Unlike many others researching their roots in America, mine have not been in this country for a long time. All of my ancestors on both sides of my family had sailed over to Ellis Island anywhere between 1900 to right after World War II. My background is completely Jewish Eastern European and since coming to this country there have been no crazy family stories that I have heard of. Dismayed, I decided to ask my Grandmother on my mother’s side once more about her large family scattered throughout the Boroughs of NYC (mainly Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx) to see if there was some sort or story or relative I could research that I did not know much about. It was then she told me of my great-great uncle Max Tendrich.
My interest in trying to find out more information on my relative heightened when my Grandmother had told me that when she was young Max had suspiciously died. She claimed that because she was too young to figure it out or even remember, the details of her uncle’s sudden death has always been a mystery to her. Since his death was left unexplained there was room for questions of suicide or murder and I became determined to find out what had happened to him or at least what his life was like.
Max was my great-grandmother Dorothy Tendrich’s older brother who was born in 1899 in Russia near an area that is now close to Poland. In 1908 Max’s parents Ida Freidman Tendrich and Israel Tendrich took their children and moved to New York. Fast forward through time, Max married a woman named Rose and opened up a hotel in Rockland County called the Linden Tree Hotel. My Grandmother said she remembered visiting the hotel once with her mother and that it was on Viola Rd. Sure enough through my research with the help of Cathy Michelsen, we found ads in the NY Post from August 27,1944 and
July 16,1946 promoting the hotel with the address 415 Viola Rd, Spring Valley, Monsey, Rockland County. The earlier ad had Max’s name on it, this was an indicator for me that at that time in the 1940s he was still alive (his death year is still an unknown), however on the second advertisement in 1946, Max’s name disappears. Instead, his father’s name Israel is placed into the ad to promote that the hotel is kosher “Dietary laws observed under Rev. Israel Tendrich”. This piece of information was useful for me for I learned that not only could it have been possible that Max may not have been alive by then but I learned something new about Israel, which was that he was a Rabbi.
Next, I stumbled upon a deed to a house on Walton Avenue in the Bronx that Max and Rose had signed. The house today is still standing there and from the deed I could see that this was where they lived when they owned the hotel. When looking for any other newspaper article regarding Max’s death like an obituary or crime report, I came up empty handed. I learned that Max’s death was most likely not a murder as there would be headlines and articles written about it (unless it was somehow covered up) also for cases of suicide it would be hard for me to find my proof no matter how probable the scenario. In the early 20th century the Tendrich family, like many other Jewish families living in New York, was very religiously conservative. In many religions and societies suicide is considered taboo, so if Max did decide to end his life, his father a Rabbi, would of definitely tried to keep it out of the papers or cover it up to be just a tragic accident. From my research of studying religious life in New York during the 20th century, this was a strategy that many conservative families unfortunately had felt compelled to use. The area where the hotel was is now part of Temple Beth El which bought the hotel in the late 1940s and immediately transformed it. Overall, I have enjoyed finding a mystery hidden within my family history and tracing my ancestry in New York has been one of the most fascinating and thrilling research I have ever done.
My next step will be finding out more details behind this purchase, did my family sell the property because they wanted another synagogue in the area? Or was it just a coincidence that another Jewish establishment purchased it? Did Israel become a Rabbi there? Did the hotel go up for sale because of Max’s death or was he still alive? These questions will hopefully help me lead to finding out the truth behind Max’s life and the mystery surrounding it that is still left to be one day uncovered.