Fanny Jaffe Sharlip

“I could not be harnessed by telling me that children don't have to know. That only made me more curious.” – Fanny Jaffe Sharlip

"Now my father seriously began to make plans to go to America. A good many things had to be settled. He decided to leave the family at home until he could establish himself. He was determined to go where Jews could worship God as they pleased, where they could breathe freedom, and where their life was not threatened every minute of the day... that was infinitely more important than money.

Preparations were made for the great journey to America. Father wrote long instructions (to mother): first you apply for a government pass; every time you change trains, be sure to count the children; see that they are properly fed and get milk at every station; do not give the cow away until the last day for the young ones need the milk; etc. etc.

The day came at last when we were to depart for America. It was Saturday, and my mother went to synagogue to say goodbye to our friends. I took out my prayer book and began to pray wholeheartedly for the future looked so uncertain and I felt the need of God's help. I noticed my sister Mary sewing hooks and eyes on her skirt. "On the Sabbath day!" I wailed, "You know what your doing, you sinner you."

Mother came home from the synagogue with a sad face, for it is hard to leave relatives and friends and the place where one is established and economically secure. It was a tremendous undertaking on such a long journey with seven small children. Uncle William came over to tie up bundles and pack the "carsinsky" (a large suitcase made of fiber).

All of us were in the wagon and when the horses gave a pull and the wagon began to move, mother started to cry, but we refrained from tears in order to spare her additional trouble. We traveled about three days before we reached the Russian-German border. We had no difficulties crossing the Russian frontier, for we had all the necessary permits, but we were all relieved when we got off the train at Yatcoon which was the first town in Germany after crossing the border.

The German cars used to transport immigrants were unfit even for cattle. There were no benches, no toilets, no running water. The cars were locked so no one could get out until an important station was reached, which often meant a half a day or more. At last after four or five days we reached beautiful Berlin with its fine railroad station. From Berlin we traveled for about three days in the same horrible "cattle cars" to Hamburg which was the port from which we were to embark for the United States.

We traveled steerage and it was not fit for dogs. I can still smell the terrible odor that made me so sick; my mother was very sensitive to smells so I came by it honestly. I was so ill that I didn't care whether I lived or died. Of course mother did some tall praying; she did not want to feed the fish with the bodies of her children. I practically lived on condensed milk which they fed to the babies, but the doctor ordered it for me even though I was too old for baby food, for it was about the only thing I could keep in my stomach.

We had our share of storms on the high seas and the ship swayed unmercifully. There were good things to eat in the ship's store such as oranges, candy, cookies and soda pop, but mother had no money to buy them for us. She went to the family who had befriended me and said, "Here is one of my rings. Please give me some money, I simply must buy some good things for my children to eat. You are going to Philadelphia also, here is my address, and as soon as I am settled there I will redeem the ring."

The next morning we saw that great symbol of hope for the immigrant, the Statue of Liberty, and our hearts were filled with joy and thanksgiving. Castle Garden. The name does not fit the place-Stable Barn would be more proper. The authorities checked and examined us and I guess they were satisfied that we would make good citizens for they let us through."

Biographical Information

Fanny Sharlip was born in the small town of Borosna, Russia. In her memoirs written in 1947, she characterizes herself as a child "always hungry for knowledge. I asked too many questions. I was told over and over again that it was not healthy to know too much. I could not be harnessed by telling me that children don't have to know. That only made me more curious." Fanny loved school and was an excellent student. "I was very happy as only a child my age could be; I lived and breathed school.

The political climate in Europe worsened, and spread to the little town of Borosna. Of the incident that began the lawlessness in Fanny's hometown she writes, "The explosion took place in the market place, where two Gentiles began to beat up a Jew, accusing him of not paying for some merchandise he had bought. That was the excuse that touched off the spark."

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Fanny Jaffe Sharlip." (Viewed on April 25, 2024) <>.