Thursday, October 1, 2009

Resources for Researching Jewish University Graduates of Yale University

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Using University histories or year books is a good way to learn more about your ancestor’s education and life.  One of the on-line books which may be of interest is “History of the Class of 1908 – Yale College, Volume I”.

Whilst the majority of the students in the book are not Jewish, the one’s that are may be of interest.  Yale’s first Jewish student was Moses Simon, who came to the school in 1805 and graduated in 1809.  Since that time, there have been very few Jewish students who attended Yale.  Approximately 10% or less per year were part of the university community until quotas to the school were lifted and attitudes changed. 
Therefore, this history from 1908, whilst it has very few Jewish students, those that are mentioned are from somewhat unique and varied backgrounds.  The blurbs about each student contain important genealogically-related data such as when and where they were born; info on their parents, especially the mother’s maiden name; where they lived at Yale and with whom; and what they hoped to do upon graduation and where they were going to live.  In addition, a photograph accompanies the blurb.  An example is the following:

SAMUEL ALPERT was born in Wilna, Russia, March 3, 1887, but has spent most of his life in New Haven. 

His father, Louis Alpert, was born April 14, 1843, at Wilna, Russia.  He is a retired professor of a Talmudical college, and resides in New Haven.  Mrs. Alpert’s maiden name was Mary Elizabeth Zimmerman.  A nephew, B.E. Hoffman, is in the Class of 1909.

Alpert prepared at the Hillhouse High School and the New Haven High School.  At Yale, he held a Second Colloquy Junior appointment.  During his entire college course he has lived with his family, at 96 Washington Avenue, and this will be his future address.

Alpert expects to enter the Yale Law School, and later, the real estate business.

It appears that Samuel came from a religious family and lived with his family in New Haven as did many Jews who attended Yale.  Therefore, he commuted to school and this was considered a negative aspect of the local Jewish students.  It meant, in the eyes of some, that they did not actively participate in the activities available to those who lived at school and which made the Yale man.

Another Jewish student was:

FRANK ALTSCHUL was born April 21, 1887, in San Francisco, California.

His father, Charles Altschul, was born in London, England, December 31, 1857.  He is a banker of New York City.  His mother’s maiden name was Camilla Mandelbaum.

Altschul prepared at the Columbia Grammar School, New York City.  At Yale, he held a First Dispute Junior appointment.  He has represented Yale in chess:  and he also won third place in the hundred-yard dash in the fall games of 1906.  In Freshman and Sophomore years he roomed alone at 231 York Street, and 236 Crown Street; in Junior year with J.W. Schiffer at 247 Durfee: and in Senior year alone at 251 Durfee.

After graduation, Altschul expects to enter banking.  His address will be 32 West 86th Street, New York City.

In regard to Frank Altschul, his mother’s Mandelbaum family was a merchantile family who had been in California since the Gold Rush era and he was apparently named for his maternal grandfather, Frank Mandelbaum, who had been born in Bohemia in 1830.  His father, Charles, had been the eighth employee hired by the San Francisco branch of the banking firm of Lazard Freres and later moved to New York. 

Frank, after graduation from Yale, joined the company and took over for his father in 1916 when he stepped down as a partner.  As part of the socially prominent coterie of German-Jewish banking families in New York, Frank ran the company until the mid-1940s.  His status was further dignified by the fact that his sister Edith married Herbert H. Lehman, Governor of New York and Frank married Herbert H. Lehman’s niece Helen Lehman Goodhart. 

Further information on Frank Altschul’s career can be found in the on-line resource entitled “Wall Street Personalities”:

Whilst Frank Altschul was athletic as is seen in his participation in the fall games of 1906, it was not until 1913 that Joseph Weiner made the varsity basketball team, the first Jew to do so.  He had a formidable career and paved the way for other Jews to participate in varsity athletics and other related activities.

A further example of the Class of 1908 is:

ISADORE DAVID WHITESTONE was born March 4, 1887, in Bradford, Pennsylvania.

David Whitestone, his father, was born in Cracow, Austria, June 14, 1852.  Mr. Whitestone is a wholesale tobacconist.  His mother was born Rose Rosenstein.

Whitestone prepared for college at the Bradford High School.  He was a member of the Sophomore debating team and has been very active in debating.  He was a member of the Political Science Club.  He roomed alone in 597 Pierson, with R.D. Hunting in 154 Lawerence, and alone in 389 Berkeley and 83 Connecticut.

After graduation, Whitestone expects to enter business and his permanent address is 47 Congress Street, Bradford, Pa.

Isadore is an example of a Jewish student who came from a small town rather than one of the larger urban areas on the east coast.  He planned to return there when he finished his education.  Originally, his name was probably the German “Weissenstein” or Whitestone.

There is another on-line book in this series entitled “History of the Class of 1908, Yale College, Volume II," which was published in 1914. 

