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Davidow Family History, by Wallace Davidow, 1989

Memories, by Dottie Heller, 1989

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100th Anniversary of the Arrival in America of
Daniel Davidow

Out of one little spot....

Arrival in America
Patchogue, The Ancestral Family Home of the Davidows
The Seven Children
Death of the First Generation
The Third Generation (cousins)
The Fourth Generation (second cousins)
The Fifth Generation (third cousins
The Sixth Generation
Greetings to the Davidow Family 200th Anniversary

From Verchaglad to Davidow--100 Years

Chapter I. ORIGINS

Early in the year 1858 Jacob Verchaglad and his wife were blessed with a son whom they named Duvid Ben Yaakov. The name Duvid followed many generations of the family who have borne that name going back to biblical times when King David ruled Israel. Verchaglad was a Jewish Ukrainian name meaning "looking up". In 1860 a daughter, named Etel, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Rikowski who lived in the same small village of Zvenigorodka in the heart of the Ukraine, sixty miles from the nearest small city of Cherkassy on the Dnieper River, and even further from the capital at Kiev, ninety miles to the northeast.

Modern Ukraine, showing Zvenigorodka

A modern encyclopedia written in Ukrainian tells us that Zvenigorodka is today a town and county seat in the Cherkassy region of the Ukraine, located on the Predeprovsk Hills above the Ghiloi Tikich River (now called the Uman River) in the Bug River Valley. It is seven kilometers from Zvenigorodka Castle and boasts a population of 15,000 as of 1989. The town appeared during the time of Kievan Russia. For years it was ruled by Poland. It was attacked in 1737, and in 1743 Zvenigorodka castle was stormed and captured. In 1792 the town was placed under Magdeburg rule. After the second partition of Poland in 1793 that part of the Ukraine located on the right bank of the Dnieper River was incorporated into Russia. Russia, a country that did not permit the entrance of Jews suddenly by the partition of Poland found itself with millions of them. In the 20th Century, the people of Zvenigorodka took part in the 1918 uprising. During World War II partisans in the area participated in actions against the Nazis. The town has (among other things) two fruit preserves factories, a professional-technical school, a sanitarium, movie theater and two clubs.

The area from Poland through the Ukraine to Sevastopol was known as The Pale. Jews who had fled the holy land ever since the fall of Rome were permitted to live in small villages or ghettos known as shtetls throughout this area. Jews began to settle in the Cherkassy Region at the end of the 16th century when the Ukraine was in the middle of colonizaton but because of an uprising and the following unrest and pogroms, there were no signs of Jews until the 18th century when they began to reappear. The census of 1765 lists 171 Jews. They had brought with them from the ancient Kingdom of Israel their laws and traditions, their literature and philosophy, as well as their Hebrew religion. They were not permitted to attend Russian schools, but created their own known as the Cheder (Hebrew for "room"), pronounced with the gutteral "kh" sound unknown to the English Language. Their conversational language was Yiddish, a Teutonic tongue originating in Europe after the Diaspora (the dispersion of the Jews). The formal language of the "schule," the place of worship, remained Hebrew, and religion played an important and integral part of daily life. The 1897 census states that there were 30,000 inhabitants, of whom 11,000 were Jewish.

No one could have planned, predicted, or even guessed when Duvid Verchaglad was born, that while far away in a very different land, a great war would rage to decide the fate of a nation, local events were being directed toward the creation of an important American family. In 1881 the Czar of Russia was assassinated, and in his place rose a new Czar who like the Pharoah of old "knew not Joseph." He was unfriendly to Jews and initiated violence towards them reminiscent of modern Nazis.

