Welcome to the first of what, I hope, will be a number of biographies of my ancestors and cousins! Some may be updated with new information as I find it, others will serve as a interesting look into lives long past. In some cases, completely forgotten until I “rediscovered” them again.
First up, somewhat randomly, Mendel (Max) GRAUMAN,
Max was born in Warsaw in 1871 to Samuel David GRAUMAN and his wife Fradja WERTEL GRAUMAN. Fradja was the half-sister of my great-great grandfather, Kalmon Józef WERTEL. Max was at least the sixth child, with a seventh likely sibling, but very likely he was the final child given that his mother was 49 at the time of his birth.
Max married Dora/Doba SCHOENBERG, from Jonava, Lithuania, in Warsaw in 1891. He became a cantor after “training in the theory of harmony in Russia and Berlin” (New York Sun, 1907), working in Berlin and London before arriving in the U.S. in 1895. He was a soloist and cantor at synagogues in New Jersey, including Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston (1901-1902), and then at Temple Beth-El in New York (1903-1906), before landing at West End Synagogue, properly known as Shaaray Tefila, Max was cantor at West End until his death in 1933.
Max GRAUMAN had written several pieces of original music prior to his immigration, and in the United States became quite well-known within certain circles for his compositions. The Milken Archive of Jewish Music says:
Max Graumann [sic] was one of the most learned traditional cantors to have come to America from Central Europe prior to the influx of eastern European hazzanim who followed in the wake of mass immigration waves of Yiddish-speaking eastern European Jews. He was also one of the most traditionally oriented cantors to serve a Reform pulpit in the years prior to the First World War.
…. In the aggregate his music reflects a thorough grounding in the traditional prayer modes (nusaḥ hat’filla) of both the eastern and western spheres of Ashkenazi custom, a fluency in the melismatic, improvisational elements of hazzanut, and a working familiarity with the style of Salomon Sulzer’s restrained, artistic cantorial style and his Wiener Ritus (Vienna rite).
…. In addition to his published music, which probably represents only a portion of his original work, Graumann made a number of arrangements of cantorial and choral pieces by eastern European cantor-composers, most of which remain in manuscript. Gershon Ephros had access to these, as well as to Graumann’s advice and assistance, when he began work on his monumental multivolume cantorial-choral anthology. By the second half of the 20th century, however, Graumann was best known in the cantorial world for a single achievement: his artistic, extended arrangement of Josef Goldstein’s skeletal setting of uv’khen yitkadash from the High Holy Day mussaf liturgy, which, particularly in that arrangement, became a classic of standard cantorial repertoire. So extensive were his revisions and expansions, including bridge passages and entire sections that he appears to have composed himself, that Ephros credited the piece to “Goldstein-Graumann.”
Max submitted a Declaration of Intention to become a US citizen in January, 1933, but he didn’t live long enough to become a citizen, dying on December 10th of that year. Max’s passing was noted in the New York Times by four death notices; one from the family, one from the Temple he had served for 26 years, one its Sisterhood, and one from its “Mother’s Association”.
Max and Dora had six children, Rachel (Rose), Annie, Mollie, Esther, Gertrude, and Samuel. After Max’s death and Dora’s in 1937, Rose’s name appears on documents and recordings of Max’s music.
It is likely there was no third generation; Annie died as an infant; Rose, Mollie, and Esther lived together at least into the 1940s and all passed away, unmarried, in Flushing, NY in the 1970s. Son Sam appears to have spent significant time – at least ten years – in Letchworth Village, a notorious mental institution in the New York area. He died in 1996.
The fate of daughter Gertrude is currently unknown. She was living with her sisters in 1940 (age 33), but I’ve found no death information on her, so possibly she married. I also don’t know if any of Max’s siblings from Warsaw or their descendants escaped prior to the War. Perhaps there are other Grauman cousins still “out there”.