Happy Hanukkah: Eight Jewish Histories for Eight Holy Nights

In honor of Hanukkah and the rich history of Jewish life in Northport-East Northport, we hope you will enjoy eight mini-profiles on members of the Jewish community in NENP. Concluding this piece is a brief history of the East Northport Jewish Center.

Saltz and Alter store, circa 1900. Image copyright Northport Historical Society.

The Clark Family

Samuel Clark (Leikach) left Russia for America in winter of 1902, sponsored by his uncle Gershon Patiky (see below). His life story can be found in full in The Autobiography of Samuel Clark edited by his granddaughter, Marcia Clark. His early profession was as a traveling salesman or peddler; over the years he sold notions, fresh vegetables, and dry goods across the Elwood, Kings Park, and Northport areas. His early route circa 1903-04 took him “from Kings Park through Fort Salonga all the way to Northport and come back through East Northport and Bread and Cheese Hollow” (Clark 80). To get to Eaton’s Neck he had to pass through Asharoken in the coldest months of the year, usually with insufficient winter clothing. Out on Eaton’s Neck, he sold goods to the Italian immigrants working for the sand and gravel works. Neither could understand each other’s language, but both understood the dynamics of commerce.

In January 1906, Clark married Bella Oskt, whose family housed him when he first arrived in America. She helped Samuel with his businesses; she was in charge of the physical storefronts they owned while he would peddle goods door to door in his wagon. Samuel and Bella moved from Central Islip to Northport when he was having trouble holding down territory for his business. Unfortunately, business in Northport did not go particularly well, and in 1909 the Clarks decided to return to Central Islip.

The Saltz and Alter Families

Max Saltz and Louis Alter were married to two sisters, Martha and Anna Apsel. The two couples moved from New York to Babylon and then to Northport in 1905 to open a dry goods and clothing store. The store they once inhabited is now Organically Yours and The Olive Tree (you can see the marble “Saltz and Alter” sign today). According to a news piece published in the Northport Journal about the business on April 8, 1911, they were known for having the most attractive window display on the street. The two couples and their respective families lived in the apartments above the building. Saltz and Alter expanded their business portfolio in 1920 when they bought Superior Surgical Manufacturing Co., a factory in East Northport specializing in hospital gowns and other hospital needs. 

Saltz and Alter store, circa 1900. Image copyright Northport Historical Society.

All members of the Saltz and Alter families were active in the local community. Max and Louis were members of Alcyone Lodge F & AM, Royal Arcanum. Louis was also an Odd Fellow. Martha and Anna were very active in the Eastern Star, Adah Chapter OES, the Sisterhood of the Jewish Brethren of Kings Park, and the Suffolk Rebekah Lodge. In 1938, Louis Alter was on the Village Development Committee and helped oversee projects related to the continued development of the oyster industry in Northport.

In 1941, Max and Louis decided to sell their store. At the same time, Louis gave up the presidency of the board of Superior Surgical, which he had maintained after he and Max sold the business in 1935. The two couples, who had worked and lived side by side already for more than three decades, bought a house on Scudder Avenue together in 1942. Tragedy struck the Saltz and Alter households in 1953 when Martha unexpectedly died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Louis and Anna Alter celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with a trip to Florida in March and a special service at the Kings Park Jewish Center in May 1955, both of which warranted full accounts in the Northport Journal. The now-widowed Saltz went with them to Florida. Max died in 1957 while living upstate with one of his daughters. Louis passed away in 1962, and Anna followed in 1971.

The Ingerman Family

Abraham Ingerman left Russia to avoid being conscripted into the tsar’s army. Sarah Kahn was an orphan from the town in Russia where the Okst family had lived; she came to America to live with an aunt and uncle. They met in New York City. In about 1907, Abraham’s cousin Charlie Johnson had the courting couple visit Kings Park to meet the Okst family, to whom he was related by marriage. At the time, Abraham was working in a factory and going to night school. Sarah got along so well with the Okst family matriarch, Ida, that she was able to take a job with her sewing uniforms and aprons for Patiky’s Store in Kings Park. Samuel Clark described Sarah as “very sociable and active… wherever she was she was the life of the party."

