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October 04, 1968 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1968-10-04

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History of Grand Rapids Jewry and Its Founders

many investments in lumber com-
Beth El
The history of Grand Rapids,
Houseman was largely identified
with today's population of over with other business interests in
200,000, goes back to 1826 when Grand Rapids. In 1870, he became
Louis Campau came first to look a stockholder in the City National
around and in the follOwing year Bank, the predecessor of the Na-
brought his wife and established a tional City Bank. In 1874, he was
trading post.
chosen a director, and in 1882 he
The first Jewish settler in Grand was elected vice president of the
Rapids was Julius Houseman, who bank. He wns one of the organizers
arrived in 1852 when the city had of the Grand Rapids Chair Compa-
a population of about 2.500 and the ny, was a director of the Grand
city boasted among its business Rapids Brush Co. and president of
concerns "eight nubile houses and the Grand Rapids Fire Insurance
victualling establishments."
Co. He was one of the founders
Houseman was born in Zecken- and directors of the Michigan
Co. He financed horsecar
dorf, Bavaria, Dec. 8, 1832. His
father, Solomon Houseman, native lines begining in 1873 and was ad-
of Louis Campau's
of Bavaria, was a manufacturer
of silk and cotton goods at Zecken- estate.
dorf, where he died in 1873 at the-
Houseman was a Democrat.
age of 71. His mother, Henrietta,
He served as alderman in
Grand Rapids from 1863 to 1870,
daughter of Julius Strass of Heil-
igenstadt, Bavaria. died in 1835 at
was mayor in 1872 and 1874 and
year at Notre Dame University in
the age of 35. Julius Houseman
represented Grand Rapids in the
South Bend, Ind.
State Legislature in 1871-72. In
was the older of two children. His
1876 he was the candidate of his
sister, Mary, married Albert Als-
As a 15-year-old boy, , Amberg
party for lieutenant governor and
berg, who came to Grand Rapids
served in the Union Army's Supply
was proposed for the governor-
in the 1850s and later became a
Service during the Civil War. He
ship of Michigan but refused to
prominent New York merchant.
was with the Army of the Cumber-
be a candidate. In 1883 he was land in December 1864, when Gen-
Houseman's education, up to the
elected to represent the fifth
age of 13. was obtained in the Na-
eral Thomas defeated General
diet- ict of Michigan in the 48th
ticinal Schools of Zeckendorf and
Hood at Nashville, Tenn.
Bamberg. and was completed with
After the war he was employed
the first and only Michigan Jew
a two years' commercial course,
in Cincinnati by the Seasongood
to this day to serve as a Con-
after which he worked for three
Wholesale Grocery House, came to
gre-----n. He remained in office
years as a dry goods clerk in a
Grand Rapids in 1868, formed with
until 1885.
store in Bavaria.
Sidney A Hart (later his brother-
He became a member of the in-law) the wholesale liquor firm
The Revolution in Germany in
1848 had its influence on the young Masonic Fraternity in 1854, was a of Hart and Amberg which con-
man's life, and in 1F51. at 10. he member of Odd Fellows, served tinued until Hart's removal to De-
decided to cross the ocean and on the board of Peninsular Club, troit in 1887. With his brother,
seek freedom in the United States. and as an officer of Owashtanong Abraham M. Amberg, the business
His first home was in Cincinnati, Club. He was an honorary member continued until 1916 as D. M. Am-
where he clerked in a clothing of Companies B. I. and K. of the berg & Brother.
house for a few months. Then he Michigan National Guard.
Amberg was one of the founders
went to New Vienna, 0., where he
In 1F57 he joined with his cousin, and served as a director of the
worked as a clerk in a general Joseph Houseman. and Albert Als- National City Bank (later the
store until March, 1852, when he berg. Josenh Newborg and David Grand Rapids National City Bank
' came to Battle Creek to enuage in Newborg to form the first Jewish and then the Grand Rapids Na-
the merchant tailoring and clothing association in Grand Rapids, the tional Bank). He was for many
business with Isaac Amberg, under Benevolent and Burial Society. years a director of the Grand Rap-
the firm name of Amberg and Each contributed 8100 toward the ids Chair Company and was a
purchase of land for a cemetery vice president of Imperial Furni-
for burial of a -young French ture Co.
In August, 1852. at 20. he came
trader, Jocob Levy, who had found
to Grand Rapids, est-blirbed a
He was one of the incorpor-
his way to Grand Rapids and had
branch of the Battle Creek firm.
ators of Temple Emanuel in 1871
In 1864, the firm of Houseman, died of consumption. This burial
and served for many years as
Alsberg and Co. was organized, place, locoted in Oakhill Ceme-
its president; was a past presi-
with branch houses in New York. tery, is still in use as the burial
dent of District Grand Lodge No.
Baltimore and Savannah. In 1870 ground of Temnle Emanuel (an
6 Bnai Brith.
the firm was dissolved Houseman outgrowth of the Benevolent and
Among his contributions to Grand
retaining possession of the Grand P.ttrial Society) incornorated in Rapids was the gift, with Mrs.
Ranids establishment in partner- 1871. of which Julius Houseman Amberg, of the Houseman Field
ship with his cousin, Joseph was the first president. Houseman to the Board of Education as a
Houseman. The Housemans oper- was also one of the organizers of memorial to Julius Houseman.
ated a clothing factory in connect- Grand Rapids Lodge 238 of the Hattie and David Amberg were the
ion with their retail business, mak- Independent Order of Bnai Brith, parents of Melvin, Sophie (Mrs.
ing work pants and shirts for lum- and served as its first president. Meyer S. May), Hazel (Mrs.
Upon Houseman's death, the lodge
chan"ed its name to Julius House- Henry M. Stern), and Julius H.
In 1876, Julius disposed of his
Amberg died in Grand Rapids
business to his cousin, Josenh. and man Lodge, in tribute to his me- in 1939, at the age of 91, and was
Moses May, who continued it for mory, under which name it funct- buried in the Jewish Section of
ions to this day.
a number of years under the
Oakhill Cemetery.
Houseman married Genevieve
firm name of Houseman and May.
Julius Houseman Amberg, son of
Ringuette, a French-Canadian
Later Edward Donnelly and
Mr. and Mrs. David M. Amberg,
Catholic girl. She was the daugh-
Eugene W. Jones were admitted
grandson of Julius Houseman, was
ter of Maxime Ringoette, an
to partnership and the firm be-
born in Grand Rapids in 1890. He
early settler of Grand Rapids
came known as Houseman, Don-
graduated first in his class at
who was a shoemaker "well
nelly and Jones. Upon the with-
Central High School in 1908, first
known to boot and shoe trade on
drawal of Donnelly from the firm,
in his class at Colgate University
Monroe Street." During the slack
the business continued as House-
in 1912, and first in his class at
season in summertime, he was
man & Jones.
Harvard Law School in 1915. At
running a pole boat on the Grand
Colgate he was cited as "the best
In 1891, the massive Houseman
River. Genevieve was converted
Building was erected (fronting on
student in 100 years" and at Har-
to Judaism by Rabbi Isaac M.
Pearl, Ottawa and Lyon Streets)
vard he was editor of the Law
Wise of Cincinnati. Genevieve
on the exact site of Houseman's
and Julius Houseman had one
first store.
He began his practice of law in
daughter, Hattie. They were di-
The Houseman Building was
1915 with the firm of Butterfield
vorced later.
razed in 1966 to make room for a
Julius Houseman died in Grand and Keeney, which became Butter-
parking lot.
Rapids, Feb. 9, 1891, at the age of field, Keeney, and Amberg in 1916.
Eugene W. Jones continued with 59. By public request, his body lay In 1917 he was called to the office
the company until his death in in state in the City Hall. He was of the secretary of war to per-
buried in the Jewish section of form legal work in connection with
Henry L. Houseman took over Oakbill Cemetery was survived by labor disputes. He was the author
the business when his father, his daughter, Hattie; sister, Mrs. of the War Department pamphlet
Joseph, died in 1908, and he oper- Albert Alsberg of New York; his on enforcement of the eight-hour
ated the store until he died in 1929. half-brother, William Houseman; law in government contracts.
Henry's son, Joseph, purchased the half-sister, Mrs. Simon Mainzer; Later in the war, he .served in
Jones interest from his father's cousin, Joseph Houseman; and the United States Navy as a sea-
estate. Maurice H. and Joseph L. several half-brothers and _half- man. During World War II Am-
berg again served in the War De-
Houseman operated the store sisters in Germany.
Hattie Houseman married David partment as a special assistant to
Houseman became one of the M. Amberg in 1876, when she was the secretary of war. For his work
largest holders of real estate in 17. Amberg was born in Middle- involving the War Department's
that section of Michigan, owned t own, 0., Jan. 1, 1848. As a boy industrial activities, he received
large tracts in the Upper Penin- he moved with his family to La- the Presidential Medal of Merit
sula and in other states, and had f ayette, Ind. He studied for a and citations from President Tru-
man and Secretary of War Patter-
10 — Friday, October 4, 1968

