We join David's family as they continue their cross-country wandering as the patriarch Ben-Zion tries to find success in supporting his family of six...
The pogromEconomic conditions after the pogroms of 1881 went from bad to worse for Ben-Zion Blumenfeld. The new police restriction on the people from different provinces...became effective through the Ignatiev May Laws of 1882 imposed by Czar Alexander III.... Under such restrictions Ben-Zion had to move back to [the province of] Courland, in Latvia, with his family....
He began making every possible effort to raise enough money for transportation to Riga. His eldest son, David, who was working at tailoring, got a job in Libau.
In the meantime Ben-Zion corresponded with some friends in America. They had left [David's birthplace] Tukums, Latvia, for America two years before and were in Michigan. They advised Ben-Zion to come there, saying “America is the land which the gods have built, a continent of glory, filled with untold treasure and here is ample opportunity for you as well.” ...It came about that in April 1883, Ben-Zion packed his satchel with his little earthly treasures, including a new blue velvet talis sack, wherein he kept his prayer shawl, tefillin, skullcap and prayerbook, and he departed for America with high hopes...
Tefillin (on the man's forehead)
Before one could emigrate from Russia many painful and costly formalities had to be observed. A passport obtained through the governor was speeded on its way by sundry tips. It was an expensive document without which no Russian could leave the town.
David's diary does not describe how Ben-Zion gets to America, including the transoceanic trip, but one can imagine the sordid conditions.
On arriving in Ludington, Michigan, his friend Jacob Bloomstock backed Ben-Zion financially for a stock of Yankee notions and tinware, and he blossomed out as a merchant, peddling among the sparsely settled villages, as was the custom of most of the newcomers in those days.
Back in Latvia, the rest of the family waited news of his success...
Jewish peddler in Michigan
To be continued...
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