It was in the early 1880s that Duvid Verchaglad and Etel Rikowski were married in Zvenigorodka. At that time marriages were arranged by the families and this could have been the case. The dates of birth of their children are steeped in legend. The month and year were arbitrarily chosen from the Hebrew calendar which is based on the movements of the moon. The year was whatever they chose it to be. A close proximity would be that their first child, named Edil (rymes with needle) was born about 1885. Another child was lost before birth about 1886 or 1887. The next child was born in 1888 and named Minya. Two important facts are significant at this time. The very best friend of Duvid, burdened by the pogroms of the Czar against the Jews, left Zvenigorodka and emigrated to America. The second was that Duvid Verchaglad had lost an eye. How, no one knows, but it happened and all of his life, his eyelids for one eye were closed around an empty socket. Grandchildren were told that he hit it on the corner of a table. Children were told that drops were put into his eye to escape service in the army of the Czar and that an infection developed. In those days Jewish families were required to give up the eldest son at the age of 7 for service in the Czar's army for a period of 15 years. In any event there is a strong probability that this fact played a role in the motivation to leave Russia.

Most of the immigrant Jews arriving in America settled on the east side of New York City. Some of them, however, walked the railroad tracks as far as they could in one day and settled in small villages like those from which they came. One day in Zvenigorodka, Duvid Verhchaglad received a letter from his friend who had gone to America. His friend described life in Breslau, a small village on Long Island 35 miles from New York City. It is not an easy thing to leave the land of one's ancestors and all one's relatives and friends, and go to a land of strangers where a strange language is spoken, leaving behind a pregnant wife and three small children. Nevertheless, for reasons which motivated thousands of others like him, Duvid Verchaglad left the small village of Zvenigorodka (translation Little Spot) and travelled across the breadth of Europe to Hamburg, Germany, where he boarded a ship bound for New York City.




Battery Park

Although it was originally thought that the year was 1889, we now believe that it is more likely to have been the spring of 1890 when he arrived at the famous building in Battery Park in the lower part of Manhattan which had been the magnificent opera house in which the Swedish Nightingale, Jennie Lind, had sung, and which was known as Castle Gardens. It had now become the center for arriving immigrants. We have been told that there was an expression among the immigrants living in this country "It's a Kessal Gadden." This expression meant that something was very confusing. Later the building became the New York Aquarium until it was demolished to make way for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. It may have been here that the name Verchaglad disappeared. It is difficult to imagine a New York Immigration Clerk, with thousands of immigrants to process, bothering with trying to spell a name like Verchaglad. He was probably familiar with russian and slavic endings and turned the first name of Duvid into an anglicized Davidow, (perhaps originally pronounced Davidov) and this then became his surname. He is quoted as having said that he did not want the name of David Davidow and changed his first name to Daniel. Thus he emerged as Daniel Davidow, the name meaning "son of David" in honor of the biblical king and his first name another honored in biblical history. From Castle Gardens he went immediately to Breslau (since renamed Lindenhurst) to meet his friend. Thus at the age of 32 Daniel Davidow arrived in America.

arrival in

For two years he worked as a peddler. Nothing is known of his wares, but presumably they were fresh fruits and vegetables. He also bought stale bread to sell to the duck farmers. Whether he pushed the cart himself or had the help of a horse at that time is not known, but whatever it was, he saved his money and sent it back to Zvenigorodka for passage to America for Etel, Edil, Minya, Arev and the new arrival, Laben. In 1892 they departed for America. It must have been a poignant scene when they left Zvenigorodka. They travelled by horse and wagon with their belongings 12 kilometers to the Zvenigorodka railroad station. From there they would have gone to Kiev, from Kiev to Moscow, and from Moscow to Hamburg. A long ocean voyage followed before they sighted the Statue of Liberty and disembarked at Castle Gardens, Etel (now Ethel) carrying her baby Laben, followed by 7 year old Edil, 4 year old Minya, and 2 year old Arev, clutching her long skirt.

They rented a house in the village next to Breslau, known as Bayshore. There they lived next door to a family named Southerd. The Southerds had a daughter who married into the Read family. Her son was later a coach at Seton Hall High School in Patchogue, and his son is now the Superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School System. Mr. Southerd told Daniel and Ethel Davidow that the names Edil, Minya, Arev and Laben were not proper names in this country. From now on he said, "Edil shall be known as Edward, Minya as Minnie, Arev as Harry, and Laben as Louis", and that is how the Davidow children received their American names. In 1895 "Baby Davidow" (as it reads on the birth certificate) was born in Bayshore and called Isidore.



