81st street

My family was from Poland and lost many relatives and friends because they were Jewish. I grew up during WWII in London; we slept in a bomb shelter built in our garden. My parents wanted to raise me and my brother safely which meant coming to America. We arrived on the Queen Mary after a 7 day journey in 1950. We first lived in the Stadish Hall- the same block where we now live!-on West 81st Street until we got an apartment on West End Avenue. My father had a company that made bristles for hair and shaving brushes. Interestingly, the bristles came from pigs even though my father, an Orthodox Jew, was kosher. He opened an office in Lower Manhattan. My brother and I were sent to a boarding school in Westchester. We had only gone to Jewish school in London so this was a big change. The first day when we had to attend a church service. I was so nervous and upset that I vomited. My first morning I woke up and lay tefillin, as I had done every day since my bar mitzvah. My roommate, Bruce, ran out and told the Dorm Master that "the English kid just put boxes on his head." The Master explained to Bruce what I was doing. I believe I was the first Jew he had ever met. My father died five years after we arrived. My family tried to sustain the bristle business but we were unable to succeed. Coming to America was a goal for Jewish families in Europe in those days. In England my experiences would have been very narrow because of the closed doors to British society.

Place(s): Poland, London
Year: 1950

Relationship:  Im/migrant who arrived as a child Im/migrant who arrived as a child