Thursday, January 28, 2010

The History Detective: Isser Reznik and Sons

It seems like everyone I meet has a family connection to the Lower East Side, which makes sense given how crowded this neighborhood was 100 years ago. Part of the fun of working at the Museum is helping visitors find out more about family who may have been members here and discovering more about individuals who lived and worked in the buildings that still stand right outside our front doors. Recently, Bruce Reznik shared the interesting family photograph below. Taken in front of the family storefront at 77 1/2 Eldridge Street, just down the block from our historic synagogue, the photo captures 2 generations of the Reznik family from which Bruce is descended.

Uncle Shmulkie, Uncle Max,  Great Grandpa Isser and Zehde (Jacob Cuppel Reznik)

Bruce let us know a bit about Isser and his life here on the Lower East Side:
I think Isser had 9 brothers and sisters and they all stayed in Palestine except Isser who came to the US. I think they originally came from Russia . The family had loads of money and invested it in oil during the early 1900's.  Unfortunately they lost it all.  I have a copy of an entry in the "Who's Who of American Jewry" at the time and it tells a little about him.  I know Grandpa Reznik did some designs for the materials they sold in the store.  He had patents for them and I remember him showing them to me.  Unfortunately, [his son] threw them out.  Isser had 2 wives-Zelda Rivkah Reznik (died 1/18/1927). and Sabrina Reznik (11/14/1881-11/11/1967).  Isser  died on 3/11/1944.
 This tantalizing bit of history piqued my interest. Who was Isser Reznik, a man who lived and worked mere steps away from where I now sit? Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, The History Detective, as I discover why Isser remains largely absent from the documentary trail.

Can't wait until the next chapter for more neighborhood stories? Hear all about G&S Sporting Goods, an East Side institution since 1937, in the Lo-Down's new series, "On Essex."


  1. Isser Reznik, my greatgrandfather, arrived in the US with only a few dollars and became very successful and was known as a great benefactor. He supported many schools and institutions, and was active in a struggle for Sabbath observers- he appeared in the New York Times as he was President of the Orthodox Hebrew Sabbath Leaque to protest descrimination against Orthodox Pushcart vendors who were cited by the police for selling goods on Sundays. Family story is that Isser Reznik escaped from his native Russia inside of a pickle barrel

  2. Thanks for helping fill in some more of the story, Ed! The more I find out about your great-grandfather, the more interested I become. I'm looking forward to sharing some of my finds in a post tomorrow, so be sure to check the blog.

  3. I am his great great grandaughter and I am very proud!as you know he lived in Israel for a period of time, and now I am living in Israel, I am the first girl descendant of Isser Reznik born in Israel. I was at the Tenement Museum this summer and had a fantastic time and I did learn a lot on my family's history

  4. Ayelet, next time you're in NY be sure and check out the Museum at Eldridge Street, just down the block from his store!

  5. I am Ed Frank's sister, Isser Reznik's great granddaughter. I heard from my uncle that he walked from Russia, to Turkey, landed in Palestine and eventually made his way to New York. I looked for his name on the Ellis Island registry but couldn't find a match. We do have relatives named Beryl Reznik(I Reznik's grandson) and Shumel Reznik (I. reznik's son) but couldn't find matching years.

  6. I am Alan Reznik, Ed's cousin and Beryl's Son and Isser's Great Grandson. The family started out very poor and became wealthy. They sold "Kinzer" cloth (Reznik spelled backwards) plastic sheet goods sewn into useful items, covers for couches, book covers and plastic covers for bed wetters to save the matriss from stains a ruin. There were all made on machines that I played on and with making all kinds of little plastic things as child at 771/2 Eldrdge Street shop.

    From what I had heard they invented the idea of selling fitted sheets at at time when only cloth for sheets were sold. He believe the business was all mportant and his sons went to work after manditory school ended at 6th grade. The oil story is of note. He apparently invested in fake wells and lost a fortune. He had friends invest too and he felt responsible so made good on those investments. The Great Depression came, the mills started to make their own fitted sheets and their fortune was gone. The Reznik's inventive spirit was not lost. Uncles Sydney and Nussy continued to run the business Beryl Reznik (my father) held many patents including one on a special coating used on rocketengines for the space program. It is believed that this coated enabled the little rocket stering engines where able to burn longer something needed to help the Lunar Module bring apollo 13 home. Uncle Issac (the uncle I am named for) taught Berkley of berkley photo how to develope film for his mail order photo business after starting the service himself for local pharmancies.

  7. My name is also Bruce Reznik, also a great grandson of Isser Reznik but not the one you mention in the article above. I am one of 3 children of Norman Reznik who is the son of Samuel (Shmulkie?) Reznik who is one of Isser's sons. Norman (or Natan in Hebrew) was known as Nussy (as mentioned above by Alan my first cousin) by his family. Nussy was likely a Yiddish version of his name. So not only do names have a way of changing - particularly when various languages are involved - they can also be used by other people who may or not be related. I have never met my distant relative Bruce Reznik but would like to be in touch.