|Birthplace:||Novozybkov, Bryanskaya oblast, Russian Federation|
Son of Morris Brinen and Anna/Chana Brinen
|Managed by:||Private User|
About Joseph Brinen
Joseph Brinen, 2nd youngest child of Morris and Anna Brinen, came to Ellis Island from the small village of Novozybkov, Russia by ship in order to escape communism when he was 13 years old. According to immigration records taken at Ellis Island in 1923, Joseph's birth name was "Jossy".
In Russia, Joe recalled living in a small house on a farm with many animals. He helped his siblings milk cows and sheep in order for the family to have milk and cheese. His parents ran a small "store" not known about at the time by the Russian communist government. It was basically a store run out of their house, where neighbors could stop by to buy local fresh goods made on the farm. Joe later told us that owning this store was very risky because the communists had made it illegal for the family to own or sell. They also could not freely practice their own religion.
Joe's life changed fast and dramatically when he and his family moved to New York. The family spoke no English but Joe was excited about his new found life and freedom. He was especially proud of his American citizenship. At his arrival at 13, Joe was put into the 1st grade with 6 yr old children who thought he was the teacher (he was much taller than them). Joe was determined to learn English so he could catch up with the students his own age. He studied hard and also worked at his parents' busy dry cleaning business after school. (Russian/Yiddish spoken only in the house). Joe was the first Brinen to attend college. He graduated NYU and became a successful CPA. He married Stella Gaffin, and they had 2 children, Lois, and Robert. Joe insisted his children have a good education, and Lois got a PhD in education, and Robert became a lawyer.
In early 1970, Stella died young and tragically from breast cancer. Joe was devastated. That April, his son Robert named his first-born daughter, SaraBeth after her. Joe then decided to marry his son's mother-in-law, Irene Benson. Yes, inter-marriage between cousins and "in-laws" had been very common in previous decades. But by the 1970's, it was definitely becoming more unusual, and many family members were shocked by their union. (In addition to husband and wife, Robert and his wife Nancy became stepbrother & sister). Other family members were happy for Joe & Irene because they were no longer lonely widow/ widowers. (Irene had lost her husband when she was in her early 40's). They shared unique interests such as golf, bridge and traveling. Their marriage would last 12 years.
Upon retirement, Joe finally got Bar-Mitzvahed. He always wanted it, but it was illegal in Russia when he was growing up. Soon after he became the first President of the Bayside Jewish Center, Baside NY. He also enjoyed his morning ritual at the local deli; conversation and joke-telling with other men his age. Joe and his friends secretly nick-named this deli "The 123 Club", because you could get a cup of coffee, and a bagel and cream cheese for only $1.23.
During the last decade of his life, Joe met and became devoted to his companion girlfriend, Ruth Klerman, with whom he enjoyed visiting family, dining out, Yiddish, Bridge games, and traveling. They also spent a lot of time socializing with family, especially with his nephews who lived close by in Long Island, NY: Ed Spiegel and his wife Deanne, Irv Rahinsky and his wife Thelma, and Herb Rahinsky and his wife, Rhona.
After Ruth died, Joe moved into an assisted living center, King David, in Long Beach, NY where the family would stop by and sometimes catch him dancing or discussing the Bible with the Rabbi and/or other interesting friends he had made there. Up until about 6 months prior to his death at 95, Joe was always impeccably dressed. He usually wore pressed slacks and loafers with a collar shirt and a pen in his pocket. His granddaughter, Sara would ask what the pen could possibly be used for in the nursing home and Joe would reply that being a former CPA- he could not stop wearing it!
Joe was dignified and well-respected until the very end. He resented the frailty that came with old age and the decline of his memory. Everyone who knew Joe appreciated him for his love of family, and the pride he took in their accomplishments.