View Full Version : "Kosminski" family mentioned in Zangwill's "Children of the Ghetto"

12-11-2014, 11:21 AM
Recently, I found a copy of Zangwill's "Children of the Ghetto" at a used book shop, and bought it. I never actually read this book before, although I should have obviously. It is very interesting that he makes several references to a family called "Kosminski". In fact, there is a whole chapter that focuses on a family named Kosminski, and the chapter is titled "The Sweater." (!)

You can find the book online here: http://books.google.com/books?id=HT4QkLZLdScC&printsec=frontcover&dq=children+of+the+ghetto&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wbeFVPqXEsuUyAT8y4LAAg&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=children%20of%20the%20ghetto&f=false

"The Sweater" starts on page 79, and describes a family named "Belcovitch", although on page 83 it says "Fanny... thought of herself as Mrs. Belcovitch, although her name was Kosminski."

I thought this was very curious, since it is apparently describing a family that changed their name from Kosminski to Belcovitch, in the way Aaron Kosminski's family changed their name to Abrahams.

It is unclear whether the book is actually using real names here, or if it is fictionalized.

I haven't had time to read the book very closely, although there is a character named "Bear Belcovitch" and I wondered if "Bear" might be a stand-in for "Wolf" Abrahams. This is a stretch obviously. But who are these people? Were there actually people named Belcovitch living in the East End in the early 1890s? Bear is described as a "tall, harsh-looking man of fifty, with grizzled hair" and it seems clear that he is a sweater in the tailor industry who runs a shop. The Berner Street club is also mentioned. The book was written in 1892 I believe.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Rob H

Simon Wood
12-11-2014, 12:15 PM
Hi Rob,

Check out "Jewish Characters in Fiction," by Rabbi Harry Levi, 1911.



Scott Nelson
12-11-2014, 03:30 PM
Check the 1871 census for Ebenezer Square, Aldgate. Also the 1881 and 1891 census for #2 Hutchinson Street.

Zangwill was born in Ebenezer Square.

12-11-2014, 05:52 PM
There's also a Schwartz in the book, from Goulston street if I remember correctly.

12-11-2014, 06:06 PM
Just dug out the book and had a skim though, it's been many years since I read it, and I noticed,

"Simon Wolf was the great Jewish labor leader ..."

12-11-2014, 08:10 PM
OK, so the book was fictionalized. That makes it even more interesting... makes me wonder if the Kozminskis were indeed the source of inspiration for the people discussed in there. Odd that I have never seen any discussion of this before (although I recall John Malcolm mentioned this to me a while back.)