Friday, July 31, 2009

My Scher Family from Lodz, Poland (updated 6/15/2017)

Anna Scher, left, and her daughter Fannie Scher Davis
"Scher der shneider / Shears the tailor." For Szmul Szer, a Jewish tailor living near Lodz, Poland in the late 1800s, identity and occupation were almost one and the same. Tailoring was one of the few trades Eastern European Jews were allowed to practice, and when the Prussians forced Szmul's grandfather or great-grandfather to take a surname in 1797, the whole family became known by the German/Yiddish word for "scissors" -- Scher (spelled "Szer" in Polish). Szmul's father, grandfathers, half-brothers, and most of his uncles were also tailors.  

In the 1880s, the Schers moved from the small town of Strykow to the big city 12 miles away: Lodz, then a Russian-controlled center for silk manufacturing. One branch of the family immigrated to Paterson, NJ, which attracted many "Lodzers" as another major center of silk manufacturing. Even in America, tailoring dominated the Schers' lives, as all of Szmul's children and most of his American-born grandchildren either made cloth, sewed clothes, or sold clothing.

Unexpectedly, the Schers were haunted in America by an uglier remnant of Europe, the forced baptism and abduction of Jewish children. This horrid practice, approved by the Catholic Church since medieval times, forever altered the family of Morris Scher, Szmul's oldest son. By the summer of 1903, Morris had left Manhattan's Lower East Side and ran a tailoring shop on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, and his family lived a few blocks away on Jones Street. 

A 40-year-old neighbor, a Frenchman named Jean Michel, grew fond of Morris's eldest boy, nine-year-old Samuel Scher. They went on outings, played in Central Park and visited nearby St. Joseph's Church. Things came to a head on Christmas, when Jean Michel gave Sammy a toolbox as a gift. Morris returned the gift and told the Frenchman never to play with his son again.

On January 2, 1904, Samuel and the Frenchman suddenly vanished. Morris desperately searched the streets in the wake of a blizzard, and policemen across the eastern seaboard searched in vain. The papers ran the kidnapping story two days later, but focused on a crazed autobiographical account left behind by Jean Michel that claimed he was a white slave in Africa, and papers commented on how the Frenchman was a "good Christian." Samuel's parents were never to lay eyes on their lost child again.

In 1955, Morris's sons in Paterson, NJ were contacted by a Catholic priest who turned out to be their long-lost brother! "Father Samuel," as he was now called, had been secretly baptized as a child when he ran a fever, and at the tender age of nine was convinced by Jean Michel to leave his family and journey to Quebec Province, Canada. At the tiny town of Mistassini, 14-year-old Samuel decided to enter the local Trappist monastery. By 1922 he was an ordained priest, and he lived the rest of his days in Mistassini (but in later years received occasional visits from American family).

Szmul Szer's last surviving grandchild, Charlie Feitlowitz (1912-2007), valued his family, preserved its history and generously shared many tales with me. He was the last first-generation American among the Schers and a brave WWII veteran. Charlie became fascinated with family history in 1930 when he met his paternal fourth cousin, Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch (b.1880 in Lodz; d.1955 in Jerusalem), who was raising money in New York City to aid the Ethiopian Jews. In Charlie's words, "He encouraged and guided me to keep the family history alive." Just as Dr. Faitlovitch helped the world's Jews remember their long-forgotten kin in Ethiopia, so did Charlie keep alive the Feitlowitz familial ties by carefully notating their common story. 


Another important window into the family's distant past comes from genetic testing of mitochondrial DNA. Szmul Szer's wife, the bookseller Anna (Hana Brumer) Scher (1844-1923), seen in the above left picture, and all of her matrilineal descendants belong to mtDNA Haplogroup H26c. That means that a direct maternal ancestor left Africa for southwest Asia around 65,000 to 70,000 years ago, and a long line of daughters lived in western Asia for tens of thousands of years.  

Our first maternal ancestor with the distinct mtDNA genetic mutations of Haplogroup H lived around 28,000 years ago in West Asia. Her daughters had descendants who probably farmed and spread in the Neolithic Period throughout Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa, and northern and central Asia. According to National Geographic's Genographic Project, about 40-60% of all European populations, 20% of people in southwest Asia, 15% of people in Central Asia, and about 5% of people in northern Asia belong to Haplogroup H, and descend from that first West Asian woman.

