My Name is Zalman Malkin

I was born around 1852 in Liozna, a shtetl in present-day Belarus that Marc Chagall described as the color of shoes and potatoes.

It's not clear who my parents were, or how they ended up in Liozna, but it's likely they were members of Chabad, a branch of Hasidic Judaism founded in Liozna at the end of the 18th century. (Chabad later moved its headquarters to Lubavitch, Russia, before relocating to Brooklyn during World War II.)

Today Liozna is better known as the birthplace of Chagall. In fact, my great great grandson likes to imagine that I was acquainted with Chagall's father. After all, we both worked in food: I as a shokhet (a ritual slaughterer); the elder Chagall sold herring.

A House in Liozna, by Marc Chagall

In Liozna I lived with my wife Chana and our first son Leibl. When pogroms spread in 1881, we left Liozna and joined a wave of Jewish emigration to the West, stopping in Minsk in 1883, where our second son Yechiel was born, and eventually settled in Pandelys, near Chana's parents in Birzai. The entire region, from Liozna to Birzai and beyond, was part of the Russian Pale of Settlement, where Jewish movement was closely restricted.

Eventually we made it as far west as Chicago.

My second son Yechiel "Max" Malkin

Our second son Yechiel went first, in 1902, by way of London. In Chicago he became “Max" and worked as a "customer peddler," delivering goods by horse and carriage to people on the outskirts of the city.

Chana and I and our other young children followed in 1906, and by 1912 all of my children and grandchildren had made it to Chicago, including my grandson Berka (Ben) Malkin, the father of Leonard Malkin, who is the father of Elliott Malkin, who is writing this on my behalf.

We would evade a fate far worse than the pogroms. When the Nazis came to Birzai they tied the local shokhet's beard to a horse and dragged him to his death throughout the town.

My children and their families at Max’s picnic grove in Evergreen Park, Illinois, in 1923. Picnic groves were outdoor spaces used for events by residents of the city. During Prohibition they served near beer. My first son Leo is in the center. Max is center right. (Click to enlarge.)

I died in 1916, so didn’t live to see my son Max become a major real estate developer in Evergreen Park, helping transform an unpaved farming community into a full fledged suburb (at least until the Depression hit, at which point he had to find other work.) And I didn’t live to see all six of my children pose with their children at Max’s picnic grove in 1923.

I was buried in the old Lubavitch section of Waldheim Jewish Cemetery, along with other members of our synagogue, including Leo, who at some point became the shamas (the caretaker).

Max is buried there as well, even though he went on to become a board member, and later president, of a prominent Conservative synagogue called B’nai Bezalel on Chicago’s south side. Most of my grandchildren also became Conservative, a far more Americanized brand of Judaism.

My great grandson Leonard Malkin, named after my son Leibl (later known as Leo.)

Like many of his cousins, my great grandson Leonard also attended B’nai Bezalel but as an adult switched over to an even more progressive Reform synagogue. As for my great great grandson Elliott, I probably wouldn’t even recognize him as a Jew.

- Zalman Yosel Baruch Malkin

A note on Lithuanian Jews: Even though today Liozna is in Belarus and in Zalman's day was part of Russia, Zalman would have considered himself a Litvak, or Lithuanian Jew. Jewish Lithuania extended far beyond the borders of present-day Lithuania to include most of Ukraine, as far as the Black Sea, roughly following the historical boundaries of The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where Jews were welcome and achieved great autonomy.

1906 Zalman Malkin Ship Manifest
1907 Leibl Bruschow Ship Manifest
1909 Max Malkin Declaration of Intent
1910 Max Malkin US Census
1910 Salmin Malkin US Census
1911 Leo Malkin Declaration of Intent
1912 Ginda Bruchow Ship Manifest
1913 Leo Malkin Petition for Naturalization / Denied
1913 Max Malkin Petition for Naturalization
1914 Anne Malkin Death Certificate
1915 Mendel Malkin Declaration of Intent
1916 Leo Malkin Petition for Naturalization
1916 Solomon Malkin Death Certificate
1917 Mendel Malkin World War I Draft Registration Card
1920 Leo Malkin US Census
1920 Max Malkin US Census
1929 Leo Malkin Death Certificate
1957 Max Malkin Synagogue President
1970 Max Malkin Death Notice

A note on patronymic names: Leo Malkin was also known Leibl Bruchow, a source of great confusion to me (Elliott) during my research. Could Leibl have been adopted or even unrelated? It turns out that Jews in 18th and 19th century Russia adopted surnames only when Russian authorities required them to do so for censuses or other official purposes. In some cases, Jews invented surnames (such as Malkin, derived from the female Malka meaning "queen") or took their father's or grandfather's first name and used that as a surname. Zalman's full name was Zalman Yosel BARUCH Malkin, likely meaning that he had a father or grandfather named Baruch. When Zalman's oldest son Leibl was asked to give his name for official purposes, he kept Baruch as well. In Russian, Baruch becomes Boruch, which becomes Borukhov, which becomes Bruchow. It could even have been Borukhovich, in proper Russian. So Leibl Malkin, later known as Leo Malkin, could have been any variation on the above depending on the context. Leo's Ellis Island ship manifest lists him as Leib Bruchow (adding variation on his first name.) When his wife Ginda and their four kids arrived five years later, they also came as Bruchows. The mystery of Bruchow derailed me for many, many months until I discovered that Leo listed his brother MAX MALKIN BRUCHOW as his contact in Chicago. I was now certain they were all one family.

By Elliott Malkin, Sep 26, 2012