Photo of Hardware Store

My great-grandfather's hardware store

My great-grandmother Rose grew up in a small village in the Pale of Settlement. Her family was poor, and though she frequently dreamt of coming to America, she had no means by which to escape her shtetl life. Yet, by some miracle, a neighbor fell violently ill just days before she was supposed to leave for the United States. Because Rose looked similar enough to the girl who'd gotten sick, she was allowed to take her place on the boat, entering the country illegally using her neighbor's papers. Yet another miracle came when she met my great-grandfather, Abraham, a Jewish immigrant from a neighboring shtetl who'd entered the country a few months earlier. They quickly married, and set out to start a life together.

Neither of my great-grandparents brought anything from the old country with them. In fact, I know very little of their early lives, as they both refused to describe any of their time in the shtetl to their children. All I know is that they both arrived in New York City penniless, and managed to build a life for themselves. After years of hard work and saving money, they managed to save enough to open the hardware store pictured here. Although A. Hass Hardware no longer exists, this photo serves as testament to the life my great-grandparents were able to build for themselves. While very little of their original Jewish identity or shtetl upbringing was passed down through the generations, this photo helps to carry on their legacy.

Place(s): Pale of Settlement, New York City

– Jake Goldman

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more