As part of Haplogroup H, my family shares direct ancestors from the Ice Age or Neolithic Period with two major maternal lines of European royalty. The maternal descendants of 12th-century German noblewoman Bertha von Putelendorf include Queen Maria Theresa of Austria, Queen Marie Antoinette of France, Napoleon II (the son of Bonaparte), and the heinous King Leopold II of Belgium. The maternal descendants of 13th-century Spanish noblewoman Teresa Díaz de Haro, daughter of the Lord of Vizcaya, include Queen Christina of Sweden, Kings Louis XIV and Louis XV of France, Queen Victoria of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Czarina Alexandra of Russia, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, and King Felipe VI of Spain.   

Haplogroup H26 arose around 8000 BC (give or take a couple millennia), my particular subclade of H26c appeared around 2000 BC, and one genetic study (Costa et al., 2013) says haplogroup H26c is part of a "substantial prehistoric European ancestry" among Ashkenazi maternal lines. A distant, Neolithic relation of mine with the mtDNA haplogroup H26 was found in a site in Halberstadt, Germany dating from around 5400-4700 BC, representing the Linear Pottery (LBK) culture. Today, the H26 haplogroup and its subclades are found among families in central and eastern Europe. 

About 15% of Polish Jews and 25% of Russian Jews belong to Haplogroup H, compared to about half of Polish and Russian gentiles. But did Jewish families with mtDNA haplogroup H descend from European gentile women? Researchers originally thought so, saying that the first Jews in Europe were male traders of Middle Eastern descent who often took brides from local gentile populations. Historically, Jewish identity was originally determined through the father (like in Genesis) and then around Roman times Jewish identity became "passed down" through the mother.

A recent genetic study (Yacobi and Beford, 2016) challenges that theory, suggesting that the Haplogoup H lines could have entered the Jewish population in Israel or the larger Middle East, where the majority of Jews lived before the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. There were also many converts to Judaism in the Middle East at that time. The Jewish presence in Western Europe and Germany was minimal before the 9th century AD, so the European Haplogroup H bloodlines dating back to the Neolithic Age may not have contributed to the Jewish population. 

Another mathematical analysis of Ashkenazi, European, and Middle Eastern genes (Xue et al., 2017) suggests the original admixture between Ashkenazi Jews' ancestors and southern Europeans (most likely Italians) took place around the 10th century. Researchers also found there was a severe "bottleneck" around 1200-1400, meaning that all Ashkenazi Jews descend from a tiny founding population of about 350 people of "evenly mixed Middle Eastern and European descent." It's not clear what exactly happened, but the Medieval Era is full of massacres of Jews, such as during the First Crusade (1095-1099), the Black Death (1347-1353), and throughout Spain in 1391. After the bottleneck, researchers think there may have been a second, smaller admixture, probably with Eastern Europeans.    

No matter in which direction their genes flowed, it seems the Ashkenazi Jews first lived in the Rhineland (part of the region Jews called "Ashkenaz") in the 10th century, reached Poland by the 13th century, and then mostly settled in Poland by the 16th century, following persecutions and expulsions. My own direct maternal line reached Glowno, a town in central Poland, by the middle or late 1700s, and my earliest-known matrilineal ancestor is Hana Gundalia (c.1780-before 1844), the grandmother of Anna Scher. Hana left her mark on the 1829 wedding record of her daughter, showing her literacy by signing in Hebrew. 
Hebrew signature of Hana Gundalia (1829), my earliest-known maternal ancestor


Strykow, Poland was home for the Scher/Szer family dating back to 1800, if not earlier in the 18th century. The Brumer family came from Glowno, a town about seven miles northeast of Strykow where Jews first settled in the mid-1700sThese towns were majority Jewish through World War II, and many of the Jews were Hasidic, like the famed "Strykower Rebbe" who was taught by disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. Sadly, both towns set up oppressive ghettos in 1940, and by 1942 Strykow's remaining Jews were sent to Brzeziny and Lodz ghettos and Glowno's last Jews were sent to the Warsaw ghetto. 

View Scher family documents and photographs. 

The incredible Jewish Recording Indexing - Poland project taught me that my earliest-known Scher ancestors were tailors. Aron Jakob Szer (c.1764-1836) the tailor lived in Strykow and first married Raca Uszerowna (c.1754?-1814) and then in 1814 married Toba Aidel Lisinski, who was also a widow, and had children with both wives. 