The original Ingerman Store, now Helga's Choice Consignment. Image courtesy of Marcia Clark.

In 1909, the Clarks left Northport. At this time, Charlie Johnson recommended that Abraham Ingerman and Sarah Kahn open a tailor repair shop in the store the Clarks were vacating. Abraham and Sarah were married in 1910 and immediately after moved to Northport to open their business, first called The New York Dressmaking and Cleaning Establishment, in the building that is now Helga’s Choice Consignment. The couple’s first child, Rose, was born in 1911. In her oral history, held by the Northport Public Library, Rose described helping around the store at the early age of 6 or 7, which would have made her a big part of the Northport community from her earliest years.

The Ingerman’s had expanded their business from New York Dressmaking and Cleaning to Ingerman’s Department Store in 1925, which was now housed in a brand-new building built for them. By now they had three children, Rose, Percy, and Ethel. Percy was a law student at Cornell in the 1930s. In 1934, their daughter, Ethel, was engaged to Isadore Clark, son of Samuel and Bella. Rose had long been a helper in the family store but decided to take a job at the Northport Veterans Administration Hospital in about 1930 as a finance officer. The Ingermans, like other shop-keepers in town, did their best to support their neighbors during the Depression by giving credit to those who were struggling.

Portrait of Abraham and Sarah Ingerman. Image courtesy of Marcia Clark.

During World War II, Percy Ingerman served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater. Upon arriving back in Northport, he was elected to the now-defunct title of Huntington Town Justice, a position he would keep until 1961 when he left that position to become Northport Village Justice. Ethel had moved to Central Islip with Isadore, who tragically passed away in 1951. In 1953, Rose and her husband, Marshall Murray, bought Ingerman’s Department Store from Abraham, who continued tailoring in his retirement. They were part of the King’s Park Jewish Center community, with Murray even playing an active role in the celebration for Louis and Anna Alter’s anniversary. Rose and Murray Marshall retired from the Ingerman Department Store in 1969. The store continued to exist until the 1990s under different ownership. The building, now Nest on Main and La Mantia Gallery, bears a plaque commemorating the Ingerman Department Store’s longevity.

Ingerman's store circa 1990. Copyright Northport Historical Society.

Jacob, Lena, and Julius Patiky

Two of the most important names in the early Jewish community of Huntington included Gershon and Ruchal Leah Patiky. The two had emigrated from Russian Poland in the 1880s with their six children following and settling together on a big farm in Elwood. As the patriarch of one of the first families in their area to arrive in America, Gershon helped sponsor the tickets of many relatives including Samuel Clark. The Patiky family being so big, the children spread out across King’s Park, Commack, Elwood, East Northport, and Northport. One Patiky son was Jacob. He started as a farmer in Dix Hills and married Lena Hollander, who had been living in Greenlawn. The couple started out living in Brooklyn, where in 1905 they had their son, Julius. Around 1907 Jacob and Lena bought a 28-acre farm in East Northport and left Brooklyn. By 1908 Jacob had tried his hand at cattle auctioning and found he had a talent for the fast-paced trade. For many years Jacob ran many auctions from a former garage in East Northport. One of his big sales was of the dining room sets and furniture of Leighton’s Hotel in East Northport before it was closed in 1918. Julius ran his first auction in 1922, when he was 17 years old.

Julius Patiky with his Northport High School senior class. Copyright Northport Historical Society.

Image from The Observer, 1950.

In 1930, the auction house on Vernon Valley Road burned down. Jacob moved his operation to what was then Robbins Funeral Parlor on Woodbine and Scudder. Though Jacob wanted his son to be a lawyer, Julius joined the family business in 1931 after finishing college at Muhlenberg College. In 1938 he married his wife, Jean Weiss. When the funeral parlor was torn down in 1942, Julius made the move to a building on the corner of Woodbine and 25A that had originally been a Model T Ford dealership. In August 1950, artists Rube Goldberg and Walter Baumhofer joined Jacob to auction original paintings as a benefit for the Cerebral Palsy Association of Suffolk. A grinning picture of the three men was used in a profile on Julius when he retired many years later. Jacob Patiky died in September 1950, leaving his auction business to his son. Julius Patiky sold Patiky Auction Rooms and retired in 1975.

