Harold Rosenthal was born in Warsaw, Poland, probably on December 3, 1913, and arrived in New York on September 18, 1916. He grew up largely in Minnesota with his parents, Naomi (Brock) Rosenthal and Albert (Al) Rosenthal (Alter Rogall), and his brothers Irving and Sandy. Harold met his future wife Esther Posner (born February 19, 1914) when they were both students at Brooklyn College. Harold and Esther were married on May 23, 1936 in Washington, D.C., where Esther was working for the recently established Social Security program while Harold worked as a teacher in New York. Harold and Esther had three sons; they lived for many years in Queens, New York. Harold was a math teacher and became Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Francis Lewis High School in Queens. Harold Rosenthal died in January 1983; Esther (Posner) Rosenthal died in April 1985.
Harold was the oldest of three brothers. His brother Irving Rosenthal (born August 5, 1919 in Brooklyn) was a poultry farmer and later became a professor of sociology and cultural anthropology at South Central Community College in New Haven, Connecticut. Irving married Lillian Klein, and they had four children. Irving died on March 12, 2009 in North Haven, Connecticut. Harold's and Irving's younger brother Sandy (Sander) Rosenthal, born September 3, 1923 in St. Paul, Minnesota, was a theatre director, graphic artist, designer, and actor. He married Ruth Eisenberg (1923-2007) on September 22, 1942, and they had two children. Sandy died December 27, 1986 in Tucson, Arizona. Both Irving and Sandy enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II (Irving in 1942 and Sandy in 1943).
Harold's parents, Albert Rosenthal (Alter Rogall) (1890-1961) and Naomi (Brock) Rosenthal (1891-1977), were both Jewish immigrants from Poland who had very religious Orthodox parents; their parents had been acquainted in Poland. Naomi and Albert were married in Minnesota on September 10, 1911. At the time Albert was a travelling salesman; for their honeymoon, Naomi accompanied Al on his route through the midwest in his horse and buggy.
When their son Harold was born, Naomi was visiting her parents in Warsaw, Poland. In September 1916 she -- with young Harold -- rejoined her husband Al (after being quarantined for about ten days at Ellis Island, due to chicken pox). At the time Al seems to have been living with his sister Leah (Rosenthal) Brock and his brother-in-law Henry Brock, in Brooklyn. Albert, Naomi, and Harold moved to Northfield, Minnesota; then, when Naomi was pregnant with Irving, they returned to Brooklyn to be near family. They went back to Minnesota after Irving's birth; as of 1920 Al, Naomi, six-year-old Harold, and baby Irving were living in St. Paul, Minnesota; Harold's youngest brother, Sandy (Sander), was born there. (Irving mentioned in a 2005 video that his parents also had two stillborn daughters, one of them before Harold was born and one afterward.) Around the late 1920s, they returned to Brooklyn so that Naomi's widowed father Feiwel could immigrate and live with them. Years later Naomi and Al moved with their sons Irving and Sandy to Miami, Florida (by then Harold was married, living with his wife Esther in Queens, New York). Later on, Al and Naomi moved to Connecticut.
Below is some more information about Albert and his family, followed by some more information about Naomi and her family.
Albert (Al) Isak Rosenthal, also known as Albert Jack Rosenthal [Harold's father] was born Alter Yitzhak Rogall in 1890 in Przasnysz (Proshnitz), Poland (which was then part of the Russian Empire), about 100 km. north of Warsaw. In 1897 this was a town of approximately 8,500 people, about half of whom were Jewish. Alter Rogall immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was twelve, arriving in New York on December 15, 1902. Soon afterward, the family changed their surname from Rogall to Rosenthal.
Albert (Alter) grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with his parents, Abraham and Sarah, and his brothers and sisters. His older sisters were born in Poland: Leah (Leye / Leja) around 1882 and Rose (Rosie / Rochel / Rachel) around 1886. His younger siblings were born in New York: Ida (Fannie) around 1903, Morris around 1905, and Paddy (Samuel / Sam / Solomon) in 1906. Paddy later adopted a version of the family's original surname: Ruggill. Albert worked in the garment industry in his youth. The occupations listed for Albert on census forms are (in chronological order): travelling salesman; presser; merchant, clothing; and shipping clerk. Albert died on June 14, 1961 in New Haven, Connecticut.