Aron's oldest surviving son, the tailor Abram Szer (c.1798-1877), also married twice, first to Laia Lewek (c.1798-1843) and then in 1843 to Laia Rayman (born c.1813), the daughter of the tailor Moszek Szmul Rayman (c.1783-1855) and Hana Haskiel/Michal (c.1777?-1847). Abram and his second wife had a son, Szmul Michal Szer (1846-1880), a tailor who was born, lived, and died in Strykow.

In Glowno, landowners first allowed Jews to settle in the late 1700s, and they soon made up a majority of the local artisans. Among that first generation of Jewish residents was a couple, Szaia and Goldathat had a daughter, Fayga Szaiów (c.1784-1831), who married the tailor Abram Brumer (c.1770-1847). 

Among Abram and Fayga's children was Szaia Brumer (born c.1805), another tailor, who married Dyna Gundalia (born c.1809), the daughter of Aron Gundalia (died before 1829) and his wife Hana (died before 1844) in 1829 in Glowno.

Szaia and Dyna Brumer had a daughter, Hana Brumer (born June 12, 1844 in Glowno, Poland; died February 20, 1923 in Paterson, NJ). In 1866 in Glowno, Hana Brumer married Szmul Michal Szer and they raised their children in Strykow. Following Szmul's untimely death, the widow Hana moved to Lodz, where by the 1890s she ran a bookstore. She came to the United States aboard the S.S. Amsterdam in December 1899, and helped raise her grandchildren in New York and New Jersey. Anna Scher is buried in the Congregation Emanuel section of Passaic Junction Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ. 
Szmul and Anna Scher had four children:
1. Morris [Moszek Lejb] Scher (b. 1867 in Strykow, Poland; d. September 29, 1943 in Paterson, NJ)
2. Dina Gela [Diana Gertrude] Scher (b.1871 in Strykow, Poland; d. November 27, 1936 in Paterson, NJ)
3. Fannie [Feige] Scher (b. c.1876 in Poland; d. December 19, 1956 in Miami, FL)
4. Abraham Scher (born June 15, 1881 in Lodz, Poland; probably d. 1949 in New York)


The last family picture in Poland, c.1899. Left to right: Dina Feitlowitz,
Gershon Feitlowitz, Samuel Feitlowitz, Anna Scher, baby Abram Feitlowitz.

Morris [Moszek Lejb] Scher (1867-1943) married Esther [Estera Chaia] Kaltz (1871-1945) in 1891 in Zgierz, Poland. He immigrated later that year, and his wife and daughter came to New York abroad the S.S. America on September 6, 1893. The family lived first in Manhattan, but within a year of the kidnapping of the eldest son Samuel, the remaining family moved to Paterson, NJ. From 1905 to around 1930, Morris was a silk manufacturer and ran the Scher Silk Company. Morris is probably buried in Mount Nebo Cemetery in Totowa, NJ. 
Their children were:
1. Lillian "Lillie" Fiber (b.1892 in Poland; d.1971 in New York City) married the silk manufacturer Larry L. Fiber (b. c.1883 in Russia; d.1960 in Tuscon, AZ) and had two daughters, Audre Mulvaney and Mona Mason. In later years, Lillie lived in a Manhattan townhouse next door to the old Whitney Museum on East 75th Street.
2. Father Samuel Scher (b.1894 in Manhattan; d.1974 in Mistassini, QC, Canada) was kidnapped in 1904, joined the Trappists at Monastère Notre-Dame de Mistassini in 1908, was ordained as a priest in 1922, and reunited with his siblings and family in 1955.
3. Edward [Aaron] Scher (b.1897 in Manhattan; d.1964 in New Jersey) ran the Scher Brothers Chemical Company with his brothers from the 1930s onward. He married Frances Fox (1902-1996) and had a daughter and son, Cecile Kaplan and Alan Scher (1929-1981).
4. Robert [Abraham] Scher (b.1900 in Manhattan; d.1968 in Miami, FL) co-owned Scher Brothers, married and had a daughter, Barbara.
5. Martin Scher (b.1901 in Manhattan; d.1973) studied chemistry in college before joining his brothers' business. He was the sole president of Scher Brothers (renamed Scher Chemicals Corp.) from the 1950s until his death. He married and had two daughters, Sylvia Barbara and Judith, and a son, Stephen. The latter inherited the chemical business and controlled it until it was acquired by Noveon.

