The Museum of Family History presents

The Jews of Asia


From Japan by Sea to San Francisco and New York: Chunya's Story

One evening I went to the theatre. I did not understand their language, just observed the acting. The show lasted about six hours, people bringing their food with them; small pots of rice. This was their form of entertainment. I understand that at the present time, things are different then they were then.
The time that I spent in Yokohama was during the month of April and it was also the Passover time. We did not observe the Seder but matzos were brought into the hotel and put on the tables. The owner of the hotel also provided plenty of wine for us to drink and we were joyous and happy that we were free!

And now, finally, a ship had arrived and on April 10th, 1917, I sailed for San Francisco, on this vast ocean "The Pacific." My mind recalled the book I had read by Tannenbaum called Reisa Bechreibinq, "Travellers." My first day on the ship I became very sick with sea sickness. The next day I felt a bit better and the third day I was fine. I was travelling third class, down low, and the ship heaved back and forth terribly. My arm was bandaged because I had been vaccinated. I went up to the upper level to warm up a bit in the sun and here I could see the difference from one class to another. The people were dressed beautifully. I could see they had plenty of good food to eat and drink and a room for dancing. There were movies being shown and they let me go in to see the pictures.
One evening while watching the movies, all the lights went out. We were in total darkness. One person carried a lantern and told us, not to be frightened. America was at war with Germany so we must be alerted to possible submarines. I thought to myself, "Out of one war and into another!"

Our ship arrived in Honolulu, which belongs to the American States and had to remain there for twenty-four hours. We were allowed to get off the ship and this was my first step onto American soil. From sheer happiness and joy I felt like getting down and kissing the ground.

I now went around the city to look at it and it was very beautiful. The center of the city is on a hill, so the ocean can be seen all around. We were on an island. I walked through the streets and kept stepping on bananas, they are so plentiful there. There were many shops with beautiful wares. I stopped to look in the window of a beautiful shop of men's clothing. The owner came out and asked if I wanted to buy anything. In Yiddish, I told him who I was and found out that he too was Yiddish. He asked me to come into his shop and was glad to listen to the story of my trip and how I got there.

First of all he said I was to come to his home for a meal. He bid his wife to prepare a fine meal and we all ate and again told stories. He then said to me he had a plan. I should remain in Honolulu since I was a tailor. He would teach me to become a salesperson and he would pay me well. The climate is ideal, in fact, he said "the best in America." I thanked him for his goodness but I was determined to go on to New York to be with my family. He understood my feelings and said he would not insist, so I thanked him again and went back to the ship.

He walked out of his shop with me and I noticed a crowd, of people together on the corner of the street, Chinese, Japanese, and European. I could see and here someone speaking from a platform. Asking him what all this meant, he explained to me. "This is a young student telling everyone that America should not be in a war. It should remain neutral." So I left for the ship worried again, to go to San Francisco. And of course we were all worried in the event that a submarine should be encountered.

On the twenty-ninth of April we arrived at the port. I and some of the others were taken in a small boat to an island called Angel Island, like Ellis Island. We were taken into a building, told to shower, and change our clothes. Then we were taken into a room to be examined by a doctor. We had  to give our name and I also had to state where and to whom I was going.

I told them that I had brothers and sisters in New York but not their addresses. However, I did have the address of a friend on 22 Ludlow Street in New York. I also told them about my happenings. Here, they took down all the information, my name, age, fed me, and told me I had to sleep here for the night and on the morrow, I would find out all I had to know.

I went into a large room. Many others were there already, some asleep and others walking around. The walls were covered with names written from all corners of the world. Some people had already been there several weeks. There were many Germans held here, since we were at war, so of course, I became frightened again.

In the morning, a man came over to me, explained that he was from the HIAS organization and would see to it that the arrangements would be made for me to go to New York. I thanked him and would have kissed him for joy! He took me off the island onto a boat and also a young girl passenger, a bride, on her way to Chicago to meet her future husband. We went down, off the boat, and grateful to know that I had lived to see San Francisco, tears of joy came into my eyes. The man from HIAS took us over to a trolley car which had to go up a steep hill. Many people were on the trolley, some wearing red flowers in their lapels. I asked, and was told, this being the first of May, it is the working-man's holiday and they were coming from a parade.

We were taken to a hotel, given separate rooms, told where to eat, and tomorrow would be taken to a train. The young lady would get off in Chicago and I would go on to New York. Telegrams would be sent, informing our respective families just when we would arrive.

In the evening a young man came to the hotel, sent here by the gentleman from HIAS. "Wherever there is a young girl, there will be a young man." She did not want to be with him alone so I accompanied them. He arranged with a taxi to take us about and show us different parts of San Francisco. We drove about for several hours. This young man also came through Siberia. He owned a business, was well-off and not married but looking for a bride. The young lady informed him that she was on her way to meet her future husband and he told her, he was aware of that. He only wanted to show us a good time. He took us into an ice cream parlor. We ate and drank. It was my first ice cream in America. It cost this man a nice few dollars and he was very pleased. We were brought back to our hotel and thanked the young man most kindly.

The following day our man from HIAS came, took us to the train, purchased our tickets, and informed us that he would send the telegrams about our arrival: she to Chicago and I to New York!! I gave him the address of my friend, Goldberg, on 22 Ludlow St., N.Y. We rode three days and three nights until we arrived in Chicago. The young lady's friend was already waiting for her at the station. I bid her farewell and I had to travel three more days before I arrived in New York.

While riding on the train, people realized that I was a stranger travelling alone, so they asked me to eat with
them in the dining car. They gave me food to eat and to drink. One of the men was Yiddish, and quickly realized I couldn't speak English so he spoke to me. I told him a little about my travels. Since I did not have any address for my family I gave him the address of my friend. He wrote down this information and assured me that when we arrived at Grand Central Station if my family was not there to meet me, he would bring me to my friend's address.

We finally arrived at Grand Central Station and I was overwhelmed at the size and beauty of the station. Suddenly, I heard my name being called and there stood my friend from Ludlow Street, Yankel Goldberg, whom I had travelled with from my home in Japan. My older brother Zalman David and my sister Leah sat on a bench waiting. They did not recognize me nor did I recognize them. My friend shouted to them, "Here! Here he is! This is your brother Chunya." We fell upon each other's shoulders, kissed and cried. I thanked the gentleman from the train who had offered to bring me to my friend's home. "And now at last, I am in New York."

We went out into the street and up to the elevated train shuttle to go to Third Avenue. I asked if this was the train that travelled over the houses, which is what we were told back in our hometown, and everyone laughed. As we rode, a man came onto the train, playing an accordion and carrying a cup in one hand in one hand in which the passengers threw coins. I was surprised to see this and asked whether there were poor people in this country. Again, they laughed. My sister answered me, saying, "You will soon find out."

We got off the train at Canal Street, and my sister Leah told me they were taking me to visit a cousin also named Chunya. We have many relatives with this same name of Chunya, but in America the name is Harry. And I would also be called by the name of Harry.

I asked her why she was not bringing me to her home and she explained that she was a border in someone else's home. My brother Zalman has a large family, seven children, so for a while I will be with this family of cousins on Monroe Street. They lived on the second floor. The apartment was dark and dingy, four rooms with no electricity, only gas, and a bathroom in the hall. One had to wait their turn [to use] the bathroom, and I was told that other families sometimes had to use facilities outside their house. I thought to myself, "Is this the Golden Land?"





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