Select Halpern Miscellany

Here are some Halpern stories and accounts over the years:

Jews in Heilbronn

Heilbronn is a German city in the province of Wurttemburg.   There were apparently Jews living there in the second half of the 11th century

They initially encountered discrimination and persecution.  In 1298
the followers of Rindfleisch massacred 143 Jews at Heilbronn.  Jewish learning evidently flourished at that time as the names of scholars and teachers were recorded among the martyrs.  

Jews re-established themselves in Heilbronn in 1316.  They possessed a synagogue and a cemetery, and lived on a Judengasse, where non-Jews also resided.   During the Black Death persecutions in 1349 the community was expelled and their property transferred to the city.  Some returned in 1357 and in 1361 they obtained royal protection.   After 1411 King Sigismund granted the Jews of Heilbronn protection of life and property, limited taxation, freedom of movement, and judicial autonomy in Jewish lawsuits.  A Jewish oath was to apply in cases tried before the city court.  

However, the Jews were expelled from Heilbronn three times during the 15th century, the last being in 1490 when the synagogue and the cemetery were confiscated
After that time there was no organized Jewish community in the town until the 1830's when Jews were seen there again.  However, after the Nazis, only 10 Jews were recorded  as living in Heilbronn in 1967.

Halpern Records in Lvov

Lvov, the historical capital of Galicia, is now part of Ukraine.  The following were some Halpern r4eocrds there of the early 1800's.

Marriage of Naftali Heilperin and Beridal Lax
Death of Herz Heilpern
Birth of Loeb, son of Israel Heilpern
Death of Samuel Heilpern
Birth of Chaim Josef, son of Aaron Alpern

Halpern to China, Halperin to Israel

Fanny Halpern

Fanny Halpern had been born in Kracow in Poland in 1899.  She was the daughter of Simon Halpern who had been a Surgeon General in the Austrian army.  She studied medicine at the University of Vienna and, after working at various clinics in the city, she was invited to China in 1933 to teach at the Medical College of China in Shanghai. 

In 1935 she organized China's first modern psychiatric hospital, the Shanghai Mercy Hospital for Nervous Diseases.  She became the hospital's medical director, while at the same time serving as a consultant to several other medical institutions.  She founded the Mental Hygiene Association of Shanghai and the first committee on psychiatry in China.  

Shortly after her mother passed away in 1951, Fanny moved to Vancouver to be near her brother George who had gone to Canada with his wife Ida in 1939.  Fanny Halpern died there in 1952.  George lived onto 1989. 

Jozef Halperin

Josef, born in 1922, was the son of Chaim Halperin, active in the Zionist cause in the city of Lodz in Poland.  His elder brother Mordechai emigrated to Palestine in 1938.  One year later the Nazis occupied Lodz.  Josef then fled to the Polish territory that was occupied by the Soviets and began working as a director at a day school in the village of Dubrowna in present-day Belarus.  He was employed in that position for about a year. 

After Germany's attack on the Soviet Union, Jozef obtained fake Polish documents and joined the partisans in the forests of the Kielcy region where he remained until the end of the war.  

In May 1945 Jozef formed a group of young Jewish survivors entitled Leherut ("Toward Freedom").  The next year, after a six-month journey, they arrived to Palestine.  Jozef described his experiences in his book The Road to Freedom.   

In 1948 he enrolled in the Rehovot branch of the Hebrew University where he earned a Master's degree.  In 1958 he accepted a post in the Forest Research Institute as an entomologist.  Even after his retirement in 1987, he continued publishing articles, wrote two books, and created an album documenting his family history

Origin of Halperns and Halperins in America


The numbers above are based on shipping records.

Nan Halperin, Vaudeville Star

Nan Halperin rose to fame as a star of the vaudeville stage.  Her comedic musical numbers and her ability to change quickly into many elaborate costumes during a single act earned her the appellation of “the Wonder Girl.” 

She started young.   Born in 1898, she secured her first acting part was at the age of six in Little Black Me.  Her big break came in early 1915 when she headlined at New York’s Palace Theatre.  Halperin credited her fame to her talents as an actor and to her business acumen. “Many really talented performers do not get ahead because they do not know how to push themselves ahead,” she explained in a 1915 magazine interview.  

Coinciding with Halperin’s vaudeville success in 1915 and 1916, newspapers publicized the story that her family was less persecuted than other Russian Jews.  Her grandfather was a baron and member of the czar’s court who gained his title because a relative had offered money to aid the Russian emperor during a war. The veracity of this story is uncertain.  Its circulation was possibly a publicity stunt to heighten the allure of Halperin, then a rising celebrity.

Among the most famous of Halperin’s musical numbers were her two burlesque “song cycles.” The first of these, which she began to perform in 1916, depicted five stages of girlhood. Halperin would grow before her audience from the youngest child in a family to a mischievous high school valedictorian, a comical bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding, a bride and, finally, a “blasé divorcée.”  In her second song cycle, originally performed in 1919, Halperin played an amusing young girl who becomes an indignant debutante and complains that her parents force her to wear “too many swell clothes all to catch just one lone man.” 

By 1919, at age twenty-one, she was commanding a salary on a par with vaudeville’s highest-paid female performers. This secured her place in what was then called vaudeville’s “Big Time.”   She continued in vaudeville until she ended her professional acting career in 1934.  She lived on in New York until her death in 1963.

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