Religion & Jewish Life

Seeking Kin: ISO orphaned former Tel Aviv flatmates

Paul Ellbogen is the first name appearing on this monument to 23 soldiers killed in a battle near Modin on Sept. 24, 1948 during Israel's War of Independence. The death of his wife a few years later left their two children as orphans. (Avishai Teicher)

JTA’s new column, “Seeking Kin,” aims to help reunite long-lost friends and relatives.

BALTIMORE (JTA) — The Ellbogen children, Edna and Michael, nearly became Mordechai “Moti” Malkin’s adopted siblings in early 1950s Israel. Six decades later, the 66-year-old Herzliya resident wants to know what’s become of them.

When Paul and Eliza Ellbogen fled Vienna in 1940 and settled in prestate Israel, they lived with Malkin’s parents, Alexander and Evgenia, who had emigrated in 1933 from Riga, Latvia. The couples hadn’t known each other but formed a partnership of financial necessity during austere times.

The two-bedroom apartment that the Malkins already were renting at 4 Pilon St., centrally located near Tel Aviv’s zoo, came to house eight people upon the births of Edna and Michael Ellbogen (in 1942 and 1946, respectively) and Avraham “Avik” and Moti Malkin (in 1935 and 1945, respectively).

In those years, Alexander worked as a truck driver for the Yachin produce conglomerate, and Evgenia was a nurse at Hadassah Hospital on Tel Aviv’s Balfour Street. The Ellbogens owned a bookstore in town. When revenue was down and the Ellbogens couldn’t pay the rent, they invited the Malkins to select several books from their shop.

The couples got along well and enjoyed one another’s company. Late at night, an adult grabbing a sandwich would be joined at the kitchen table by the other three parents for a shmooze session. They all “lived like one family” and enjoyed “a very close friendship,” Moti Malkin said.

After six years together, the Ellbogens moved to their own apartment in nearby Ramat Gan, but the families stayed in touch. Early in Israel’s War of Independence, Paul Ellbogen, then 39 years old, was drafted into what was dubbed the Old Persons’ Corps. He was killed in a battle near the Maccabees’ graves by what is now the central town of Modiin. A marker there includes his name.

The next year, 1949, Eliza and her children left Israel and moved to New Jersey, where her sister lived. Eliza, by then known as Alice, mailed Moti a gift for his fifth birthday in March 1950: a View Master and its distinctive, hand-sized cardboard wheels whose slides featured colorful children’s stories. Shortly thereafter, perhaps also in 1950, Moti thinks, Alice died of cancer.

Alexander and Evgenia asked the children’s aunt if they could adopt Edna and Michael. Moti remembers Evgenia telling him that Alexander later quashed the adoption idea because of the financial strain it would cause. He also recalls hearing that the aunt gave up the children to two Christian families for adoption.

Moti, a human resources specialist for teachers employed by ORT Israel, wonders what has become of Edna and Michael. He has no direct memories to go on, though. He was a baby when the Ellbogens moved out and 3 years old when they left for America. His parents continued living in the Pilon Street apartment until their deaths (Alexander in 1970 and Evgenia in 1980), but they never spoke much about the Ellbogens, and Moti didn’t think to ask.

In the past couple of years, Moti has contacted an association of Austrian immigrants to Israel and a U.S. immigration agency hoping in vain for leads. In early October, he was interviewed by the Israeli radio program “The Bureau for Searching for Relatives,” which attempts to reunite long-lost people.

“You get to a certain age when you wonder what happened to so-and-so,” he said. “These kids could have been my sister and brother.”

Please send a message if you can help Moti Malkin locate Edna and Michael Ellbogen, or if would like our help in searching for your own long-lost friends or family. Please include the principal facts in a brief e-mail (up to one paragraph) and your contact information.