Sara was the third of Dov Berel and Elka’s seven children, the oldest of their three daughters.  She was born in 1888 and died of ‘acute ascending myelitis’ on May 4, 1924 at the age of 36 leaving her husband, Louis Shapiro, and five young children (David, Eva, Fanny, Joseph, Eunice) ranging in age from 4-13.

Sara came to America shortly after her brother, Herschel, who in 1906 was the original Eisenberg to immigrate.  She was the first of many family members that Herschel helped bring to the US.  Twenty-year-old Sara arrived in New York on June 7, 1908 after a 12-day trip from Hamburg, Germany aboard the S.S. Blucher of the Hamburg-American Line.  The ships manifest[1] shows her name spelled EISENBERG, her marital status –single, her occupation-seller, and unaccompanied by another family member.  New York is listed as her final destination.

Sara met and married her husband, Louis Shapiro, in the US.  Their first child, David, was born in 1911.  Fourteen months later came Eva, 23 months after her came Fanny, than Joey after a almost 4 year hiatus and finally Eunice  (birth date unknown.)

After her untimely death, the family was unable to stay together.  Apparently Louis Shapiro tried but was incapable of managing the responsibility of caring for 5 children and earning a livelihood. The resulting breakup remains a source of sadness and debate to this day.  Some ask how this could have been allowed to occur.  Others suggest that we cannot comprehend the times, the poverty and how hard life was.  After some temporary arrangements, the children were placed at the local Jewish orphanage.  Some of them were to spend many years there.  Two of the children, Fanny and Eunice, became permanently separated from their siblings and the rest of the family.   Joseph Shapiro, the second youngest of the children, referred to them his “lost family.[2]"

The Hebrew (Women’s) Home for Children in Hartford, originally called The Hebrew Ladies Orphan Asylum, was established in 1910 as a residential care facility for dependent children.  It was housed in a small building on Wooster St.[3] in the rear of the Arsenal School.  In 1919, the Home was moved to 142 Fairfield Avenue.  No doubt, this is where the Shapiro children were placed.  No records exist of the time that the Shapiro children were at the Home.


The youngest child, Eunice, was about 4 years old at the time of her mother’s death.  A family named Segal adopted her. My parents were in communication with her in 1946, for Eunice and her adoptive mother (Celia) attend my Bar Mitzvah in Boston.  I’m told that same year, that Connecticut probate records indicate she received some money from the estate of her father, Louis.  At the time, she was reputed to be living in Ipswich Ma.  I checked records in that town and found no evidence of her having lived there.  Some members of the Eisenberg extended family are eager to locate her, but there is no additional information as to her whereabouts.  She would be about 77 years old, probably have a marriage name, and may not even be alive. But…What if she is alive and what of her children?

Contrary to what is stated above, Evelyn Shapiro, widow of Joey Shapiro, told me[4] that the Segal family never legally adopted Eunice.  She  ‘boarded’ with them, and used their surname.  Evelyn further informed me that the Segals were relatives of Fannie Nirenstein, wife of Herschel Eisenberg and mother to Libby Medrich.  Evelyn said that at the time of Sara’s death, Eunice, then 4 years old, was considered too young for the orphanage.  They would not accept her.  Libby Medrich has no memory of any of this.


The middle daughter, Fanny, born August 20, 1914 was 10 years old at the time of her mother's death.  She lived with her siblings at the orphanage for approximately 4 years.   She too went to live with a family.  In her case, she was ‘taken in’ by Sara Suisman a ‘well to do’ widow whose own four children were grown.  Mrs. Suisman volunteered at the orphanage, taking children, Fanny among them, for outings.    She became attached to Fanny and wanted to provide a home for her.  Louis Shapiro evidently consented.  Like her sister Eunice, Fanny was never legally adopted by Sara Suisman, but assumed the Suisman family name.  Originally, I was told that Louis Shapiro allowed Eunice to be adopted but not Fanny.  Now it appears that neither of the girls was legally adopted.  Although Fanny continued to live in the Hartford area, she either was discouraged from or did not want to have any contact with her biological family.  Considering her age at the time of the family breakup, one can understand the feelings that must have affected and remained with her.  Eunice was only 4 years old at the time of her ‘adoption’ and as difficult as that transition must have been, she certainly became much less conscious of it as the years went by.  Not so for Fanny.

Judy (Kaplan) Kulick is the daughter of Fanny Shapiro/Suisman/ Kaplan.  She and her sister Debora were never told of their mother's family of origin.  On a visit to Israel in 1974 Judy found out.  Here’s how it happened.

Excerpt from Abe Marder’s 1974 letter to Joe Shapiro written from Hadera 

"I was invited to Jerusalem to meet some 50 Hartforders that came for 10 days to visit Israel and there I found.......... your sister's daughter and her husband.... with the group...very fine people.  I figure it would be very nice if you and Evelyn would invite them to you or call them up...they are very interested in their you know their mother never told them anything...she (Judy Kulik) asked me a lot of questions.  I promised to get them in touch with my children and you

Excerpt from material written by Alice Mileikowsky 

I have a story about the Eisenberg family in the U.S. during the Depression years.  My Aunt Sara (my mother's older sister) was married to Louis Shapiro, who was a house painter.  Shortly after the birth of their fifth child my Aunt died.  My sister Sara (Marder/Plen) was named after her. Because times were so very hard, Louis put all five of the kids in a Jewish Orphans home.  The baby, Eunice, was adopted almost immediately.  I was about four years old at the time.  The three oldest children, David, Joey, and Eva were at our house every day.  They ate and played with us.  They were not adopted.  The second youngest[5] child, Fanny, was taken in by a family in West Hartford but was not adopted by them.  She lived with them until she married.  Fanny had two daughters, Judy (Kulick) and Debora (Polivy).  She never told them about her biological family.  She was a very angry person. She would have nothing to do with us, her family.  Joey tells a short, funny story about Fanny.  He used to spent time in Puerto Rico, in the years that we first came here.  He usually stayed at the San Juan Hotel.  One day he and his wife, Evelyn, were lying on the sand beach and someone stepped on him.  It was his sister Fanny.  She said "sorry," looked at him, recognized him, said "Hi," and walked away.

