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§08 Moshe Lewin

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Annie was born as Annie Paltiel in the town of Iwie, Russia on or around December 10, 1878 in the opinion of your editor. Myron Levi thinks that her birthdate might be better assigned to 1883. The 1878 date was arrived at from a circa 1880 photograph of the Paltiel family in which her brother, Shmuel Lazar Paltiel, is pictured at about age 9 or 10 and in which she appears to be about age 2. As we know that Shmuel was born in 1870 or 1871, the differences in their size and age appearance led to the guess that Annie was born around 1878. Iwie is also spelled Iwiey and Ev'Ya and is now in Soviet Byelorussia. See the Paltiel section for the 1880 photograph.

Morris was born as Moshe Lewin in the town of Dziewieniszki, Russia on May 1, 1885. He was the fifth child of Meyer and Rivka (Sarah) Lewin, in a series of nine known of their children. He was educated in Hebrew and earned a meager living, while young, teaching Hebrew to youngsters in the area. Dziewieniszki is now in Soviet Lithuania.

In 1895, a marriage was arranged for Shmuel Lazar Paltiel and (Chae-)Malka Lewin and he moved to Dziewieniszki from Iwie. It seems that Ben-Zion Paltiel, the father of Annie and Shmuel Lazar, must have died around the same time, as Shmuel's first son was named for his grandfather as Benzion Paltiel. We knew him as Ben Lazarus. We do not know the name of Mrs. Benzion Paltiel nor her date of death. Your editor's assumption is that she also died around the same period and that when Shmuel moved from Iwie to marry Malka, Annie must have moved with him around 1895 and must have been raised there by her brother and the Lewin family. So, it seems, Moshe Lewin and Annie Paltiel knew one another when still very young. Sam Lazarus was always called "Lazar".

It seems that Shmuel, and perhaps some of the Lewins, left Russia for Leeds, England around 1897-1899. Either at the same time, or within a short time thereafter, Moshe also went to Leeds and went into business with Shmuel in a tailoring type of business making button holes as sub-contractors working out of their residence. Eventually, it became a small 3 or 4 sewing-machine factory with a few employees. The experience at British Immigration caused name changes for almost everyone. Shmuel Lazar Paltiel became Samuel Lazarus and Moshe Lewin became Morris Levi. Sam's wife, Malka Paltiel, who was also a sister to Morris Levi, became Ann Lazarus in England. She and her sons Ben and Yosel Paltiel went with her to join Sam in England around 1899. It is our best guess that Lazar's sister, Annie Paltiel, didn't migrate to Leeds until around 1900. At that time, since she was single, her name was most likely changed to Annie Lazarus to be in keeping with her brother's last name. So, in Leeds at the same time might have been this Annie Lazarus plus Shmuel's wife Ann Lazarus (in the English language). See the Moshe Lewin section of the family book for early photographs of all mentioned above.

Living in such close proximity, Moshe and Annie must have known each other quite well so, on August 5, 1907, they were married in Leeds, Yorkshire, England. That was the occasion for the large full-family photograph of that date showing about 25 of our relatives. While in Leeds, Morris and Annie had one son, Bennie, born December 13, 1908. By the following year, the family of three emigrated from Leeds to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where, again, Morris must have made his living in a tailoring-related trade. We know very little of their stay in Toronto because they only stayed there long enough, a year or so, to qualify for a visa to enter the United States. After July, 1910, Sam and Ben Lazarus arrived in Toronto and probably stayed with Morris and Annie their first year until the rest of the Lazarus family came over from Leeds and/or the Levi family left Toronto for California. To the best speculation of your editor, Morris and Annie Levi were the family pioneers to the new world. The alien registration papers of Eli Singer show the Singers arriving in Quebec on 15 October 1910.

As this is being written in January of 1989, the only document of transit for any relative which has surfaced so far is one for Joseph Lazarus arriving in Canada on May 14, 1911 on the steamship "Laurentic" with Mary Levi and probably her infant son Saul.

Morris and Annie probably left Toronto for California in 1911 or 1912 and, it seems, they may have moved directly to Los Angeles where they had a small grocery store for a while, maybe just for a couple of years. See the picture section for photographs of their store. From there, they moved to Hanford, California and had a junk and second-hand store. Morris would go from farm to farm collecting old gunny sacks which Annie would stitch up. Without holes, the sacks were worth 5¢ more when resold. Morris didn't know much about animals and when he bought a horse to pull his wagon, he took it home only to discover that it had only one eye. See the photograph of Ben Lazarus with the "Hanford Junk Company" horse and wagon. Morris' business must have evolved into the "Home Furniture Company" in Hanford which was managed by Joe Lazarus in 1921.

