Dov Berel, Elka, LeJa, and Mowsza left Telechan together and presumably they arrived in Antwerp as a group to board a ship for their Atlantic crossing. However, they did not disembark at Ellis Island together. Dov Berel arrived aboard the SS Gothland with his grandson Mowsza on November 8, 1921, 17 days after departing Antwerp on October 23, 1921. Elka, accompanied by her youngest daughter Leja, landed in New York just one day later, November 9, 1921. She and Leja arrived on the SS Finland. The family did not travel as a foursome on the same ship from Antwerp to New York. So… what happened in Antwerp?
What must this separation meant to them? It is not difficult to imagine the anxiety the separation must have created. Under the best of circumstances, the trip, by its very nature, would have been a nerve-wracking adventure. For something to go wrong it could only exacerbate an already traumatic situation. Worse case scenarios would have to include death, rejection and separation. At the point of departure, after traveling a great distance to get to a seaport, my great grand parents were separated from each other and forced to travel across the Atlantic without the support of the one another. Fortunately, each traveled with another member of the family, so they were not alone. They were not sophisticated travelers; rather people who had led confined lives. They were confronted now with conditions both extreme and alien.
Medical examinations were required at the port of embarkation prior to departure. Simultaneously all luggage was fumigated. Passenger laws held the ship line companies financially responsible for rejected immigrants and for their return to the original port. A fine of $100 for every unacceptable passenger could be levied.
Upon arrival at Ellis Island, Elka was immediately sent to the hospital. US Public Health officials determined that she had a contagious disease. At the Immigration hearing, Dov Berel was asked if he knew why his wife was being detained at the hospital. He responded, “There is some trouble with her nails." At the same hearing Herschel was asked why his mother did not travel with his father aboard the same ship. He answered, “My mother and sister arrived too late to board the SS Gothland.” This introduces the possibility that they did not all travel together to Antwerp. I doubt it. The sworn testimony is full of contradictions and inconsistencies.
Elka’s Ellis Island medical certificate reads, “This is to certify that the above mentioned person has this day been examined and is found to be afflicted with ringworm of Nails (TRICHOPHYTOSIS) a loathsome contagious disease”. When asked why she did not accompany her husband Elka responded, “I was operated on my finger nails at Antwerp”. Asked if the operation was a success, Elka answered ‘Yes.' The US Health Service at Ellis Island did not agree.
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