Hans Gabali

Hans and his siblings, Margaret and Karl, 1920s. Courtesy of Bill Gabali.

Hans Gabali was born in Germany in 1920. His father, Alfred Gabali, was a famous painter in Hamburg in the 1930s who refused to join the Reichskulturkammer and fled to Holland, then America. The Gabali siblings, Hans, Margaret, and Karl, all did their best to hide during the war, but only Hans and Margaret survived. Hans had a family in Germany after the war, but in 1956 left for America with his son, William, known as Bill. Nothing is known about his first wife and his daughter. The two men started their American life in Brooklyn, living with Alfred. Hans married another German immigrant, Gertrude, after coming to Brooklyn; they gained their citizenship in 1957-1958.

Hans working on a mural, 1961. Courtesy of Bill Gabali.

Hans soon made his name on Long Island as a master muralist whose work can be found in over 6,000 public and private spaces including the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, and the large outdoor Freeport Marine Supply mural. Hans painted images in an incredible range of sizes. In our exhibit, Immigrants of Northport-East Northport, examples of his work painted on bottle caps and two-by-one inch canvases are displayed next to a dramatic, full-sized nautical image of a ship at sea. In East Northport, Hans’ murals on the side of Fred’s Carpet and 317 Larkfield Road can still be seen. He passed away in 2006.

Hans working on a mural, 1965. Photo courtesy of Bill Gabali.

Herman Wouk

File:Herman Wouk.jpg

Herman Wouk in Jerusalem, 1955. Photo by Theodore Brauner. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Herman_Wouk.jpg 

When young Herman Wouk and Betty Brown Wouk moved into Northport in the summer of 1946, locals didn’t realize they would be hosting one of the most famous modern American authors for the next two years. While living here, Wouk’s first son, Abraham, was born, and he was finishing his first novel, Aurora Dawn. In a letter to the director of the Northport Historical Society in 1983, Wouk wrote: “Our firstborn son, Abe, was born in Northport. He died in a tragic accident in Mexico before his fifth birthday. Many of our memories are wrapped up with his babyhood, and we think of Northport as a place of quiet, of flowering trees, and of early wedded happiness.” He also mentions in his letter that he (like so many in the village) got “good legal advice” from Percy Ingerman. The Kings Park Jewish Center website mentions that when Wouk lived in the area he “led services, served as cantor and then donated his fee to charity. In addition, for a while, he made his donations to the UJA in honor of the Kings Park Brotherhood”. Herman and Betty moved to Great Neck in 1948 to be closer to Manhattan.

The Rothman Family

Pickles had long been an industry on Long Island. If anyone knew pickling, it was Katie Brown and Joseph Rothman. Both the Browns and the Rothmans had immigrated to America in approximately 1890 from Russia. They married in 1898; shortly after, Joseph started working on the operations of the pickling factory on Rivington Street owned by Katie’s parents, Leah and Joseph. After learning the business, Katie and Joseph decided to open their own factory on Long Island. Katie’s brother, Harry, had been working at a pickle plant on the North side of the East Northport train tracks run by William Soper, and encouraged his sister to come to the area. Katie and Joseph started their business by renting out a part of the Soper factory. In 1914 they made a contract with Burt Lumber Company to co-own a factory they would build on the South side of the East Northport train tracks. The agreement was a complicated and strange decision considering the vast differences between the two types of businesses. Unsurprisingly, they bought out Burt Lumber's share of the factory in 1921. A few years after opening the factory, the Rothmans purchased the large white house on the corner of Pulaski and Larkfield Roads that is now a doctor’s office; they spent summers in that house and spent the rest of their time in Brooklyn. In the 1930s the ‘white pickle plague’ caused Katie and Joseph’s son, Frank, to help move the plant’s product to sauerkraut.

