Rhoda's Recollection of Her Father's Arrival at Ellis Island
My father, Louis Eckerman, returned from school one day to find that his older brother and sister had run away. They were involved with the socialist political party and when their father, a conservative, found out, he banished them from the house. My father was being pressured to become a Jewish rabbi. He had no interest in that career and decided that he too would run away. At the age of 12, he left his home in Russia and travelled around Europe doing odd jobs to earn money. When he had enough for a ticket on board a ship to America, he sailed for the US.
Upon arrival at Ellis Island it became clear that a then 13 year old wouldn't be allowed to enter by himself. He needed a family or adult guardian to vouch for him. The family in line behind him agreed, but once they were through immigration, he was on his own. He wandered the streets of New York, speaking very little English, looking for work and eventually found an electrician who hired him as an assistant and allowed him to sleep in the window if his shop. He saved his money to attend school at night and eventually became a partner in the business.