Dina Gela Scher (b.1871 in Strykow, Poland; d. November 27, 1936 in Paterson, NJ) met her husband Gershon "Gustave" Feitlowitz (b. March 28, 1875 in Lodz, Poland; d. August 16, 1951 in Paterson, NJ) in her mother's bookstore and they married in Lodz in 1894. Gershon was the son of Moshe Kopel Feitlowitz (c.1853-1928) and Necha Abramowitz (d.1880), and the great-grandson of Mojzesz Fajtlowicz (1767-1837), one of the founders of Lodz's Jewish community. Gershon immigrated in 1900 and Dina and the children came over in 1903. They lived briefly in NYC's Lower East Side and then moved to Paterson, when Gershon worked as a tailor, then owned a soda fountain, and then worked for the local silk industry. Dina and Gershon were buried in the United Brotherhood Section of Passaic Junction Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ. They had seven children:
1. Sam [Samuel] Feitlowitz (b.1896 in Lodz; d.1967 in Haledon, NJ) was an insurance broker who married Bertha Rosenstock (1902-2000), and had a son, Robert.
2. Abe [Abram] Feitlowitz (b.1898 in Lodz; d.1962 in New Jersey) was a silk warper who married Ruth Biber (1902-1982), and their children were Daniel and Harvey Lewis (1930-2006). Abe and Ruth are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ. 
3. Nellie [Necha] Feitlowitz (b.1900 in Lodz; d.1901 in Lodz)
4. Sadie [Hannah Suda Frimma] Feitlowitz (b.1904 in Manhattan; d.1950 in Paterson, NJ) married Nathan J. Hiller and their children were Deanna and Herbert.
5. Nathan [Nussan] Feitlowitz (b.1906 in Manhattan; d.2000 in West Orange, NJ) ran a printing shop for many years in Paterson. He married Pearl Fisher (1909-1996) in 1932 in Manhattan and their children were Martin and Diane. 
6. Frieda "Fritzi" Feitlowitz (b.1909 in Paterson, NJ; d.2001 in Westwood, NJ) married Harvey Feinberg (1908-1973) and their children were Anita Morosohk (1930-2005) and Gerald. Fritzi then divorced and married Benjamin Holsman (1907-1986).
7. Charles [Shai] Feitlowitz (b.1912 in Paterson, NJ; d.2007 in Deerfield Beach, FL) was a window dresser. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945, as an engineer and military policeman, who earned a Bronze Star for his service in World War II. He was partners with Erwin "Bud" Schroers, Jr. (1923-2009) from the early 1950s until his death. Charlie is buried in King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton, NJ. 

Fannie [Feige] Scher (b. c.1876 in Poland; d. December 19, 1956 in Miami, FL) arrived at New York with her sister-in-law Esther and niece Lillie aboard the S.S. America on September 6, 1893. Fannie was 17 years old, but to seem older she used the passport of her 20-year-old sister Dina, who was about to get married back in Lodz. Young Fannie worked in the sweatshops of Hester Street, then in 1896 married the young widower housepainter Paul Davis (b. c.1867 in Russia; d.1926 in Spokane, WA). They moved to Milwaukee in 1904 and Spokane, WA in 1909. Details on their life together and their children are in the previous blog entry. Fannie clearly loved Paul and never remarried. She moved to Miami in 1952 to live with her daughter Dorothy, but when she died her body was flown back to Spokane to be buried next to Paul in Mount Nebo Cemetery. View Fannie Davis's obituary in the Spokane Daily Chronicle. 
Their children were:
1. Jennie Wexler (b.1893 in Manhattan; d.1984 in Portland, OR) [stepdaughter]
2. Jack [Samuel] Davis (b.1896 in Manhattan; d.1951 in Spokane, WA), a World War I veteran, insurance salesman and real estate agent in Bend, OR.
3. Morris Davis (b.1898 in Manhattan; d.1989 in Bainbridge Island, WA), a clothing store owner in Spokane and later Portland.
4. Bessie Lillian [Rebecca] Davis (b.1900 in Manhattan; d.1995 in Miami, FL), an outspoken saleswoman, who first eloped and married Nathaniel Karasov (1895-1977), a British-born salesman, in 1918 in Coeur d'Alene, ID. Then in 1978, she married Lou Krutt, a retired pots and pans manufacturer.
5. Florence Fraser Daly (b.1904 in Manhattan; d.2001 in San Francisco, CA)
6. Dorothy Berg (b.1905 in Milwaukee; d.1991 in Santa Ana, CA)
7. Esther Kaplan (b.1913 in Spokane, WA; d.2002 in Queens, NY)

Abraham "Abe" Scher (b. June 15, 1881 in Lodz, Poland; probably d.1949 in New York), a clothes fitter and then a grocery store worker, was married at Manhattan's City Hall in 1910 to Regina Epstein (b.1885; probably d.1949 in New York; daughter of Samuel and Esther Epstein). They lived in the Bronx and then White Plains, NY, and their children were:
1. Gertrude Scher (1910-1951), who attended college and was first married in 1930 to William Pollack (b.1900). She got divorced and then married the chemist Jack J. Bulloff (1914-2002) and had one son, Eric Bulloff.
2. Seymour Scher (1922-1976) married and had a family.


