Every family has its tales of conflict. One such story in my family concerns the time that Uncle Herschel Eisenberg a.k.a. Harry B. Eisenberg had my father, Morris Eisenberg, summoned before the Bet Din for resolution of a conflict between them. Bet Dins are voluntary arbitration courts established in most Jewish communities to reconcile disagreements among fellow Jews. Bet Din means ‘court house’ and were established to help resolve both religious and civil discord.
On a number of facts there is unanimity. The participants were my father and his uncle, the very person who helped bring him to the United States. That, in fact, was the core issue of the conflict. Herschel initiated the action with the Bet Din and the hearing took place in Boston in the 1950’s. My attempts to obtain records of the proceedings failed, as there are no records available.
In 1992 Libby Medrich, the daughter of Harry Eisenberg told the following version:
Shortly after Morris’s family moved to Medford, Massachusetts from Chelsea, her father came upon ‘bad times.’ He had been the person most responsible, at his expense, for bringing nine different family members to the United States. In 1921 the last to immigrate came as a group that included his parents (Dov Berel and Elka), his youngest sister (Leja/Leah) and his oldest nephew, my father (Mowsza/Morris).
Thirty years later (Morris, in his early 40’s, married and the father of four children, had a successful business.) Harry (was then about 70 years old and) had a number of business reverses. He approached my father for help, suggesting that it was ‘pay back’ time. Morris supposedly agreed to give him money, made an initial payment to his Uncle and informed him ‘that was only a drop in the bucket.' However, no further payment was forthcoming. Libby speculated that my mother was the one who put a halt to any additional payments. Her father, in frustration, then brought the matter to the Bet Din. This action was initiated through my father’s local temple in Medford. Libby said that she had advised her father against initiating the proceedings. Herschel never received any additional money.
My brother Harvey’s version, which he got from our father, was that he (Morris) had previously paid his Uncle for his ticket to the United States and had given him additional moneys. Harvey described our father as both gravely embarrassed by this action taken against him and livid by the court experience, even though he was exonerated. My sister Eadie’s version is essentially the same as Harvey’s. Uncle Harry wanted payment for passage plus interest; our father claimed to have paid him the passage money. Harry determined that it was not sufficient. The court found for Morris.
A third perspective came from Sara (Marder) Plen. She said that Herschel (a.k.a. H.B.) wanted everybody in the family to pay him back. She said that the family reaction was that they had paid him back and/or should not pay because they were helping others. Sara said that her mother tried to send him some small amount.
To my knowledge, Herschel Eisenberg did not initiate similar proceedings against other family members that he helped transport to the United States. I speculate that my father may have been chosen because he was or perceived to be in a good financial situation.
That’s all I know about the matter. The memory of the incident remains a source of contention to this day.
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