Chapter III. PATCHOGUE, The Ancestral Family Home of the Davidows

History, or legend, tells us that Daniel Davidow owned a horse and wagon from which he sold his wares. One day in 1895 when travelling from Riverhead to Bayshore, the horse died in Patchogue. Rather than abandon the wagon, and finding the people hospitable, the family moved to Patchogue and continued the business of peddling. Later in 1900 they opened a grocery store known as Davidow's, and located at 165 West Main Street. Ethel baked bread for sale in the store. The building is gone. It was probably in what is now the roadbed of a street which continues West Avenue to the north where it sweeps around a curve to the west joining Lake Street. In back of the store and facing Lake Street was a house which they later bought. The house was on the lake, known as the "mill pond" or Great Patchogue Lake. This part of the lake has since been filled in and the house removed. In 1899 a daughter was born and named Laura, and in 1900 a son named Samuel but called by Laura "Meut" (rymes with put). Legend has it that there was one pregnancy after that which terminated prior to or at birth, and which would have been twins.

In this household, Ethel Davidow raised her seven children. They grew up attending Patchogue schools. Daniel Davidow was one of the founders of the Synogogue in 1903. Prior to that they worshipped at Jewish services held at the Methodist Church and later in the Lyceum, a theatre on Lake Street. That site is now occupied by dilapidated apartments. When they arrived to settle in Patchogue, there were two Jewish families already there. The Cohn family had arrived in 1879. They paved the way because Mrs. Cohn came from England and spoke the language. One of their children, Len Cohn, recently died at the age of 96. The second family was Shapiro, whose daughter Ida, once dated Harry. Eventually, the Shapiro family left Patchogue. It is a family legend that a man named Buckley owed $200 to Daniel Davidow for stale bread which he bought from the grocery to feed his pigs. In return for this debt in 1911 he gave three acres of ground on Buckley Road to a Not-for-Profit corporation organized by Daniel Davidow and others and known as Patchogue Hebrew Cemetery Association, Inc. It is in this cemetery that Daniel Davidow, Ethel Davidow, and six of the seven children and those of their spouses who are deceased are buried. Meut is buried with his wife, Buelah (Billie), in Forest Lawn Park, Glendale, California.

In 1917, the Davidow family was called upon to serve their new country in World War I. Edward Davidow operated a grocery store in Amagansett. From there he enlisted, joined the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Force) and became a pilot of a "flying coffin" in France. On the Amagansett Green near the Amagansett firehouse, there is a large boulder to which a bronze plaque is affixed. The name of Edward Davidow is on it. In a recently published book on the History of Amagansett, there is a drawing of the store which he operated in 1916 and a picture of him in his World War I uniform. He served in the 21st Aerosquadron with the rank of Sergeant, which was the rank given to flyers in those days. He is a part of American history. The actual structure still exists and has been converted to a house on Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett. Louis Davidow served under Pershing in the trenches of France. Meut enlisted at the age of 17 but never left the United States. Izzy stayed to take care of the store and Harry was rejected because of poor eyesight.




Edward Davidow went into the restaurant business. He operated diners, restaurants, and catering establishments, including Grumman's ball park, and stock-car racing stadia. At one time he operated a tavern in Patchogue where it is said he was his own "bouncer." In 1916 he owned a grocery store in Amagansett. In 1926, he married Rose Hochheiser and resided most of his life in Freeport. He and Rose worked side by side in their business ventures. During World War II Eddie had a hot dog stand outside of Grumman Aircraft in Bethpage. For some years he had the concessions at the Freeport Midget Auto Races. Later he had the concession at the Riverhead Raceway. They have one daughter, Danielle, the youngest of the thirteen cousins, born in 1940. Edward died December 29, 1964.