Three "nephews" of Anna Scher lived in Paterson, according to her grandson, Charlie Feitlowitz. These men, who Charlie called his "uncles," were probably Samuel Brummer, Nathan Greenbaum, and Samuel Sanders. Their exact relation to Szmul Szer's family is not yet known. 

Sol Brummer, who was probably a cousin or close relative of Anna Brumer Scher, married Celia Greenbaum, and they had at least one son:

Samuel [Shy-Schluma] Brummer (1874-1945), a housepainter who lived in the Bronx. He married Katie [Keile] Sandberg (1879-1956) in Poland, lived in England by 1902 and the USA by 1905. They had four children:
1. Thelma "Debbie" Brummer (1900-2000), who married Bernard Moroz (1892-1972).
2. Abraham "Al" Brummer (1902-1978), who married Mathilda Hess (1907-2000).
3. Mildred Brummer (1905-1965), who died unmarried.
4. Ceil Brummer (b.1908), who married in 1941 Catello Santaniello (1911-1987). 

Another Greenbaum family had at least three children:
1. Nathan [Nachem] Greenbaum (b.1878), a silk worker and metal fabric maker who married Lillian Miller [Leye Mulchatski] (1882-1973) in Lodz in 1904. They immigrated later that year and lived in Paterson, NJ. They had five children: 
1a. Isabel Aretsky (1905-1991)
1b. Dorothy Korman (1906-2010)
1c. Ruth Harelick (1911-1985)
1d. Abraham Greenbaum (b.1917)
1e. Shirley Greenbaum (b.1922)
2. Hanna [Greenbaum] Denna (b.1882)
3. Freida [Greenbaum] Goldberg (b.1885 in Lodz), who immigrated in 1906.

The Sender family (later Americanized to "Sanders") had at least four sons:

Simon Sanders [Szaia Sender] (b.1869 in Strykow; d.1942) was a tailor who married Katie [Yetta] Brandt (1869-1948) in Lask, Poland in 1890. They first immigrated to London around 1902, then came to Paterson, NJ in 1929. They had five surviving children:
1. Abraham Sanders (1891-1953)
2. William Wolf Sanders (1896-1940)
3. Hyman Sanders (b.1896)
4. Leslie [Lazarus] Sanders (b.1901)
5. Sarah Rosen (b.1903) 

Samuel Sanders (1875-1931), a silk warper, married Millie Berlach (b.1878) and immigrated first from Poland to England around 1903 and then to the United States around 1905 and settled in Paterson, NJ. They had four children:
1. Maurice Sanders (1902-1967), an assistant district attorney
2. Dina Sanders (1903-1953), who died unmarried. 
3. Anna Sanders (b.1906)
4. Joseph Sanders (b.1908)

Gedaly [Gdalya] Sanders (b.1880) immigrated in 1909 and lived in the Bronx with his wife, Jennie.

A fourth Sanders brother, Barnet, was living in London by 1929.

Questions? Comments? Email me at ruedafingerhut [at]


  1. My name is Scherr.
    My ancestors came from Lvov (Poland, and actual Ukrain).
    I think there might be a link between the Scher family and the Scherr.
    I am curious to find out if we share (!) the same ancestors.
    My grand grand father was Markus Scherr.

  2. I just sent you a private e-mail (to your Gmail account) about the Fingerhuts, but wanted to mention that the H mtDNA could be further refined to see which specific haplogroup it is. As long as the sample is still good, they can drill down for more information. (For the record, my mtDNA is HV5, very typical of Jews from what's now Lithuania; other Jewish women in my family - with a different maternal line, of course - are K.)

  3. Hello! My name is Jennifer Sanders and I am writing this with my grandfather Gerald Feinberg. He is the son of Fritzi (Freida) Feitlowitz and the first cousin of Martin Feitlowitz, with whom you have been in contact. My grandfather's uncle is Uncle Charlie (Charles Feitlowitz). We would love to discuss our family roots with you. We are blown away by the information you have provided us and would love to learn more. Please email me at