 "I had asked my mother a few times why no one in the family took the baby, Eunice.  She said that the father (Louis Shapiro) was a very stubborn man and he refused.  I think that was a very bad thing to do; it's so sad for the family."


Judy Kulick and her family attended the First Eisenberg Family Reunion held at the Sheraton Tara Hotel in Framingham Mass. in April 1988.  There she met, for the first time, her only living uncle, Joey Shapiro, her mother's younger brother.  Additionally she met dozens of cousins she had never known.  This was done without the knowledge of her mother.  Here are some of Judy’s reactions to that evening:

“What a night that was for me! A real turning point in my life.  I remember driving to the reunion…why was I doing this?  What would it be like?  I remember spending an inordinate amount of time in the ladies room, then realizing I had to face this family.  I finally left the ladies room and bumped into Sharon Chason whom, thank G-d I had met before.  She took me to the reunion room.  I remember meeting Alice (Mileikowsky) who immediately started bossing me around.  I felt right at home; the Suismans always ordered us around.  As the evening progressed I felt wonderful.  It was magical!  I finally felt at home and feel that way more intensely each time I’m with the family.”                                            


I did not know Joey Shapiro very well.  We met at the family reunion and previously at other family functions. He was a nice man. I approached him about writing something about the Shapiro family.  He said he did not feel comfortable in writing and indicated that he would rather talk in person.  He never made it to the Reunion at which we agreed to meet.  He died tragically in an auto accident in 1993.  What I remember most about Joey was that whenever we met he inevitably told me the same story of my father visiting him at the orphanage.  Joey spent many years at the orphanage.  He was about age 7 when he entered and lived there for the next 10 years.  It seemed that my Dad visited frequently, if not weekly.  What impressed Joey most, besides the visits themselves, was that my father, a teenager at the time, would take the time to do such a thing.  I always looked forward to hearing that story from Joey.  Joe’s wife, Evelyn said, that he often spoke of outings from the orphanage with Uncle Abe Marder and Maishel (my father, Morris).  Evelyn met Joey after he left the orphanage.

The following information about Louis Shapiro is taken from a letter dated November 22, 1921 written by a HIAS representative to the US Secretary of Labor on behalf of ‘ the alien’ Elka Ajzenberg.  She had been refused entry into the US because of a condition referred to as ‘ringworm of the nails.’  The letter was a petition for hospital treatment.  Louis Shapiro along with Herschel and Ryfka are listed as ‘rich, blood relatives who are prepared to do everything by the family’…so that no one will ‘ever become a public charge’.


"Sara Shapiro married to Lebe Shapiro"
"Mr. Shapiro of Canada St. Hartford Conn. a United States citizen, son-in-law earns $45.00 week as a house painter, and has $1000 cash.”

At an October 1996 meeting with Libby Medrich in Connecticut she spoke of visiting the Shapiros on Kennedy St. (probably the Canada St. as noted above).  Her comments are as follows:

            "Sara had a hard life; they were very poor      
             Sara always looked sad; she died of spinal meningitis 
             When she died, Louis could not take care of the children"

Libby remembered that her mother took them (the 5 children) in for a short while into their home. She was unclear how long they stayed with them.  It may have been only a few days.  Louis eventually remarried; she did not know the details        

Libby thinks Eva looked like Sara.

In a 1995 book entitled Jewish Cemeteries of Hartford Connecticut, I found the name of a Sara Shapiro born 1888 who died May 4, 1924.  No additional information is provided.  This Sara Shapiro was 36 years old at the time of her death.  This age coupled with the year of death led me to believe that she is Dov Berel and Elka's daughter.  Armed with this information, I applied to the City of Hartford, Bureau of Vital Statistics for a copy of her death certificate.  After being told that they had no such person listed, I eventually was informed that "We have a SADIE SHAPERO -- was born in Poland who died on 5-4-24 married to LOUIS SHAPERO”. A copy of that certificate indicates the primary cause of death was "Acute ascending myelitis-etiology unknown; duration of illness-9 weeks."  The address given is 60 Wooster St. and fathers name OSENBERG.  From other records I know that the first apartment for Dov Berel and Elka was at 62 Wooster St. This coupled with yet another variant spelling of the Eisenberg name makes me virtually certain this is the person I am seeking.  Final verification can be made by visiting her gravesite in the Agudas Achim section of the Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford.  The stone will have the name of her father. (Coincidentally, the person I believe to be my maternal great grandmother is buried in that section.)

[1] Manifest obtained March 4, 1999 from National Archives.

[2] Told to me by Carole (Cookie) Shapiro daughter of Joe and Evelyn Shapiro

[3]Coincidentally, 60 Wooster St. was the Shapiros home address at the time of Sara’s death, and 62 Wooster St. is recorded as the address of the apartment awaiting Dov Berel, Elka, Leha, and my father upon their arrival in the US in 1921. 

[4] At the Eisenberg Family Reunion, June 1997, Windsor, Connecticut

[5] Actually Fanny was the middle child.