It provides biographies given by the former students as to what happened to them after graduation.  One of these is by Isadore David Whitestone, who is mentioned above and whose biography follows:


Isadore David Whitestone
Salesman for the Georgia Pine Turpentine Company, 160 Perry Street,
New York City
Residence, 781 West End Avenue, New York City
47 Congress Street, Bradford, Pa.

Whitestone writes:  “One June day in 1908, with innocent, guileless abandon, I tripped gracefully from the frowning battlements of Yale into the yawning abyss of life and, to my abiding chagrin, I found that the abyss did nothing but yawn whenever I attempted to focus on myself the radiance of attention which has eluded me with a regularity knowing no lapse.

“What legend unfeelingly hints at is true.  I, the donee of a diploma who after graduation imagined that I was looming upon the world’s horizon, actually disturbed teeming humanity to about the same degree as does a grain of sand when it slips in or out of place by its brethren on the beach.

“My academic atmosphere, which I wore like an aura, had suffered but a month’s blight after commencement, when I went down to Washington and passed the United States Consular examinations.  However, a few months later (December, 1908), I became private secretary to a Pennsylvania congressman with whom I cooperated so sacrificially in conserving the public weal and in maintaining, hogh aloft, the sacred imperishable traditions of the Fathers, that I felt constrained to decline the offer of an appointment in the Consular Service.  My country needed me at home and used me as a representative’s clerk,--I mean secretary, until June, 1910.

“At this precise date, from the exalted eminence of a patriot, I descended the ladder rapidly.  I returned home to Bradford, Pa., and permitted my fellow citizens to view me before I again sallied forth in quest of another job.

“When next heard of, I have, from February to December, 1911, passed through such responsible tasks as looking at names in the United States Express Company, soliciting advertisements, reading proof for the New York Evening Post and then, on summit of my hopes, measuring mileage distances on a map of New York State for the American Telephone & Telegraph Company.  Practically all of the above sundry kinds of labor were performed in New York City.  This versatility was destined, I instinctively felt, to have its reward.  I was being fitted for some stirring achievement and, sure enough, towards the close of 1911, Fate was too good, too kind to me.  At that early age I but little merited such bounty—for I was made a salesman of the turpentine and pine tar with the Georgia Pine Turpentine Company, in which work I have since remained.

“I unselfishly believe that this glory is reflected on 1908.  Classmates, share it with me!”

Whitestone is a member of Union Lodge, 334, Free and Accepted Masons of Bradford, Pa.  In politics he is a Republican.  He is unmarried.”

As one can see Isadore did quite a bit before he found something with which he could settle down with. 

A book which is complementary to this one is the “Directory of the Living Graduates of Yale University” which was published in 1912 (there is also an edition from 1910 which is also on-line). 

This book lists the graduates alphabetically by graduation year from 1839-1912.  Therefore, you can take the three examples above of the Class of 1908 and you will find them in this book listed with their present address and type of business they are in.  For instance, Samuel Alpert is listed as a graduate of the Class of 1908 and also the Class of 1912 in Law, still living at 96 Washington Avenue, New Haven, CT.

A further book which can provide interesting information is the “Yale Obituary Record 1935-1936”. 

In this book is found the obituary of Charles Altschul, son of Frank Altschul.  Frank, as you will remember from his biography, graduated from Yale in 1908.  This provides confirmation that the Jewish graduates were now having their children attend Yale too as the non-Jewish students had been doing for some time.  The obituary also states that two of Charles Altschul’s maternal uncles were also Yale graduates.

More about Jews at Yale may be seen in the book "Joining the Club -- A History of Jews and Yale" by Dan A. Oren and also additional information can be found in “The Chosen:  the hidden history of admission and exclusion at Harvard, Yale and Princeton” by Jerome Karabel. 

All of the above mentioned resources can be found by searching Google Books or by the name of the person or the university.  There are many more types of resources of this sort, but one has to look for them on-line as well as in the local public, university or institutional library.

2 comments:

  1. Charles Altschul and his son Frank are on my family tree {indirectly through marriage}.

    I have traced their ancestors back to the 1700s. They come from famous Berlin, Bohemian and Viennese families.

    My link is through Samuel Hammerschlag from Böhmische-Leipa {first librarian of the IKG, Vienna} married to Betti Josephson born in Berlin. Her sister Elise was the mother of Charles Altschul.

    Here is my picture of Samuel and Betti's tombstone in Vienna and also of Elise's other sister Fanni SCHWAB.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cam37/1639812202/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cam37/667496441/

    This is a very famous family with many fascinating links - I am in touch with descendants in NY today and with others in other parts of the world.

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  2. Nice article on Jewish students who were part of the Yale University Class of 1908, especially as my grandfather Samuel Alpert is featured as the first profile. He became an attorney and died in 1940 after suffering the long effects of working with gas during world war one. The Alpert family was actually Alperovitzs from Kurinetz (between Vilna and Minsk)who came to New Haven around 1892. Some names were shortened to Alper and some to Alpert (in the same family. I am an Alpert.

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