One of the reasons most of us wake up in the morning is to make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes this goal leads us to amazing places, and gets us closer to the people of our community. I met Mrs. Rachel Torres several years ago, and together we designed and organized guided tours of the communities of the Rio Grand. She worked then for “Los Caminos del Rio,” and my husband and I owned a tour company. It was a wonderful experience, and many folks learned about life along the historic Rio Grande River thanks to our colaboration.
This year, I reconnected with Rachel once again, for she helped me organize the first Hispanic – Jewish Relations event to be held in the Valley. I’m happy to say the event was very successful thanks to Rachel and several others ( listed below) who were part of the organizing committee. A few days after the event, Rachel shared this account of her life experiences with the Brownsville Jewish community. “I wrote this to thank them,” said Rachel, and I could not have been more thrilled when she authorized me to share with our readers.
TIDBITS w/ JEWISH FRIENDS
Written July 18, 2014 by Rachel Torres
It would be remiss in my part if I didn’t mention these old families that were part of our life while growing up and living in Brownsville and doing some studies on the Hispanic-Crypto Jews reminded me of my many life-time experiences that included these ties. Have had personal contact and friendships with numerous Jewish families as a customer, business contact or other friendships including numerous service and community service organizations.
Some now deceased and identifying as follows:
SARITA RUBINSKY – In my younger years, a playmate of my elementary years and I would play at her home on Adams or Jefferson & 4th Streets. Her Mother would give us cookies while we were at play and I would be the only guest to come over. SIMON RUBINSKY – Her older brother whom I didn’t meet until I married, was a school classmate & buddy of Tony Torres, my brother-in-law. Simon’s wife, Gretta and then owner of Chacharas (many years ago) where my husband bought us our first Czechoslovakian China set. DORA ZANDLER – A former classmate of mine, a Rubinsky cousin that lived in Matamoros and did some studies at Brownsville Jr. High. Her family was part of Matamoros’ merchants with businesses there as well as one stall in the Matamoros market. Married and opened several meat markets by the name of Aurora Meat Markets, I believe. Remember so well that for some reason she left behind a carved pencil box at school and knowing where I could find her, accompanied by my Mother, took it to her at the Matamoros Market, and upon seeing the box immediately said, “Keep it, it is a gift from me.”
While our living in Houston (four years), my husband worked for an insurance company owned by NORMAN, LEONARD & BABE SCHNURR with 20 to 25 fellow workers, mostly all Jews. I worked a short while for Glazer’s Liquors, owned by the MAX GLAZER FAMILY (MAX & NOLAN, son ROBERT) managed and operated by LEONARD ‘Swede’ CERSONSKY and ABE LIEBERMAN (sp) I was in a car pool with Abe’s nephew a native of Galveston, son to a “pioneer” Jewish family of Galveston. Lived in an apartment complex and shared the duplex side by side with JOE & CLAIRE ALTMAN and would share baby sitters (their daughter Jodi with our son, Bobby), also they would use our barbecue pit and would cover with foil so they would kosher cook their meats. We also shared our Christmas tree at our entry way, as Claire considered it as a lovely tradition.
Had personal contact and friendships with numerous other families as a customer, business contact or other closeness via numerous service organizations. Some now deceased and identifying as follows:
SAMMY LADABAUM, a child friend & classmate of my husband from 5th grade to graduation, remain friends, and work together uniting at every Class Reunion or other occasion. Sammy’s family owned and operated THE ALAMO STORE downtown. Sammy’s cousin ISY (ISADORE) COLEMAN, his Dad owned and operated LA FAMOSA STORE, was also a friend and owned a downtown store. Another classmate of mine, Eleanor Wagner, married RABBI HARRY LAWRENCE. Rabbi Lawrence was the first advisor in the first production of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Camille Playhouse of which both my husband and I were part of the cast at both productions. ELKA JAROSS was Yenta at the 2nd “Fiddler” and she and her husband, RICHARD are also our neighbors.
MIKE BEGUM a close, friend of both my husband and myself, was part of a my husband’s coffee group and shared many a story that included stories of the ‘old country’, group met every morning (25 to 30 yrs.) He was owner of THE NEW YORKER. HARRY KATZ owned THE POPULAR STORE while DAVID GELFER owned the shoe department within the store’s premises and later built and operates COUNTRY CASUALS, all the Gelfer off-spring have shared school and other friendships.
RUBEN & BERNICE EDELSTEIN a furniture store owner with his brother, BEN. And daughter JULIE and nephew MORRIS. He is a former mayor and has a well-known respected Edelstein family. My mother-in-law would mention that the older Mr. MORRIS EDELSTEIN, the father of RUBEN & BEN would stay with ANTONIO VALENT, SR. my husband’s Great Grandfather, while selling in the area and spending the night at the Valent home and fish processing warehouse in Point Isabel.