Minnie Davidow said she was 5 when she came to this country. Her father told her that he brought his family to America so that they could be raised free of oppression. She described to her children the hard trip and the hard life of immigrants at the bottom rung of the ladder. She was bright, spirited and imaginative. While her formal education was meager, she had drive, ability, energy and a love of life. She found employment in a clothing store on the lower east side of New York City. In those years, they used "puller inners" who steered the customers into the store. Once they were in, Minnie--a "cracker jack" saleswoman--could sell to them. Minnie Davidow, known to her friends as "Miss Patchogue", married Samuel Girshoff in 1911. He had escaped from Russia via friends and the underground. Although he spoke seven languages, he was limited in English. Minnie had a singing voice with operatic potential and they met at a social gathering where the friendly and talented Minnie captivated the shy and introverted young Sam. They had four children, Paul, Dorothy, Cecil, and Ruth. While Minnie was pregnant with the youngest, they bought a piece of property known as "The Olympia." From the sale of this they purchased 70 West Main Street where they built a store for the sale of men's clothing with a "railroad" flat behind it. While Minnie took care of the store, Sam operated a travelling horse and wagon selling mens working clothes. Sam spent so much time taking care of his horse that Minnie felt guilty for wishing it when the horse finally broke a leg. After that Sam learned to drive a motor vehicle in a plodding 20 miles an hour fashion.

Minnie worked hard to secure her children an education. She was the kind of person who made things happen. From her busy kitchen she held court, gave people advice, arranged marriages, and acted as Representative of the Long Island Railroad. She is remembered as a colorful, dynamic little lady.

Harry A. Davidow, graduated Patchogue High School in 1907. He then went to New York City where he attended NYU for one year and then worked as a law clerk for an attorney named Koppelman for four years, after which he took and passed the New York State Bar Examination, opening his own office in Patchogue in 1913. It was during this period that Minnie was working in the city and became friendly with a family named Kirshberg. It so happened that Minnie Girshoff and Herman Kirshberg's wife, Esther (Katz) gave birth at the same time in the same hospital to daughters, Dorothy Girshoff and Muriel Kirshberg. Harry married Rae Kirshberg in 1918. Rae's sister, Rose, continued to work in New York City where she eventually owned her own business. Harry and Rae had two children, Sanford in 1919 and Wallace in 1923.

Harry was the first Jewish attorney in Suffolk County. He was a strong Democrat and held office for a time as Assistant District Attorney. He was a President of Temple Beth El in Patchogue and active in the Chamber of Commerce and other community affairs. In 1948 Sanford joined with Harry in the law firm of Davidow and Davidow which Wallace joined in 1952. Harry died in 1954 at the age of 64. Sanford retired in 1980 but in 1986 Lawrence (son of Wallace) became associated with the firm. The firm continues to this date as Davidow, Davidow & Wismann.

Louis B. Davidow was happy-go-lucky, even when times were bad. He always had a joke to tell, a smile on his face, and never had a bad word to say about anybody. When World War I started, Lou and Ed went down to the Recruiting Center and enlisted in the Army. When he came home, he opened a clothing store in Southampton and made money and friends. He and his brother Ed drew straws to see who would date May Klein of Sag Harbor. Louie won and that date led to others. He married May in 1923. They had two children, Phyllis and Jerome. They moved all over Long Island, Sag Harbor, Southampton, Westhampton Beach, and eventually Mineola, where he owned and operated a wholesale meat business. He operated many luncheonettes and the Freeport Pool. Many of his nieces asked him to M.C. their weddings which he did in his usual entertaining manner. For many years he operated a luncheonette in Hempstead known as "Marty's." He died in 1967 at the age of 76.

Isidore Davidow was born in Bayshore on June 10, 1895. a very personable, quiet, loving and easy-going man, perhaps a bit more serious than Ed, Lou or Minnie. He married Frieda Fergang on October 23, 1927 in Brooklyn, having met her at her brother's Ocean Avenue Hotel in Patchogue. They had two children, Robert and Janet. They lived in Brooklyn with Frieda's parents during the Great Depression but came to Patchogue regularly. He also went into the restaurant business and operated many fine restaurants, catering establishments and diners. Later they bought a home in Freeport near Eddie. He lived to be the last survivor of the seven children, the Dean of the Davidow family. Isidore died in 1982 at the age of 87.

