'America is not a kosher land.'
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Aaron Cohen

(born Kahanovich*)
Aaron's son, Meyer Caine,
who told his son, David,
who told cousin Susan

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Alone in America 

When Aaron arrived in America, he found himself living with a family that was not Jewish.  And so, the story goes, he barely ate and his resistance fell.  [He was not alone in having this problem.  There was a director of Ellis Island who noticed that the Jews in the dining hall there were not eating, and he arranged for the opening of a Kosher kitchen, a feat for which he was widely celebrated.]

Aaron kept the Sabbath

While Aaron managed to find work, sometimes he was not able to collect his pay for the work he had completed.  If it happened that the only time he could get paid for the job he had done was on a Saturday, then he would lose the pay for that work.  Not knowing how to speak English made his situation more difficult.

Channa made soup

Channa was the first of the family to arrive in America after Aaron. She would cook soup for him, and she was proud that he would eat the soup that she made.  

Resistance down

By the time Aaron's wife, Toby, had arrived, and all their then seven children were with them, Aaron's resistance had weakened, and he had become sickly.   "This is not a Kosher land," he is said to have proclaimed.  He passed away soon after the family was reunited in America.

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Remembering Aaron the Fixer

The exchange that Eli Schwartz thinks of when he reflects on his great grandfather Aaron, took place in 1965 at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of a Gorodok landsmanshaftn, which means an association of people from the same town.  (One of the founders of the Horodoker Relief Association, as it was known, was Rafael Millerkowski, a brother-in-law of Eli's great grandmother, and the husband of Aaron's oldest child, Lena.)

The big shot

The celebration was a festive evening banquet, which Eli attended with his mother, Dorothy Levine Schwartz, who was a member of the society.  After the banquet, an elderly man, who appeared to be in his 80's, was acting like a big shot, and everyone sat in rapt attention. 

'Who are you?'

Eli said the man talked about his return to Gorodok in 1923, when Lenin was inviting money. "He said he had established a bank there, and that he was living on Central Park South now." Then, said Eli, the man looked right at him and said, "Who are you?"


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Eli Schwartz, 1965

Pious roofer

Eli replied, "I am the great grandson of Ahron de Cutler," which, loosely translated, meant "Aaron the Fixer."  Actually, cutler refers to a person who works with molten copper or other metal, which Aaron, as a roofer repairing or building drain pipes and gutters, most certainly had been.


The man questioning Eli nodded in response.  "He had not worked at a high profession, but people respected him because of his learning, and because he was a religious man," he said. 

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Aaron's Gravestone

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Our Hasidic cousin Douglas Isaacson, great grandson of Ida, Aaron's sister-in-law, knows Yiddish as well as Hebrew, and provided a translation of the writing on Aaron's gravestone.

The hands represent the priestly blessing, and that he was a HaKohen.  The letters on either side of the hands stand for 'Here lies buried.'

"Why we are crying, with a lake of tears running from our eyes,
Our father followed the righteous way and was a caring, correct and fair person in his heart.  All his life he lived by the hard work of his hands, and he shared with those who were poorer.  Now he has left us behind, and we are like a flock that has lost its shepherd.
Here lies our father, R.* Chaim Aaron, the son of R. Yihida Lieb HaCohen.

He was taken away from us on Monday,
15th day of Cheshvan 5666
Aaron Cohen
Died Nov. 13, 1905"

* "R." is an honorific, akin to Mr.

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