Images of Katie and Joseph Rothman. Photos courtesy of Keith Rothman.

1953 was marked by the death of Joseph. Frank and his wife, Matilda Weiss, were running the business by then. Matilda did a great deal of administrative work while Frank continued to use his marketing skills to sell ‘Katie’s Sauerkraut’ for distribution by stores like A&P and King Kullen. The couple built a house on 9th Avenue in 1951 and brought their son, Keith, to live there. This was the first time the Rothman family had a permanent presence in East Northport. It was around this time in the 1950s that Frank and Matilda, along with other Jewish families in East Northport, came together to form the East Northport Jewish Center (see below).

Rothman Pickle Works closed in 1961. Access to cabbage had dwindled in the last decade as Long Island farms were turned into housing developments. The Rothman Pickle Works was sold to the Town of Huntington and demolished to create the south side parking for the Northport Train Station.

Rea Jacobs

For many years, the names of Huntington and Northport have been synonymous with excellence in community theater and local arts. Rea Jacobs was partially responsible for the development of that identity.

Rea and her husband Joseph, who over the years was both a teacher at East Northport Middle School and a professor at John Jay School of Criminal Justice, moved to Northport in 1960 with their son, Matthew. By 1961, Rea had become a member of the Huntington Township Theater Group, and in 1962 her daughter, Claudia, was born. This community group staged seasonal plays and musicals that were performed at churches and schools throughout Huntington, including Northport High School. Rea was an integral member of that group for many years, acting and directing in shows like HMS Pinafore, Gypsy, and Cabaret. Her fellow Group members remember her as a fearless creative. In one interview, former professional actress Pat Mears described her as “‘the backbone of TTG,” further saying, “I would not go back on stage unless it was for Rea.”

Rea Jacob's headshot. Image courtesy of Claudia Jacobs.

Rea was always working on a new project; in 1965 she became president of Associated Community Theaters of Suffolk County, or ACTS, and helped organize their gala fundraiser event during which Tony award style accolades were presented to members of different Suffolk County theater amateurs and professionals. By 1972, Rea was also a board member of the Huntington Arts Council. When she wasn’t continuing her work to bring actors together on the town or county levels, she was petitioning to support the arts in Northport. She and Joseph put out a joint letter in 1972 protesting the destruction of the historic Holiday Lodge, proposing instead for it to be turned into a community center where the arts could be nurtured. Unfortunately, her plea was ignored, and the Holiday Lodge was torn down and the land used for the Harbor Villas townhouse community.

Of all Rea’s projects, the most impressive was the International Jewish Arts Festival of Long Island. She conceived of the idea during her tenure as cultural arts director of the United Jewish Y’s of Long Island. The first event was held in 1983 on the grounds of Usdan Arts Camp in Wheatley Heights. The two-day event, held during Labor Day Weekend, was so successful that the festival was moved to the Commack YM/YWHA where there was more room for the festival to grow. From 1984 to 2002, JAFLI saw anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 people attend annually, making it to this day one of the biggest Jewish arts festivals in the world.

Conferring with her TTG set designer, fellow Northporter Gloria Jackier. Image courtesy of Claudia Jacobs.

The festival consisted of artisans selling and making examples of traditional craftsmanship including tallit woven on-site; a multitude of ethnic foods eaten by Jewish people from Eastern Europe to the Middle East and beyond; and the piece de resistance: five stages with simultaneous performances on both days featuring everyone from Mandy Patinkin, to Joel Grey, Henny Youngman, Jerry Stiller, Richard Lewis, to Arlo Guthrie. Rea found performers from all over the world, reaching out to Jewish artists from India to Africa. There were klezmer bands, Jewish rock groups, Middle Eastern groups, and a troop that performed Gilbert and Sullivan shows in Yiddish. Two performance elements were unique to the festival. The first was the Jewish Arts Festival Orchestra, conducted by David Amram and composed of union musicians from Manhattan and beyond. The second was the festival’s anthem, “We’ve Got A Reason”, written and performed annually by Rea’s daughter, Claudia Dunmire, who is a professional singer-songwriter. As if organizing all of that was not enough, Rea also made sure to commit tables and tents over the years to sharing information within the Long Island Jewish community. In 1998 and 1999 she focused particularly on genealogy, partnering with a group called Operation Mishpacha to provide computers with genealogy records and specific tables for people with the same last names to congregate in order to discover any long-lost relatives.