Laura Davidow was born in Patchogue on June 12, 1899. She was graduated from Patchogue High School, went to Secretarial School, and became a legal secretary. After working in New York for a while, she met and married Max Gudis, of Newark, New Jersey, on October 11, 1929. While residing in Newark, a son, Richard, was born. They returned to Patchogue in 1933 and lived on Lake Street. In 1934 a second son, Harvey was born. They moved to Maple Avenue where they resided until 1952. They eventually moved to Huntington about 1961 where Laura died in 1974 at the age of 75. She was a sweet, kind, and affectionate woman who had a calm nature. She was soft spoken and very intelligent.

Meut Davidow (Samuel) had the misfortune of having rheumatic fever as a child, which affected his heart and shortened his life. Early in the Depression he went to California but could not make a living there. He went into the restaurant business on Long Island and operated diners very successfully. He was very handsome and broke many hearts. At the age of 38 he married a nurse who was working for him during the day as a waitress. She was 10 years older than he and named Beulah. She preferred to be called "Billie," and is remembered by some members of the family with great affection. They had no children, although she had had children by a former marriage. After World War II they moved to Van Nuys, California where he operated a drive-in restaurant. Meut died in 1952 and is buried with Billie in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.




Daniel Davidow closed the grocery store in 1920. He became a real estate broker with the assistance of his son Harry. He died of the afflictions of age at 77 in 1935. Ethel continued to live with Laura and Mac. Her favorite expression was "Richard Be Good." She died of the infirmities of age at 81 in 1941 just before the onslaught of World War II. It is said that either Ethel Davidow or Daniel Davidow had a first cousin named Ida whose married name was Sargoy. Ida was a frequent visitor to family gatherings. She had three daughters. One of them married Ben Abrams who later became the Chairman of the Board of the Emerson Corporation, America's largest manufacturer of small radios. Another, named Belle Kobre, was also a visitor at family get-togethers.

Only one other relative of Ethel Davidow is known. He was Misha Burns, the son of a sister. He lived in Baldwin, next to Freeport, and was consistently included with the family during the 1930s. He lived with his wife, Jean, her sister, "Bee," and his daughter, Lillian. During World War II they moved to Los Angelos California where he changed his name to Michael Burton.



Chapter VI. THE THIRD GENERATION (cousins)

From the original immigrants, there are thirteen cousins. They are:

  1. Danielle Davidow Cohen
  2. Paul Davidow Girshoff
  3. Dorothy Girshoff Heller
  4. Cecil Girshoff Rennick
  5. Ruth Girshoff Stern
  6. Sanford Davidow
  7. Wallace Davidow
  8. Phyllis Davidow Goldberg
  9. Jerome Davidow
  10. Robert Davidow
    Isidore and Frieda Davidow at wedding of Robert and Lila Davidow, 1954
  11. Janet Davidow Bacon
  12. Richard Gudis
  13. Harvey Gudis



Chapter VII. THE FOURTH GENERATION (second cousins)

The thirteen cousins have produced 33 second cousins (31 of which are still living). Those who were born when this list was made in 1989 were (to update this list, send e-mail to Ari Davidow, ari@davidow.org:

Children of Danielle and Philip (Buzzy) Cohen:
Sheryl Richter, Robert Cohen, and Elyssa Cohen

Children of Paul and Sarah Girshoff:
Barbara Green and David Girshoff

Children of Dorothy and Sam Heller:
David Heller, Elaine Zeller*, and Karen Stone

Children of Cecil Girshoff (now married to Dan Rennick)
Daniel Marcus and Samra Kanter

Children of Ruth and Ralph Stern:
Larry Stern and Alan Stern

Children of Sanford and Saundra Davidow
Arline Shaffer, Michele Kahn, and Harry A. Davidow

Children of Wallace and Norma Davidow
Lawrence Davidow, Ronald Davidow*, and Tammi Davidow

Children of Phyllis and Malcolm Goldberg
Bruce Goldin, Susan McClellan, and Michelle (Shelly) Lerner

