20 January 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: Selma Alperin, Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, NY

The First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association, a New York City landsmanshaft group for immigrants from the town of Lubin (Yiddish name), also known as Labun, Russian Empire, purchased two burial plots in Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, NY and one in Beth Moses Cemetery, Pinelawn, NY.[1]

Because many of these people constituted my Lubin relatives' friends, acquaintances and neighbors, I have recorded these burials and submitted them to JewishGen where they are online in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry. For inclusion in that database, I translated the Hebrew names on the tombstones. I did not, however, translate any epitaphs. In posts about burials in these plots, I will provide translations of any epitaphs and information about those interred.
I hate seeing burials for those who died young. One can only imagine the pain this brought to their families and friends - pain, doubt and guilt about whether more could have been done to keep this person alive.

Our Dear Child
Here lies
Kayla Hentze
Sussie Rivka daughter of Yakov
Died 1st day of Rosh Chodesh Adar 1 5700
May her soul be bound in eternal life
Died Feb 9, 1940
Age 18 yrs

Selma was the only daughter and youngest child of Jacob and Dora Waxenberg Myers Alperin. This tombstone is interesting because it provides four Hebrew/Yiddish names for Selma: Kayla Hentze Sussie Rivka. Usually people have a maximum of two of these names. 

Dora's grandson, Peter, has told me that he recollects Dora as superstitious and wary of modern medicine. His take is that Selma had pneumonia and Dora did not provide enough medical care for her daughter. It is only fair to note, however, that penicillin, the preferred treatment for pneumonia, was still being researched in 1940 and was likely not available for treatment.

Selma's four Hebrew/Yiddish names, however, fit with Dora's allegedly superstitious nature. In "Jewish Given Names," an article in the Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy, Warren Blatt discusses names given in light of Jewish superstition that began during medieval times and continues to the present day. The Angel of Death apparently maintains a list of names. If he seeks a child with that name and cannot locate them, the child might be spared.[2] Additional names might be added to a child's name to help them hide from the Angel of Death.

Sometimes the additional names have amuletic qualities. That is, they have meanings that are tied to long life and good health (for example, Chaim and Chaya - meaning "life").  Whether Selma's names were all given at birth or whether some were added later when she became ill is not known. None of them appear to have intrinsic meaning regarding health or life. 

My guess is that Sussie was her original name. Since Askenazi Jewish people in the United States often gave their children American names that started with the same or a similar sound, Sussie and Selma are likely a match.

I have not been able to locate a death certificate for Selma in any online New York City indexes. It is possible she died outside of New York City - which could be a story in itself since the family lived in the Bronx at the time of Selma's death. 
Special thanks to Israel Pickholtz, Adam Brown, Esther Chanie Dushinsky, Deb Morgan Stern, Fred Leserowitz, Sondra Shira Robins Gold, Robin Meltzer, Brooke Schreier Ganz, Hanita Kossowsky, and Peter L. Myers for the spirited Tracing the Tribe (FaceBook) discussion of the names on this tombstone and when they might have been selected. Of course, any errors in selecting from among the several opinions expressed are my own. 

1. Earlier posts about the FLPBA may be found at:
First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association incorporation papers
First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association 25th anniversary publication, Part 1
First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association 25th anniversary publication, Part 2
2.Warren Blatt, "Jewish Given Names," Avotaynu Guilde to Jewish Genealogy (Avotaynu: Bergenfield, New Jersey, 2004), 35-36,


  1. Intrafamilial rivalries and resentments, pride that goeth before a fall, also probably played a part. Dora was bitter about her abandonment by first husband Louis, and had poor relationships with her three daughters in law. My mother was famously called " a cold potato". I can see why she would not accept help from my mothers father Samuel A. Levene, MD , in addition to her folk beliefs.


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