LOS CUATRO REYES (owned by HARRY HOLZMAN, ABRAHAM GALONSKY, ISRAEL LIZKA & ALTER HOLAND), later ALTER HOLAND became owner of TONY ROMA’s RESTAURANTS, of Brownsville & McAllen. Our son had the pleasure of being the realtor involved in his buying the Brownsville location.
A neighbor while living at 17 Papaya, WILLIAM GRESORES, owner of LA PULGA, when out walking/jogging would wave to my husband with the “Hi Compadre” while going by. Coincidentally, we later bought their old home on Palo Grande, designed and built by MANUEL PERELMAN. RACHEL GREENSPAN PERELMAN & husband MANUEL PERELMAN, business friends that still live near us.
ISRAEL & TONI LIZKA, long-time friends, children attended same school with our children, and knew them as owners of businesses in Brownsville.
RALPH FRAPART owner of RALPH’S STORE, married to a Dorfman daughter, girl he met in College, and brother-in-law of Mrs. Wiederman. Son JULES FRAPART (motor-bike-rider of our son, Bobby), niece JUDI FRAPART, a brother of MR. FRAPART and son, LEWIS FRAPART, that owned Tot to Teen Store. The Dorfman’s owned DORFMAN’S JEWELERS, the WIEDERMAN’S, ALICE DORFMAN WIEDERMAN, a classmate of my older brother Martin Recio that frequented her store at HOUSE OF GIFTS to say “Hi” whenever he was in town. All these stores were located at PALM VILLAGE SHOPPING CENTER.
SAM PERL and wife STELLA, a Lay-Rabbi in Brownsville was also known as “Mr. Brownsville”, a Charro Days and Brownsville Chamber Past Presidents. He proudly often referred to Brownsville as the “Venice” Capital as he talked of connecting all the “resacas” and promoting a tourist attraction for Brownsville. His children, son ITO and a daughter/sister as they also attended school with my husband and my brother-in-law, and Brother LEON and wife, Mrs. CORINNE PERL, All owners of PERL BROS. My husband worked for them a short while and my son since has purchased Sam Perl’s homestead at 34 El Retiro Circle Los Ebanos Sub-division about 12 or 13 years ago. Another contact that my husband remembers with admiration while working alongside with him at Perl Bros., was Mr. ELI KOENISBERG, an employee there and a close friend of the Perl’s. Mr. Eli was a very colorful and adorable small stature man of which my husband remembers with fondness. My husband’s family home also was in the Los Ebanos neighborhood, not far from another Jewish gentleman, BEN FRUDENSTEIN, a former City Manager for the City of Brownsville.
LEON WEISBERG & ISAAC RABINOVICH, also Brownsville merchants, LEON is still a neighbor and ISAAC & FAMILY, former neighbors and now living in McAllen. BERNIE & BETTY LEVINE, owners of LA TIENDA AMIGO and another neighbor, the SILVERMAN’S & family, owners of FEDER’S all lived in Palo Verde Subdivision, where we have lived for the past 45 years.
LAWRENCE ‘LARRY” HOLTZMAN, whom we’ve known since Larry was a very young man, he and his red-headed brother would play in front of their store that Larry’s Dad, Mr. Eli and his Uncle owned, known as CENTRAL AUTO SUPPLY. I worked across the street at the old Chamber of Commerce building that shared the building with the Port of Brownsville administrative offices. Larry and my husband were Jaycees and shared many a community project together and remain friends as well as his wife SUSAN. We did business with the JERRY JOKL FAMILY that owned the Palm Village Pharmacy. They had two children, LARRY JOKL, an old and close friend of ours, and his sister GAY JOKL
The respect and kindness was always there. A ‘Neiman Marcus’ portrayal of shopping at its best. Dress and goods were the top of the line during this era and thanks to our many Jewish merchants, we had the finest stores and wares offered to Brownsville residents and shoppers of the entire Rio Grande Valley, Matamoros and the Republic of Mexico.
Is that community closeness at its best or what? Am very proud to note the above. To all my Jewish friends, thank you!
Rachel Torres (956-546-1247, firstname.lastname@example.org
END OF RACHEL’S STORY
After the Hispanic – Jewish Symposium was over, and participants had heard the shared history of these two groups of people, many people approached us to share their stories and to express their gratitude for bringing us closer together.
I also want to thank Elka Jaross, Mary Torres, Rossana and Geoffrey Bogorad, Michele Goldsmith, Larry Holtzman , Lupe Gonzales, and the great folks at the Brownville Convention & Visitors Bureau Mariano – Bean- Ayala and Felix Espinosa. We could not have done this without them.
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