Morris Levi became a Naturalized Citizen around the time he registered for the draft for World War I. He didn't have to serve because he had bad asthma. Annie Levi automatically became a citizen at the same time as that was the law before 1922. For future reference, Morris had Social Security number 573-44-2342.

David Levi with Mary and May left Toronot in October of 1914 to move to California. They settled for a while in Visalia and then went to Fresno, probably in late 1916 or early 1917. During this time, Morris, Annie and Bennie were living in Hanford. An infant boy was born to Morris and Annie in Hanford on October 17, 1915 but died the same day. As far as we know, he was un-named. Family lore has it that they also had another son at sometime but we know nothing particular about that story. Probably around 1917, when Dave Levi moved to Fresno, Morris and Annie and Bennie also moved there as Morris and Dave went into partnership with "Levi's Furniture Company". Myron was born to them in Fresno on January 13, 1920. In the meantime, Bennie Levi died in a tragic automobile mishap on January 12, 1918. (The death certificate differs).

After Joe Lazarus and Simon Forman dissolved their partnership in Turlock in the middle of 1923, Joe moved to Oakland and, eventually, Simon and Fannie and their two sons moved to Santa Rose for a short time. Around 1926, Morris and Annie and Myron left Fresno and moved to Petaluma where Simon Forman had also moved so Simon and Morris went into business together in the hardware business. The climate was bad for Morris' asthma so, in 1927, they moved back to Hanford to stay. Beginning again with used furniture and some new items, "Hanford Furniture Company" was begun and it remained the principal business until Morris retired and Myron took over.

Hanford Furniture Company was a good business and the family did well in Hanford. Morris and Annie lived a quiet and respectable life and were social with other Jewish people in the community and with many family members in the central valley. Your editor remembers dozens of family parties in Hanford where the men played Pinocle, the women cooked and talked, and the children played. It was a nice family. Myron was raised in Hanford, ran his businesses from there for many years, and currently lives only a short distance from Hanford at the base of Sequoia National Park, east of Visalia.

Morris had a heart attack around 1940 and Annie carefully nursed him back to health. The Levi's celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a gala event in Hanford in August of 1957. In 1959, Morris wasn't feeling well so Myron drove him to Glendale for observation at a hospital. He died there that night, April 26, 1959, somewhat due to negligence on the part of the hospital staff that forgot that he was there. In the late 1950's, Annie had a stroke which left one arm mostly paralyzed but she remained fairly healthy, finally moving to a rest home in Fresno where she died December 4, 1965.

Morris and Annie had an unsung historic life, with beginnings just slightly above the level of peasants in Imperial Russia, to emigration, to struggles in Leeds and in Toronto, to being the family "pioneers" coming over the border into the United States, to moving around California and attempting several businesses while at the same time trying and mostly failing to have and raise children, succeedingly only with Myron, and finally owning a profitable furniture business to round out their success as immigrants. They were part of the story of America and especially of the immigrant story of Jews from Eastern Europe. They were able to leave an important history, fond family memories and a financial legacy to their son and grandchildren. As the Rabbi said at their funerals, Annie was a loving wife and Morris was a nice man. And, so they were. With no fanfare or speeches, they financially helped the majority of their relatives who needed help, and their only repayment was often love --- lots of love.


The Levis Celebrate

About 100 friends and relatives joined Mr. and Mrs. Morris Levi for dinner at a local cafe Sunday evening to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

The merchant and his wife actually had been married 50 years on August 5, but hte party was scheduled over the holiday weekend for the convenience of their guests who came from out of town.

A happy surprise was injected into the festivities by Levi's brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. Simon Forman of Petaluma, who revealed they were celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary on Sunday. None of the family had realized it up to that point.

Among the guests were four relatives who had attended the Levi's wedding Leeds, England. They were Wolf Levy of Los Angeles, Ben Lazarus of Delano, Mrs. Ben Baylinson of Napa and Mrs. Minnie Goldberg of Modesto.

The Levis came to Hanford first in 1910 and established their business. Later they sold out and went first to Fresno and then to Petaluma. In 1926 they returned and resumed the business here.

An informal hour preceded the dinner.

The Levis accepted no personal gifts, preferring instead that the City of Hope benefit from money which would have been spent for gifts. They have been active in the City of Hope organization here. Levi also has held membership in the Chamber of Commerce, the Elks and Eagles.

[also on this page is a photo containing Ben Levi.]