One Man’s Dream: Making A Difference


The True Story About My Grandfather: From Poland to Ellis Island to the Bronx

A Tribute to A Wonderful Man

Making a difference in the lives of everyone he encountered is what Max Jacob Goldberg did the moment he arrived in Ellis Island. It is this special difference that makes a person’s life fulfilled and complete. Respect and understanding for people of all walks of life should be a component instilled in everyone. It is this significant character trait that my grandpa instilled in each member of his family. Throughout his life he was revered by everyone he met, family, business associates and friends. He taught his five children and grandchildren to find the positive and good in everyone. Heritage and upbringing are two key factors that mold and form what a child becomes as an adult. They determine your values about family, education and what is important in life. My grandfather was the most giving, understanding, trusted and honest businessman in the community.

One word defines the character of my grandfather- Humanitarian. His selflessness and courage to better his family and himself is what brought him to America during difficult times. Landing and winding up in Ellis Island was the start of his great adventure. My grandfather could not speak English and when they asked him his name, which was Bocian, he spelled it in Yiddish and could not spell it using our alphabet. Someone asked if he knew anyone or had a relative in America whose name he could use and he said no. They changed his name to Goldberg during the interview and instinctively knew that his new name would bring him new challenges and great things. You see Goldberg means: Mountain of Gold. But, not literally. It just referred to the hard work and diligence he put into everything and trying to survive with five children in a new land and new country.

As an orthodox Jewish man he encountered many obstacles. Married to Fanny his wife, and having five children to support and feed was enough of a challenge for him or anyone else. Being a Sabbath observer he would not work on Saturday and could not get an employment in his vocation as a European tailor. With pride and dignity he did not give in to the pressures of society or wants of others and instead sold apples on a street corner to make ends meet. Eventually, he was able to open his own business. My grandfather was very enterprising from the start.

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My grandmother’s name was Fanny who I am named after. She had four sisters who survived the concentration camps in Poland. Two sisters and Fanny’s parents were brought to America from Poland by my grandfather. Katie and Tillie came from Poland and their parents Tzvia Bella and Joseph Mordecai Cohen as well. Fanny spoke five languages and instilled in her children the importance of being educated and going to school. Both Max and Fanny taught their children Irving, Kenneth, Harry, Tova and Ruth, to always strive for what they wanted and never give up until you succeed. Always working to succeed on your own with the support and guidance of your family is the only route, he felt to being successful. When Fanny passed away, Max was devastated. He no longer had a mother for his five children. Faced with this serious situation he decided to court and finally married the only grandmother I ever knew, her sister Katie. Katie did not walk into a great situation. She had a difficult time making the transition from aunt to mother. A unique and wise woman, she quickly won the love, trust and devotion of all five children that she so rightly deserved. Together they brought up the five children with love, understanding guiding them and supporting each one in whatever they chose to do. With a strong and firm manner my grandfather headed his family and received the respect he deserved from every member.

Throughout his life Max Goldberg, my grandfather, looked for ways to channel his energies to help others. Important to him was the fact that he was Jewish. Going to synagogue on a daily basis made him and fulfilled. Becoming active in the Bronx Jewish Center and donating funds to keep the temple prosperous always brought him joy. When my grandmother, Katie died, he moved in with my parents. My sister and I were thrilled to have him there full time. My mom Ruth and my dad Doc adored him and were so glad that he agreed to come and live with us. He immediately became an important and integral part of the community helping to establish and build a new temple with Rabbi Bulka. Congregation Khal Adath Yeshurun is special to my family and we do everything to support the temple as best we can. The Rabbi and my grandfather became best of friends and the Rabbi enjoyed his many talks with him until he and his wife moved to Israel. Not only did my grandfather donate his time to the temple but any time funds were needed for renovations or anything else he was the first one to make sure things got done. The memorial plagues in his memory are a constant reminder of his everlasting presence.

A child’s most gratifying reward is when a parent or grandparent is proud him/her. He was a grandfather to nine grandchildren. Each one received time that was special with him to discuss and focus on their special goals, needs and endeavors. He encouraged all of us to purse whatever vocation would make our lives fulfilled and most gratifying.

Max Jacob Goldberg touched the lives of many people. Family, friends, relative and anyone that had the honor of knowing him loved him. He was certainly Mr. Goldberg the best European Tailor on Mohegan Avenue in the Bronx. The cleaning store he opened was Arista Cleaners. Arista to him meant the best that someone could attain in school and his store lived up to the name. Goldberg: Mountain of Gold in heart and love for humanity.

I am truly blessed that he was my grandfather and taught me the values that I have today. Helping other people and working to make others succeed brings a smile to my face every time I read and review a book and the author loves what I wrote. He taught me the meaning of giving and my two books on Alzheimer’s and Keeping your Mind and Brain Active were written to raise awareness for a cure for Alzheimer’s and Brain Traumatic Injury with royalties going to two specific organizations. Everyday he would remind me of all that I was understood my strengths and weaknesses and supported me in all that I would do. When he learned I was going in for Education and teaching he beamed. Listening to me practice the piano and violin was one of his favorite parts of his day. He would ask me to wait until he came home so that he could listen to my play and monitor my progress. My grandfather was an important member of his synagogue and the many Rabbis he knew would often call him for advice on many matters concerning the Temple and to join them for important meetings. Just being his granddaughter was special and made me proud till this day.

Although my grandfather and all of his children are gone his values and his teachings live on in myself, my brother, his children and many others in my family. Thank you dear Grandfather you taught us well and you made each of us strong. Learning that family was the most important component of his life he never gave us material things. He showered us with love, guidance and understanding and was always there when we needed him. My grandfather started out with nothing and wound up owning many cleaning stores but even more he was loved by not only his family but by everyone in the community too. Fran Lewis


Bio: Family values and morals are really high on my list of what is important to me. As a child I was never really that popular and often spent my spare time reading books or talking on the phone to some of my friends. Schoolwork was important to me and getting perfect grades paramount to my mom. The one person that was always on my side and my champion was my grandfather. Becoming an educator was my mom and my aunt’s idea as they drummed it into my head from the age of three. (Glad they did). Getting several degrees and working as a reading and writing staff developer still makes smile and me proud. Becoming an author and talk show host was a dare. When I retired because my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I drowned myself in food. My sister asked if I was going to remain an overweight couch potato or do something with my hidden writing talents. She was right and it was a rude awakening. I weighed close to 190 pounds and now weigh 109. Never gained it back and never will. But, she also dared me to review books and that was the start of my first non- paid career that I love. The radio show was the next as April Robins gave me my first spot on Red River Writers. I have written 12 books and the last if The Vanishing Mind of Ruth Swerdloff: IN HER OWN WORDS, and Alzheimer’s Suffer’s Journal. I miss my mom and my sister even more. Giving me the courage to do something that I never thought I could do: RADIO and review books.

Fran Lewis

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4 thoughts on “One Man’s Dream: Making A Difference

  1. Bryan Murphy

    I’m so glad your grandfather managed to overcome the prejudices of the locals and set himself up as a tailor in the end, Fran. As well as all his other gifts to you, he must have bequeathed you a wealth of inspiration for your fiction.

  2. John B. Rosenman

    What a moving tribute. Universally loved, your grandfather sounds like a great man. I was deeply moved by your statement that when he moved in with you, you were all excited and thrilled. I wish I had known him.

  3. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Fran, I enjoyed your telling of your grandfather’s story and his struggle to make a new life for himself in America, far from his native Poland. Your inspiring words were a pleasure to read.


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