Children of Jerome and Binnie Davidow
Soni Davidow and Danielle Davidow Straus

Childen of Robert and Lila Davidow
Ari Davidow, Moshe Davidow, and Rachel Davidow

Children of Janet and Robert Bacon
Roanne Bacon, Craig Bacon, and Linda Bacon

Children of Richard and Sarah Gudis
Claudia Figbey, Mary Gudis, Suzanne Chapman, Jennifer Callaghan, Richard Gudis II, and Diedra Gudis

* Deceased



Chapter VIII. THE FIFTH GENERATION (third cousins)

The 33 second cousins have so far produced many third cousins. Those who were born when this list was made in 1989, with far-too-few updates since, were (to update this list, send e-mail to Ari Davidow, ari@davidow.org:

Children of Barbara and Richard Green:
Elliot and Emily

Children of David and Nancy Heller
Mindy and Kim

Children of Elaine and David Zeller
Manya, Mordecai, and Esther

Children of Karen and Richard Stone
Zachary and Evan

Children of Daniel and Carol Marcus
Jonathan and Lisa

Children of Samra and Philip Kanter
Eric, Glen, and Adam

Children of Arline and Norman Shaffer
Lauren, Holly, and Jeffrey (Chip)

Children of Michele and Thomas Kahn
Andrew, Elizabeth, and Victoria

Child of Bruce and Wendy Goldin

Child of Susan and Robert McClellan

Children of Elyssa & Paul Kornberg
Jonah and Grayson Rey

Children of Moshe and Zahava Davidow
Lili, Ohad, and Orr

Child of Rachael Davidow

Children of Craig and Linda Bacon
Jeremy, Alex, and Dana

Child of Linda Bacon and Anne Coyle
Isaac Bacon Coyle

Children of Lawrence and Debra Davidow
Nicholas was born January 24, 1994. Ryan Alexander was born September 8, 1995. Rebecca Hope was born in November of 1997.

Children of Harry A. and Jeanny Davidow
The three children are Daniel Jon Davidow born June 28, 1991, Arielle Rowena Davidow born September 4, 1994 and Zoe Madelyn Davidow born April 19, 1998.

Children of Danielle and Sammy Straus
Our four children are Rachel Straus born 4/14/96, Yonatan (not Jonathan) Straus born 4/25/97, Aryeh Straus born 4/5/99, and Michal Straus born 8/3/00.




Children of Kimberly Heller Wendell and Douglas Barrett Wendell
Madeline Reese Wendell and Chloe Francis Wendell




The following is to be read to the family gathering at the 200th Anniversary in the year 2089:

It is 100 years since the Davidow Family met for the 100th Anniversary of the arrival of Daniel Davidow in America. This gathering is probably organized by the fourth and fifth cousins, being the Sixth and Seventh generations. A few of the third cousins, now over 100 years of age, could still be living, due to advances in medical science. The gathering should be about 500 people. The furthest generation can probably trace their ancestry back to many villages in many countries. We hope that all are self sufficient, productive individuals, who follow the philosophy that the reward for the good life is the good life. We hope that they are dedicated, as we are, to family, community, and country. In the Patchogue Hebrew Cemetery in Holtsville, New York, in the Davidow Family Plot, you will find a time capsule buried under the stone marked 100th. It contains artifacts of our family. It should not be opened before 2089.

Some of you in your lifetime may visit the little village of Zvenigorodka and reflect on how far we have come from our humble origins, and how wise and courageous were our forebears, Daniel and Ethel Davidow, who founded this great family.

Written by Wallace Davidow, WDavidDow@peconic.net for the 1989 family reunion celebrating the 100th anniversary of the arrival in America of Daniel Davidow, and updated by Ari Davidow as information arives.



Thank you for visiting: http://www.davidow.org/archives/history.html
Page copyright © 2000 by Ari Davidow, ari@ivritype.com . All rights reserved. Contributions by descendents of Daniel and Ethel Davidow requested! Last revised 11 October, 2003.