TORONTO Nov. 16, 2021 – UNDER THE RADAR by David Eisenstadt.
This is a history book about 30 notable Canadian Jewish musicians. Under The Radar describes a collection of talented artists. You’ll read about musicians Eisenstadt chose because they fascinated him or were nominated by family and friends.
His entertaining approach is based on these criteria – Canadian, Jewish, and covers most genres and genders; some alive or long passed. He has written from an historic, not music critique perspective and many will likely evoke….’I didn’t know that.’ or, ‘Why did you not write about…?’ There are many other worthy musicians he will write about. One day, they may be featured in another of his books.
Under the Radar is scheduled to be available on all Amazon international sites, in paperback and eBook formats, from November 29, 2021.
“I’m curious about people. That’s what I’ve always done since I’ve been a small boy. I’m curious about others.”
– Gerard Depardieu, French actor.
January 8, 2021:Curiosity led us to Texas and the history of Jewish Texans. It would seem only a minority lived there prior to 1836. The majority came from France, Germany, the Low Countries, or as we call them now, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. It is known Jews of this time fought in the Texas Revolution of 1835-1836. The Revolution was a rebellion of colonists from the United States and Tejanos (Texas Mexicans) in putting up armed resistance to the centralist government of Mexico.
Thereafter, from the 1880s due to either political unrest, religious persecution or economics, Texas was the choice for many from the impoverished areas of Russian Poland, Ukraine, East Prussia and Russian Lithuania where they settled in San Antonio, Galveston and Houston. Others established themselves in rural areas and small towns.
Some years ago, a series dealing with the many peoples who have contributed to the history and heritage of Texas was published by The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. Under the direction of W. Phil Hewitt, Principal Researcher, is the title The Jewish Texans.
Some of the family names of individuals mention in the publication continue to be well-known. Oppenheimer, Kempner, Neiman, Marcus, Zale, Florence, to name just a few. There are however other pioneers whose lives are just as fascinating.
Galverston’s Rosanna Osterman who, during the Civil War, nursed the sick and wounded from both sides yet she transmitted military information to Confederate officials which aided the Confederates retaking Galverston in 1863.
Sam Dreben, described by an American General as, “the most fearsome Jewish fighting man since Joshua.” Deben, in 1911, enlisted with the forces of Pancho Villa and subsequently helped in the overthrow of Mexico dictator President Porfirio Diaz.
The brothers Mayer and Solomon Halff, of great cattle industry fame, at one time controlled more than 6,000,000 acres of ranch land. Mayer’s photo is seen above.
Jacob de Cordova, another Galverstonian, settled in the city in 1837. He became a member of the legislature, founder of the International Order of Odd Fellows in Texas, controlled over 1,000,000 acres of Texas land, an accomplished author and was known as having a walking encyclopaedia knowledge of Texas.
One has to mention Elsie Frankfurt of Dallas, who died in January 2011, just shy of her 100th birthday. Elsie was recognized for her innovations in marketing and manufacturing, including her design for the production of maternity clothing. Elsie served as President of Page Boy Inc and in 1952 was elected as the first female member of the Young President’s Organization.
The American writer and comedian Alan Whitney Brown said: “The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down.” Although small in pages, The Jewish Texans gives a wealth of knowledge to those of you interested in Jewish history. The publication can be purchased online at Amazon.
Photo credit and partial text by The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio.
My great-grandfather on my mother’s side, Benjamin Nathanson was a cantor and came to America as part of a Russian choir of cantors sometime in the late 1890s. They were in Chicago when Benjamin developed bad lung issues and was told to go a drier climate…he knew of lansmen in San Antonio, Texas so they went. I can’t imagine this non-English speaking family making their way by train through the Mid-west to Texas!
He arrived with his wife Rose, 2 sons and my grandmother Bessie although that has been a subject of debate. She always claimed to have been born in 1899 in San Antonio but I think that she was actually born in Russia. When she turned 65 and wanted to get her Canadian old age pension, she went through a real business trying to prove how old she was and where she was born. Rose and Benjamin had another son Sam in 1902. Sadly, Benjamin died in 1903 at the age of 37, leaving Rose who spoke little English with 4 kids. In order to make money, the two older boys sold newspapers on a street corner and in-between editions would sell some kind of a boiled candy at the Opera House in Alamo, that Rose made every day. Sometime after 1905, Rose moved everyone to Indianapolis where she had relations.
My grandmother met her husband Harry, a travelling salesman there and he brought her to Hamilton, Ontario, in 1917. The rest of the family eventually all moved to Detroit where Sam owned a newspaper chain of suburban papers called The Northwest Detroiter.
I went to San Antonio in the early 90s and looked up the city directories and census…the Nathanson’s were there until 1905 but not later. I contacted these distant relatives and I spent a wonderful day with them…they took me to the Jewish Cemetery where Benjamin is buried…my great-uncle Sam had the stone replaced so it was very readable and we toured where they lived, etc. There must have been a significant Jewish population based on the size of the cemetery which is not the only one in the city.
What was most interesting and quite a coincidence was that one of the cousins, family name was Mazer, was the film critic for the San Antonio paper. (I was the executive producer of TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies and Film international and a film person myself!) He told me that he recently interviewed the director Paul Mazursky (“Next Stop Greenwich Village”, “Enemies: A Love Story”) and discovered their families were from the same shtetl so they assumed they’re probably related. A couple of years later I met Mazursky when we interviewed him for SNAM and reminded him of the story which he remembered…he gave me a big hug and said he was happy to meet a long lost relative!
My grandmother spoke with a bit of a drawl . . . called a washcloth, worshcloth . . . Cincinnati, Cincinnatta, etc., and spoke often of her times in Texas . . . called “San Antone”, always wanting to go back to visit her father’s grave which she did with her brother Sam in the 70s. I remember we had a pitcher and glass set with the Alamo on it and other such tchotchkes.
So I’m a sort of Texan Jew!
-Risa Shuman, Toronto, Canada.
-Little known fact: four Jews fought with Davy Crocket at the Alamo. One was Galba Fuqua, a settler from the town of Gonzales, who rode to the aid of the besieged garrison and died in the battle March 6, 1836, three days before his 17th birthday. May his memory be for a blessing.
-DG, Toronto, Canada.
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