Albert's parents [Harold's grandparents], Abraham Rosenthal (Abram Pesach Rogall) and Sarah (Sore Rivka) Silverstein (or Silverberg?), were born in the 1860s. They lived in Przasnysz (Proshnitz), Poland, which is about 100 km. north of Warsaw. But we know that Abraham was born in Lomza, Poland, which is about 90 kilometres from Przasnysz, and about 150 km. from Warsaw). In Poland Abraham worked on a farm, growing onions. Abraham went to the United States on his own in 1896, and returned to the U.S. with his family in 1902. The occupations listed for Abraham on ship passenger lists and census forms are (in chronological order): shoemaker; assistant tailor; proprietor, restaurant; peddler; labor, own store; and baker.
Al and his olders sisters Leah and Rose immigrated with their parents in 1902, and so did Harry (Hersch), the five-year-old son of Albert's oldest sister, Leah. By accompanying her family to the U.S., Leah is believed to have escaped a physically abusive marriage to an older man, a rabbi (whom she'd married when she was about fifteen?). This was made possible by her parents' pretending to the authorities that their grandson was their son: in the ship's passenger list, Leah is listed as single rather than married, and Hersch is listed as being Sarah's son rather than Leah's. In 1914 Leah married Henry Brock (who was the brother of her sister-in-law, i.e., the older brother of Al's wife Naomi), and they had two daughters, Miriam (Mickey) and Charlotte. Prior to her marriage, Leah's occupation was listed as tailor.
Leah's son, Harry Rosenthal, moved to St. Paul, Minnesota when he was about seventeen, joining Albert (his uncle). Albert and Harry had some business ventures together (including a soda pop business); later Albert worked for Harry (who by then was becoming a successful businessman) as a manager. Harry enlisted in the army in 1918; after his discharge in 1919, he married Rose Calmenson of St. Paul; they had three daughters. (In 1974, now a widower, he married again, to Miriam K. Freund.) Harry died on July 24, 1989.
Albert's older sister Rose Rosenthal worked in the garment industry; the occupations listed for her on census forms are: tailor; operator; hand worker; button hole maker; operator, button holes; saleswoman; and buttonhole maker, men's clothing. Rose's married name was Rose Schaeffer; after she was widowed, she and her young daughter Miriam lived with Rose's parents Abraham and Sarah. Al's younger sister Ida (Fannie) was listed on a census form as a "saleslady." Al's younger brother Morris was listed as a "manager, dry goods store". Morris was also a hazzan [cantor]; his wife was named Esther. Al's youngest sibling, Solomon P. (Paddy) Ruggill, was a school teacher and later became a psychologist with a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Paddy married Sophie Stock (1909-2002) in 1938, and they had two sons; Paddy died on July 17, 1996.
Naomi (Brock) Rosenthal [Harold's mother] was born in Warsaw, Poland on August 19, 1891; her parents were named Chana (Hannah) and Feiwel (Phillip) Brock. Naomi arrived in New York on December 26, 1906, probably travelling with a cousin and going to stay with a sister and a brother-in-law named Hyman Rothschild. Although Naomi's age was listed as eighteen in the ship's passenger list, she must actually have been only fifteen. (She was twenty when she married Albert Rosenthal five years later.)
Naomi had an older brother, Henry Brock (born 1884), who had immigrated two years earlier and worked in the garment industry. The occupations listed for Henry on census forms are: pants operator; tailor; embroidery; merchant, embroidery; and operator. A few years after Al and Naomi got married, Al's sister Leah married Naomi's brother Henry. Around the late 1920s, Naomi's father Feiwel (Phillip) immigrated to the United States (possibly with a sister of Naomi's named Chava?) and lived with Naomi, Albert, and their children in Brooklyn. A U.S. government "Alien File" reveals that Naomi was investigated for political reasons in the 1940s and '50s. Naomi died on October 25, 1977 in Hamden, Connecticut.