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September 18, 2008 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-09-18

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Retracing Roots

Descendants of European shtetls gather to share memories.

Fannie and Jacob Koss in 1915,

Bereznitzers who settled in Detroit.

Ricky Stoler of Bloomfield Hills, Michael and Ellen Fine of Laguna Beach, Calif., Irwin and Judy Elson of Bloomfield Hills,
Andi Wolfe of Bloomfield Hills and Joe Rosen of West Bloomfield


ndi Wolfe of Bloomfield Hills can trace her family's roots back almost 100
years. Her grandmother, Fannie Koss (Kashtan), came to the United States
by boat in 1913 at the age of 18. Koss made the long journey with her mother
and brother from Bereznitz, a village in the Ukraine once part
of a group of predominantly Jewish shtetls. Her father, already
settled in Detroit, saved the money he earned as a butcher to
bring the family here. Two years later, Fannie married Jacob
Koss, another Bereznitzer who worked for Dodge and eventually
owned a grocery store on Hastings in Detroit. The rest, as they
say, is history.
"They came here with nothing but the clothes on their backs:'
Wolfe said. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. You can't
ever forget the past; you have to keep those memories alive'
Robin Schwartz
As part of her quest to remember her roots, Wolfe and her
husband, Larry, were among a group who traveled to Bereznitz
last year. It was such a moving experience, they decided to bring

Lisa Rasansky of West Bloomfield and her brother,
Michael Rasansky of Commerce


September 18 • 2008


other descendants together Sept. 7 for a dessert reception at their home. About 120 peo-
ple came from as far away as California, Maryland and Washington, D.C., with photos,
articles, letters and other memories to share.
"To stand there and listen to people tell their stories, it was so fabulous," Wolfe said.
"It's emotional, learning where you came from:' added Ricky Stoler of Bloomfield
Township. His grandparents were born in Bereznitz and Voldimiriz. Other participants
also had relatives from Sarny. Some were members of the Bereznitzer Aid Society, a
group that was active in Detroit in the 1930s -1970s, hosting picnics, dinner dances and
other events. Organizers plan to bring the descendants' group together at least once a
year, to raise funds to do something good in memory of their relatives, and possibly plan
another trip to the Ukraine and Poland.
"To stand in the shtetl, you're standing in history; I get emotional just thinking about _
it;' Wolfe said. "We're all connected; we really are all connecter
Spotted in the crowd were: Roz and Ken Gitlin of Orchard Lake; Iry Kanat of West
Bloomfield; Gene Shaffer of Novi; Ed Fleishman of Laguna Woods, Calif.; and Hershel
Sandberg of Bloomfield Hills.

Blanche Shawn of Farmington Hills and Nate and
Ellie Rubin of West Bloomfield

Francesca Bennett, 12, and her father, Mark
of Huntington Woods

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