following are my boyhood recollections of my grandfather, Max Lurye. He
was born in Russia in 1877 and immigrated to America in the early 1900s.
He stood 6ft.2 with the solid body of an athlete. I no nothing of his parents
except that four of his brothers were Rabbi’s. His entire family perished
at the hands of The German army’s during World War II. Max did not lead
a religious life. Through out his life his commitment was to organizing
workers in America. Before leaving his homeland He along with my grandmother(Anna)
were out spoken activists. They were choosen leaders who were engaged in
organizing Rebellion against the policies and actions of the dictatorship.
They along with my grandmothers father were making speeches On street corners
and were later hauled off to prison. My grandmother was eventually released
but her father wassent to Sibera to a slave labor camp. She never saw him
again. Following her release from prison she bid her mother farewell before
departing for America.
mother gave her a parting gift Her only valued possession, her gold ring
with a semi precious stone. They never saw or heard from each other again.
My grandmother told me that story in Chicago while I was attending the
funeral of her second husband (my Godfather) Harry Kahn. Incidently Harry
Kahn was Aunt Helens father. In any event my grandmother gave me her mothers
ring before I left Chicago. The ring found a place in my jewelry box for
many years until one day I happened to show it to Fonda. The ring after
100 years or more had lost its luster. Fonda showed the ring to Jim and
he had it restored to it’s original beauty. Ask her to show it to you someday
So they sailed off to America, Max and Anna to begin a new life and freedom.
landed in Ellis Island, NYC like millions of other immigrants. They settled
in Chicago because hundreds of their comrades from their village
in Russia had settled their too. They had eleven chidren. There was a set
of twins and a son Morris whom I never met. Nobody in the family ever spoke
of them. My guess is that they were left behind in Russia for whatever
after the settled in Chicago, Max became active in the union movement.
On given occasions he organized along side the infamous Samuel Gompers
, the noted grandfather Of the labor movement. Max was a fearless organizer
When the notorious Al Capone tried to take over their union he threw his
henchman out of their union hall when they attempted to Disrupt their meeting.
He was gunned down by the Capone mob shortly thereafter while he was chatting
with Braverman, a union Activist’s. Max’s body was riddled with bullets.
Uncle Sie told me that as he was being lifted into the ambulance with a
raised arm and clenched fists he shouted “I’m going to live”. He did indeed
survive but Braverman wasn’t as lucky, he was killed instantly. Many bullets
were removed from Max’s body but many remained f in his legs that would
later in life cause him great misery and pain. For the most part his organizing
days were ended but he remainedquite active in political and union organizations.
He was a tradesman, teamster. Cigarmaker, brushmaker etc. Max eventually
moved to Brooklyn, New York soon after my father had settled there. (early
40s) He lived closeby so I saw him fairly regular. He always worked closeby
our apartment so I made ita point to visit him at his place of work. He
always’s greeted me with a big smile and his first question always was
“Hows the Ma” Meaning my mother of course. He always made it a point to
give me a nickel before I left. In those days a nickel bought a lot of
candy. He lived with us in our apartment for many months. Willie and him
used to get into many heated political discussions. Willie Being a liberal
and Max an avowed Socialist. They really used to go at each other.
don’t know what kind of education (if any) he received in Russia, I do
recall him reading a Hebrew newspaper publication Cover to cover called
Friehiet (Freedom). It was of course socialist and left wing. Neverthe
less he took a keen interest as to What was going on in the world. It got
to the point where he needed constant medical attention so he was admitted
to a county Hospital. Lenny and I made daily trips by bus with food that
mom had prepared, scalding hot soups and tea were his favorites. He loved
to play checkers. I could never beat him but Lennie did occasionally. We
left the set at his bedside so he could practice in our absence. Sie and
Min eventually had him moved to a nursing home in the Bronx so our daily
visits ended. His legs were getting so bad that he faced amputation. My
final memories at age 16 I’ll never forget him being escorted on
crutches to Willies casket. I was sitting next to my grandmother. He was
crying and sobbing uncontrollably.
He turned and faced the mourners and with his Fist clinched tight and his
arm raised high he shouted “I’m going to organize Willie and me”. Sie and
I went to see him a day or so Following Willies funeral. We left him crying
and sobbing, That’s the last time I saw him. He passed away exactly one
week To the day following Willies death. He was buried right along side
his slain son. There headstone reads’ THEY LIVED AND DIED FOR THE CAUSE
Taken from a Letter
by Bernie Lurye to son Bill Lurye April 22, 2001