Executive Secretary, Temple

Amberg was active in the
establishment of the Michigan
Integrated Bar and was elected
its president in 1939. During the
depression of the 1930s, he ser-
ved as chairman of the Kent
County Welfare Commission. He
was president of the Grand Rap-
ids Federation of Social Agen-
cies, Grand Rapids Foundation,
and other civic groups. He was
a leader in the Citizens Action
Movement in 1949-50; and was
regarded as the most talented
lawyer of Grand Rapids from
1916 to his death in 1951, at the
age of 60.
Joseph Houseman was born in
Zeckendorf, Bavaria, Feb. 13, 1832,
the son of Mayer and Henrietta
Neumann Houseman. He was edu-
cated in the elementary and Heb-
rew schools of his city. At the
age of 21, he left for the United
States, arriving in Michigan in
July 1853, where his cousin Julius
preceded him. In 1854, he visited
Grand Rapids, and in 1857 he be-
came a permanent resident of the
city where he engaged in business
together with Julius Houseman. On
Sept. 21, 1858, he married Henri-
etta Rose, daughter of Abraham
Rose of Grand Rapids, and they
became the parents of Maurice M.,
Henry L. and Helen.
Houseman became a friend of
the 'Ottawa and Chippewa Indian
tribes. He was called upon by both
the Indians and the whites to settle
disputes. In appreciation the In-
dians gave Joseph the name of
Little J Blackskin.
He was
member of the firm
of "Hous an, Donnelly & Jones"
and presi ent of the firm's succes-
sor "Hou eman and Jones." He
served as a director and as a
vice president of the Grand Rapids
National Bank, as a trustee of the
Grand Rapids Board of Education,
as a director of the board of pub-
lic works, the Peninsular Trust
Company, the Butterworth Hosp-
ital and the Valley City Building
and Loan Association. He was also
president of the Grand Rapids
Building, Loan and Homestead
Association, director and treasurer
of the Division Street Gravel Road

