason for the rejection was not given. The date on the file is September 11, 1907. Still, a record of her history was retained by the ship. It records her being thirty years old at the time (September, 1907), stating that she was from “Bialosk, Russia” (Bialystok), that she had resided in London for six months prior to sailing. A person described as “friend”, one J. Berger from “Bieldstock, Russia” (another misspelling of Bialystok) in the same document is listed. Further, she was planning to meet her husband, M. Magaziner who at the time was residing at 287 – 9 – Henry St, near downtown Brooklyn.

Still, soon thereafter Sarah and Leizer were able to make the crossing. We know this from several other documents.

A second document explains how Sarah and Leizer Magaziner crossed to North America. It is entitled “US Border Crossing from Canada to U.S. 1895-1960 for Sarah Magaziner List or Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying For Residency to the United States From A Contiguous Country.” This document states that she and Leizer Magaziner traveled on an Allen Line steam ship, entering Canada at Halifax sometime in early October, 1907, and then headed for Montreal. From there, with Leizer, she took a train south, crossing into the U.S.A at St. Albans, Vermont before descending to Boston.

Although the exact date of the entry is not clear, on Page 62 # 2 of that document in October of 1907, that they crossed the border into the United States from Canada at the St. Albans, Vermont, a main entry point, before descending to Boston and from there New York City. It gives other interesting details that her father’s name is Benji (I assume Benjamin) Waszinki (also spelled Wyschinski, Wyshensky, Wischisky, etc). Her mother’s name is illegible

This document states the misspelling of her name as “Maguziner.” According to the record the date was October, 1907. It goes on to list that she is going to join her husband, Julius Magaziner at 287 Henry St. New York who is listed as Leizer’s father. It lists Leizer has having been born in Grodno. From Montreal she and Leizer Magaziner took a train south into the United States. It crossed the border at St. Albans, Vermont, where her entry into the country was registered on “The List or Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission to the United States From Foreign Contiguous Territory.” Her nationality (country from whence she was a citizen) was “Russia”, her “Race” or “People” – Hebrew. It is listed that she is from Grodno and gives a not very clear name and complete address of Benji Wychinski, from Grodno, Russia, who is also listed as Leizer’s grandfather.

And so it began.

1944 English proficiency certificate of Sarah Magazine who took an evening course in English at Erasmus High School (from where Bernie Sanders graduated). 82 sessions. She told her children she was “visiting a friend.”



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Igal Ben - Rachel permalink
    November 10, 2020 10:52 am

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. William Conklin permalink
    November 10, 2020 11:49 am

    Good thing your ancestors came to America and created an offspring that understands the truth of the Middle East, not all ancestors created such worthy offspring.

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