Lillian Katzman

Some of the "tips" received by Abraham Katzman during his years as a barber in pre-Revolutionary Russia, including a silver cigarette case, a silver and leather wallet, and a pair of silver tongs.

Some of the "tips" received by Abraham Katzman during his years as a barber in pre-Revolutionary Russia, including a silver cigarette case, a silver and leather wallet, and a pair of silver tongs.

Lillian Katzman’s parents, Abraham and Sophie Laskovicher Katzman, met in the early 1920s, in Yalta, where Sophie worked as a seamstress for the Czar’s family.  Because the Russian Bolshevik government persecuted Jews, they fled to Turkey around 1921, and then came to the U.S. in 1923 with the assistance of Lillian’s uncle, Emanuel Katzman.  Emanuel was already in Youngstown, where he was a builder.  So the Katzmans came here, and with help from the family, they settled on the North Side, on Cordova Avenue.

Abraham Katzman worked as a barber, first at the Youngstown Hotel.  Lillian remembers her sisters taking the bus to downtown Youngstown to bring dinner to their father so he could work late.

While her parents spoke Russian, Abraham insisted that the family learn English so they could assimilate into American culture.  Lillian attended public school, but she also went to Hebrew school afterwards, for six years.  The family belonged to Anshe Emeth, a synagogue on the North Side.  They walked to the Temple every Saturday for services, following the tradition of not driving on the Sabbath.  Sophie made her own challah, a braided egg bread, as well as chicken soup and strudel for the weekly Sabbath dinner.  Lillian continues the tradition of celebrating the Sabbath, now lighting candles in her Levy Gardens apartment and attending services at Heritage Manor next door.

Sophie also continued sewing, now making clothes for her daughters.

A 1930s photograph of Lillian Katzman as a child provides an example of Sophie Katzman's remarkable skills as a seamstress and designer.

A 1930s photograph of Lillian Katzman as a child provides an example of Sophie Katzman's remarkable skills as a seamstress and designer.

As Lillian explained, her parents believed in having good quality clothes and household items, but they also did not believe in buying anything on credit.  They preferred to pay cash.

Lillian attended the Rayen High School, where she began studying art with John Benninger.  She went on to Miami University.  She recalls that there were very few Jews at the college at this point, though there was a Jewish sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi. Lillian served as sorority President. When she graduated, she became an elementary school art educator in the Cleveland Public Schools.  During those years, she lived in Cleveland Heights.  In the late 60s, she moved back to the Youngstown area, where she took a job with the Niles Public Schools.  She worked as a teacher for 27 years.

Lillian has become her family’s archivist, collecting photographs and documents and creating scrapbooks.

A page from one of the scrapbooks Lillian has made of old family photos, some of which were brought to the U.S. from Russia by her father.

A page from one of the scrapbooks Lillian has made of old family photos, some of which were brought to the U.S. from Russia by her father.

Along with many family photos, she also has her mother’s birth certificate from Yalta and a document in which a relative, Max Katzman, certified to the U.S. government that he would help the family settle in Youngstown.  While some of the items she has preserved represent a difficult, sad time in her family’s history, she believes that it’s important to hold on to those memories.

To learn more about Lillian Katzman’s life, read the full transcript of her interview with Tom Welsh.

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