Shirley's Ancestors

Shirley's Parents

Sam and Sylvia Shure

Sam and Sylvia on their wedding day
Sylvia and Sam in Minneapolis | Early 1940's

Sylvia Levy | Born circa 1901 in Kadiyevits, near Proskurov (renamed Khmelnytskyi), Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire)
Died in Minneapolis in 1975

Sam Shure | Born 1892 in Nikoliav, Ukraine, near Odessa (then part of the Russian Empire)
Died in Minneapolis in 1963

Sam and Sylvia both came to the USA to escape the terrible antisemitism, persecution, and “pogroms” (murderous attacks on the Jews) in Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. Jews were not allowed to be landowners or citizens there. In the early 20th century, as the Bolshevic Revolution was brewing, Jewish boys as young as 12 years old would often be drafted into the Czar’s army and kept there for up to 25 years, mistreated and separated from their families. Sam somehow escaped and emigrated to the USA in 1913. He settled in North Minneapolis, and eventually opened a dry goods store, Shure’s Quality Store, on 6th Ave (now Olson Memorial Highway). The store sold mostly men’s work clothes. Sam’s father, Asher, never left Russia.

Sylvia Levy and her siblings were born in a little rural Jewish village (shtetl) called Kadiyevits. They had a traumatic childhood, living in fear of the Cossack soldiers and their pogroms, and witnessed murders of Jews right outside their doorstep. They moved to Proskurov, Ukraine. Lazar, Sylvia’s father, in search of a safer life, left for America with the two eldest children. Sylvia, her siblings Mary and Morrie, and mother Bella witnessed the horrible Proskurov Pogrom of February 15th, 1919, in which an estimated 1,500 Jews were massacred. They left for Warsaw, Poland, and after two years, finally received papers allowing them to come to America and settle in Minneapolis in 1922.

Sylvia (on-right) and sister Mary | Warsaw-1921
Sam Shure in front of his store | 1925

Sylvia studied nursing in Pittsburgh, PA, and had a suitor there, but Bella, the strong willed matriarch, ordered Sylvia to return home and arranged a marriage with Sam Shure, who was earning a living at his store. Sylvia and Sam had four children; Shirley, Esher, Anna, and Harold.

Sam was what some would call a health fanatic, forbidding white flour and sugar in the house, and sleeping on the porch, even in winter, so that he could inhale the “frische luft” (fresh air). Sam and Sylvia were active champions of the early Zionist cause, attempting to create a Jewish state in then British Palestine, and hosted meetings in their home in support of that endeavor.

They were devasted when their son Esher died at age 24 of kidney disease. Sylvia visited Esher’s grave daily for years. She also became a regular volunteer at the Veterans Hospital in Minneapolis for several decades. Both Sylvia and Sam spoke Yiddish, Russian, and a heavily accented broken English.

Sylvia Shure in Minneapolis

Sylvia sings traditional Yiddish folk song, “Undzer Nigndl” (We Have a Little Song). 


We have a little song
In joy and rejoicing
We sing it, with the zmires ( religious songs)
It sounds so fine!
Of course, they used to sing it,
Grandma and grandpa
When they were still children.

Oy oy oy just so
As the song sounds now
Such happiness, such a song,
Sing, children
Just so
As the song sounds now
Such happiness, let’s all go.

Shirley's Grandparents

Lazar and Bella Levy

Lazar Levy - Shirley's grandfather
Lazar Levy | Date unknown)
Bela Levy - Shirley's grandmother (Bubbe)
Bella Levy | Date Unknown

Bella Levy – Probably born in a shtetl (small Jewish village) called Kadiyevits, near Proskurov, (now called Khmelnytskyi ) Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire); Arrived in USA in 1922.

In Ukraine, Bella ran an orchard and a general store. Her husband, Lazar, left to establish a safer life in America in 1910. Bella raised the younger children, Sylvia, Mary, and Morrie alone. They endured the perils of pogroms, World War I, and the rising tensions and battles between the Bolshevics, White Russians, and Ukrainian nationalists.  

Lazar Levy – Probably born in a shtetl (small Jewish village) called Kadiyevits, near Proskurov, (renamed Khmelnytskyi) Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire). He came from a family of fifteen children.

Lazar arrived in the USA in 1910 with his two eldest children, Fanny and Becky. In Ukraine, Lazar was employed as an overseer on a large farm.

Shirley (furthest right), her siblings, and grandmother (Bubbe) Bella Levy

Shirley and siblings with grandmother (Bubbe) Bella Levy
(L to R) Anna, Esher, Shirley, Harold (Front)

Sylvia Shure with her father Lazar and her four children

Shirley (furthest right), her siblings, and
grandfather (Zayde) Lazar Levy

Shirley's Ancestors Gallery

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