More than 125 descendants of Velvel and Charna Hochman returned to celebrate the centennial of the family’s arrival in St. Joseph, Missouri. They immigrated from Bessarabia, then part of Russia, now part of the Republic of Moldova.
The Hochman family is not unlike many families who came from Eastern and Western Europe around the turn of the last century. For many years, Velvel and Charna’s children and their families lived in St. Joseph.
By the 1930s, Velvel and Charna could count 29 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. The grandchildren were so close, they considered themselves sisters and brothers rather than first cousins. Aunts and uncles were stand-in mothers and fathers. That idyllic condition existed until World War II took many of the family’s sons and daughters to serve in all branches of service. When the war ended, cousins were living all over the country.
Colonel Irv Schoenberg, family genealogist, led a session called “Know Your Hochman Roots” which, for many of the younger members, was both a history lesson and a revelation. For older cousins, it was an opportunity to tell and retell favorite stories of Zeda and Baba Hochman and their ten children. Building on the enthusiasm from the ‘roots’ session, the family took a guided city bus tour including sites significant in city history as well as in family history. City Hall, Buchanan County Court House, public schools and downtown buildings remain as they appeared over the last century. The City Market, Shaare Sholem Synagogue and Talmud Torah and many of the early family homes and businesses are gone, leaving former locations to be identified. Young cousins saw where the Pony Express started, where Jesse James was killed, and where wagon trains were provisioned for trips west across the Missouri River to the plains beyond.
Entertainment Saturday night included skits, songs and Colonel Schoenberg talked about a video of his visit to the Republic of Moldova and Telenesht, the ‘shetl’ which was the Hochman home before they began their ‘exodus’ to America.
The organization of the Hochman Family Reunion is a tribute to modern technology. The reunion committee included cousins who live in St. Joseph, Altanta, Georgia, Kansas City, Missouri, and Sarasota, Florida. There were ten project managers, each representing one of the ten family branches. The primary qualifications for membership on the committee or as a project manager was access to e-mail. Project managers were instrumental in getting Individual Data Sheets completed by cousins around the country and Canada. Their reunion favors were a family tree book.
from a news release by Irv Schoenberg, Dunwoody, Georgia