Grand Rapids
News Notes

Company, and held many other
Houseman was one of the pi-
oneers and builders of the Jewish
community of Grand Rapids. He
was chairman of the Benevolent
and Burial Society, the first Jew-
ish association, organized in 1857.
He served for many years as pres-
ident of Temple Emanuel and as
director of the Cleveland Jewish
Orphan Home (now Bellefaire).
Mrs. Houseman was president of
the Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent
Society for many years. Her half-
brother, Albert Alsberg, married
Marie Houseman, sister of Julius
Houseman. Houseman died May 8,
Houseman Avenue in Grand
Rapids was named after the fam-

Children Wear
Yellow Badges to
Evoke Holocaust


(Copyright 1968, JTA Inc.)

ALBANY—An effort is under
way here to persuade Jewish par-
ents and children to absent them-
selves from work and school to
gather in synagogues for a com-
memoration of the Holocaust April
Officials of Albany's Temple
Israel plan this as an extension
of the third annual observance in
the Conservative synagogue's re-
ligious school classes.
April 15 coincides in 1969 with
NisSan 27, which has been widely
accepted as the day of remem-
brance of the Holocaust.
Philip Arian, educational direc-
tor of Temple Israel, reported also
that an effort would be made to
"inspire our entire Jewish com-
munity" on the day "to wear with
pride the Yellow Badge of Honor"
which the Nazis forced European
Jews to. wear. Wearing of the
yellow badge is an element of the
observance in Temple Israel
school classes. Another is the
reading of a Sefer Hashoa—BoOk
of the Holocaust—which was pre-
pared by teachers when the ob-
servance was started in 1967.
Arian described the genesis of
the commemoration in a report
in "The Synagogue School," a pub-
lication of the commission on Jew-
ish education of the United Syna-
gogue of America, the association
of Conservative congregations, and
amplified it in a statement to the
Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
After the decision was made to
try to "evoke the Holocaust for
our students in as real a way as
is done by the seder on Passover
and the Megilla reading on
Purim," the idea emerged of pre-
paring a mimeographed Sefer
Hashoa to "formulate the full
story of the Nazi era for students
who were almost totally ignorant
of it."
A few parents objected the first
year because of the presumed
emotional impact on their chil-
dren. Some parents, when pressed
on such reactions, were non-com-
mittal, indicating that "the anxiety
they were expressing was their
Many teachers were disturbed
and even bitter at some of the
negative reaction s, but what
troubled them most, Arian re-
ported, was "the reaction of non-
reaction." They simply did not
know whether many of their stu-
dents had been touched or not.
One teacher argued that such a
response was "the best reaction
we could hope for. Not a one-shot
emotional frenzy but an honest
acceptance of what was." The
teacher added that "Of one thing
we can be certain — they will not

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Oberman
announce the engagement of their
daughter Wendy to Nathan Bly-
veis, son of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice
• • •
Abe Ginsburg was elected com-
missioner of the Bnai Brith Na-
tional Commission on Community
and Veterans Service at the tri-
enniel convention in Washington.
Paul Liebert was elected an asso-
ciate of the Supreme Lodge board
of review at the trienniel.
• • •
Messrs. and Mesdames Simon
Rosenbaum, Seymour Rapaport
and Sidney Rapaport are on tour
in Israel.
• • •
Larry S. Solomon, son of Mrs.
Leo Solomon, has been appointed
vice president of Analytical Plan
ning Corp. of Washington, D.C., a
financial planning firm. Solomon
had been corporation counsel for
Detroit before joining the Wash-
ington firm.
a a •
Mr. and Mrs. Hyman Berkowitz
of Belknap Ave. announce the en-
gagement of their daughter Lu-
anne to Alan R. Thodey, son of
Mr. and Mrs. Albert H. Thodey
of Geeveston, Tasmania. Miss
Berkowitz and her fiance, both of
Palo Alto, are planning a Dec. 1
wedding. The bride-elect is a grad-
uate of the University of Michi-
gan, where she was affiliated with
Delta Epsilon Sorority. She also
received her masters degree at
U. of M. Her fiance is a graduate
of the University of Tasmania and
No man has ever been able to
will receive his PhD from the hide from the subpoenas of the
University of Illinois in December. court of conscience.

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