Gussie Rudbart's Story  

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Gussie Rudbart Seligman was born Grune Rotbard to Israel Meyer Rotbard and Esther Milsky in Porozow in August, 1888. According to her sister Mary, the familyís surname had originally been Rudy. Her family lived in a one-story, two-room wooden house on Subbotskaja Street without internal plumbing, heated by a central fireplace. Israel Meyer was a shoemaker who also drove a horse-drawn wagon for a living. Theirs was a strictly kosher home, blessed with six children.


Jews were fleeing difficult conditions in Eastern Europe for the U.S. in record numbers during this period, and the Rotbards were no exception. The eldest child, Leiser, the first to emigrate, arrived in 1906 at age 19. He took the given name Louis and and the spelling "Rudbart" and settled initially in Brooklyn, New York, where he lived when Grune arrived at age 19 on July 13, 1907. She sailed the S.S. Prinzess Alice from Bremen and arrived at Ellis Island with $3.00 in her pocket. Louis became a fruit peddler and in 1910 moved with his wife, two eldest children and Grune, now known as Gussie, to Newark, New Jersey. He eventually found work making doors and bought a lumberyard that flourished for much of the rest of the century. He was also a successful real estate developer.


After moving to Newark, Gussie got a job working as a hat trimmer for Louis April the Hatmaker. In 1913 her brother Yankel (who became Jack) arrived, followed a year later by her sister Chaitche, who became Ida. Gussie, who already spoke Yiddish and Polish, began to study English at night. It was at night school that she met Abraham Seligman, her husband-to-be. She married him in 1914 at her brotherís home at 125 Broome Street. The wedding reception was held at a secondhand furniture store owned by her aunt, Rose Milsky Rasnick, also originally of Porozow, and uncle Abraham Rasnick.


Her husband, born in Bobruisk in Minsk Gubernia, had been inducted into the Russian army and had deserted in late 1904, leaving Russia immediately thereafter together with his elder brother Nachum (Nathan). They went first to Germany, then England. Abe had landed at Ellis Island in the spring of 1905 and gone to work with cousins in Massachusetts in a shoe factory. From Massachusetts he had moved to New York and then New Jersey in 1912.

After their marriage, Gussie moved in with Abe at 184 Prince Street
and gave birth to their elder son Edward there in 1915. Son William was born three years later.


After Gussie's father died, her mother Esther and youngest sister Mary joined the rest of the family in the U.S., arriving in 1922. Mary went to live with Louis in Passaic and Esther stayed with Gussieís family, augmented by the birth of daughter Frieda at Essex Private Hospital in 1925. Esther died in 1945 at 88 and is buried in Newark.


Only Herschel, Gussieís youngest brother, never joined his siblings in the U.S. Instead, he emigrated to Argentina, where an aunt and uncle had preceded him. Herschelís story was the subject of an article that appeared in the Winter, 1996 edition of Avotaynu, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy, that can be viewed here.


Apart from a short stay in Elizabeth, Gussie and Abraham lived the rest of their lives in Newark. They were enumerated in the 1930 Federal Census at 587 S. 10th Street, accommodations they rented for $42 a  month. During most of her married life, Gussie helped her husband out with his many retail businesses, keeping the stores clean and waiting on customers. At various times, he operated a candy store, a fountain, a cigar store, a hardware store and a grocery. He also owned and operated two rooming houses.


Gussie doted on her grandchildren and always had cookies at the ready for their weekly visits to her home at 34 Renner Avenue in Newark. She cared little for fashion and seldom did much to enhance her appearance. Among her joys were long walks and rides in the car, hot baths at Bradley Beach on the Jersey shore and trips to Newark's Prince Street market, where she bought ethnic Jewish foods. Friday night Sabbath meals were a family ritual for which Gussie would usually bake challah. She overcooked most meats, but made excellent chicken soup, chopped liver and pinwheel cookies. She kept a more-or-less kosher home, but the family never belonged to a synagogue.


Deeply loved by her three children, her in-laws, her six grandchildren and the rest of her family, she died on November 9, 1960. Abraham died three years later. Both are interred in King Solomon Cemetery in Clifton, New Jersey.

© 2004-2020  Scott D. Seligman