“It is massive, but, on the other hand, where else can you get such a high?” Rea said to Peter Seiden of the Northport Observer in August 1984 when announcing the headliners for JAFLI 1984.

At a rehearsal with Rea's stage manager and best friend, Harriet Chomet. Image courtesy of Claudia Jacobs.

Rea’s overflowing well of creativity never ran dry, but funding for the festival became spotty in the 1990s, causing the festival to not run in 1995 and 1997. By 2002, the International Jewish Arts Festival was no more, and Rea found new outlets for her creativity. That year she started working for the Long Island Dance Consortium as their festival coordinator in conjunction with the Huntington Arts Council, and was organizing the HAC Summer Performance series. She continued in these roles through 2009. After Rea’s passing in 2016, the Rea Jacobs Scholarship for Dance was established as a partnership between LIDC and the Jacobs family through the Huntington Arts Council. Every year it provides $1,000 to a graduating high school senior who will pursue dance as a college major or minor, and keeps Rea’s spirit of indomitable creativity alive.

East Northport Jewish Center: 65 Years of the “Haimish Shul”

Ida Patiky Berenbaum was interviewed in 1998 by Molly Schoen of the East Northport Rotary for her book, East Northport: An Incomplete History. Berenbaum said that her father, Abraham, wanted to donate land for a synagogue in the years before the establishment of East Northport Jewish Center, but that there were not enough Jews in East Northport to participate before the 1950s. When it came to organizing the founding meeting of the East Northport Jewish Center, a booklet written by William Katcher entitled “The Early History of ENJC” in 1995 names three couples: Frank and Matilda Rothman; Stuart and Sara Baker; and Abraham and Mamie Patiky. In June 1956 they called a meeting of Jewish families in the area to discuss creating a congregation that was held in Frank and Matilda’s backyard on 9th Avenue. Given that the ENJC has come to be known as the “haimish” or “cozy/homelike” shul, it is fitting that this first organizational meeting happened at a backyard event. 

According to Seeking Sanctuary: 125 Years of Synagogues on Long Island by Brad Kolodny, the congregation was originally known as Temple Beth Sholom until September 1956 when the name East Northport Jewish Center was adopted. The congregation had many homes in its first years, starting at 27 Larkfield Road, then 82 Larkfield Road in 1959. At some point early in their existence they also used the Cow Harbor Restaurant (now TD Bank on 25A), then owned by Isaac Silberstein of Silberstein Dairy Farm. ENJC built their first synagogue in 1963 at 374 Clay Pitts Road with their first service held on September 13th of that year. Their current building on Elwood Road was built in 1977. Keith Rothman, son of Frank and Matilda, and Matthew and Claudia Jacobs had their bar and bat mitzvahs at the Clay Pitts and Elwood Road ENJC locations.

East Northport Jewish Center - Home

The sanctuary at East Northport Jewish Center. Image: https://www.enjc.org/ 

The Northport Historical Society wishes everyone a happy and safe Hanukkah!

Correction: In previous versions, Claudia Jacobs was recorded as being born in 1961. Claudia was born in 1962. Her father, Joseph Jacobs, was a professor at John Jay School for Criminal Justice starting in the 1970s, not in the 1960s when the Jacobs family first arrived in Northport. 

Further Correction: As of 2/16/2022, this article listed Ida Patiky Berenbaum as the daughter of Jacob Patiky. She was the daughter of Abraham and Mamie Patiky.


The Photo Collection

Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan