Memory Lane: The Zeks; Six Friends from Boro Park in the 1920’s

Memory Lane: The Zeks; Six Friends from Boro Park in the 1920’s

This story is about a tight knit group of friends who spent their blissful childhood in Boro Park of yesteryear…close to a century ago. As we have noted here—in different contexts—the immigrants in America of that era were overwhelmingly of Russian origin. “The Zeks” were the first generation to be born on American soil, around the turn of the century—and they were fortunate enough to reside in this most idyllic neighborhood of Borough Park, where the sunshine and fresh air was abundant, and the homes stood at a distance from each other.  

In speaking with the second and third generation descendants of “The Zeks,” we discovered the exceptional closeness and brotherly love that thrived between this inseparable group. 

Thus, the photograph featured here recalls Boro Park of a much different time, and we give a small glimpse into the lives of these boys.  

Miles Alben 

An Attorney, he was respected as an authority in Real Estate matters in the Motion Picture industry in a thirty-five year career as General Counsel for Warner Brothers Pictures in New York starting in 1928. He had started out in Harvard Law School together with Ed Silver, but when Bud was killed he needed to be closer to home, and transferred to Columbia. 

For many years, the family davened in Young Israel of Flatbush, where Rabbi Solomon Sharfman was the Rav. He had come to the shul to say Kaddish for his father in the 1940’s—when he did not know much Hebrew—and through the kiruv of Rabbi Scharfman, the family became full-fledged members of the shul. This is also where Ed Silver davened, and their children went to the same orthodox school. 

Abe Mandelberg 

Dr. Abraham Mandelberg was actually born in Canada, but joined “the Zeks” in his youth. He gave back to his adopted hometown of Boro Park—where he lived until the end of his life—by serving as a longtime surgeon at Maimonides Hospital. Mandelberg was a gifted surgeon. 

Jack Hendon 

Jacob...Jack Hendon was the most gentle of the group, according to the daughter of Miles Alben. We caught up with Ezra who today lives in California, and leads a life of Torah and mitzvos—and he recalls with fondness his fathers’ close friends. 

“Eddie” Silver 

Edward R. Silver was the first Shomer Shabbos District Attorney in Brooklyn. A true mekadesh sheim Shamayim, Having grown up in Boro Park of yesteryear, he married the daughter of Mr. Gedalya Bublick who was the famed editor of the venerated Morgen Zhournal, the preeminent daily newspaper of the Yiddish-speaking public, and one that could be brought into an ehrliche home—unlike its counterparts which were filled with kefirah and disdain for anything holy.

The story is told that Mrs. Silver senior—a woman who covered her hair in those early days—was a feisty woman who was unwavering in her yiddishkeit, Mr. Silver’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren comprise some of the most beautiful families in the American Torah community to this day. 

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