Kaplan Family
Camden NJ

The Lives and Times of a Jewish Family
in Camden. New Jersey

The idea for a page about a Jewish family's years in Camden has been percolating (what a wonderful word!) for some time. I had already done a series of pages about the Goldstein family of Broadway below Kaighn Avenue, whose three sons all became doctors, and whose one daughter married a dentist, but I had yet to put a page tying it all together. In March of 2004 I received an e-mail from Jodi Paisner, the great-niece of Private Herbert Tarter, a Camden-born and raised young man who gave his life while serving as a paratrooper during World War II. Jodi had found the page I had set up in Private Tarter's honor, and had some corrections and additional information for the page. When I asked her to tell the of the Tarter family's Camden experiences, she responded in detail. It was at that point I realized that this was the time to put a page of this nature together.

Like everything else on this website, and in our lives, it's a work in progress. I welcome all comments, criticisms, and contributions..... pictures are more than welcome. Feel free to contact me by e-mail 

Phil Cohen, Camden NJ

The Kaplan Family in America

based on a letter written by Stephen Gitomer

November 17, 1987


The earliest known ancestors of the Kaplan family are Yehuda Laib Kaplan (c1840-c1810) and his wife Hudda Rosen (c1840-c1915). They came from the city of Keidan in Russian Lithuania, where they raised their family. The children of this couple were Ida Kaplan Lerner Auerbach (c1860-1922), Joseph Kaplan (1866-1946), Yetta Kaplan Lerner (1869-1919), Esther Kaplan Denbo (1870-1951), and Dora Garon (1875-1949). Family members immigrated to America over a period spanning some twenty years, ending about 1909.

Yehuda Laib Kaplan arrived in America first, about 1889. Daughter Esther arrived next, on the 18th of June 1889, aboard the SS British Princess, which had sailed from England to Philadelphia. Older sister Yetta came next, also traveling alone, on the SS Lord Clive,, sailing from Liverpool to Philadelphia and arriving November 27, 1889. Both women noted on the ship’s manifest that they were going to stay with their father, whose current address was 221 North 3rd Street. It appears that Ida Kaplan, her husband and five of her six children came next. At some point in the 1890s Yehuda Laib Kaplan returned to Russia, apparently finding American Jews too irreligious for his taste.

On December 28, 1904 son Joseph Kaplan, who had previously served in the Russian Army, arrived in Philadelphia aboard the SS Merion, which had sailed from Liverpool. Dora Kaplan Garon and her three children landed in New York City on August 29, 1907, en route to Duluth MN, where her husband Julius Garon had previously settled. Oldest daughter Anne Garon told that her grandfather Yehuda Laib was still active at this point, a tall man with a white beard and large hands. The last group to come to America were Joseph Kaplan’s wife Rebecca and sons Morris, Samuel, Jacob, and Hyman, who sailed direct from Libau Russia to New York City aboard the SS Estonia, arriving on November 16, 1909.  

SS Estonia

This last group of travelers came to join Joseph Kaplan, whose address was also the long-time address of his sister Ida, 730 South 6th Street in Philadelphia PA.

The Kaplan Family

Photo taken before the birth of  Benjamin & Jennie on May 20, 1913

Click on Image to Enlarge

In 1912, Joseph Kaplan purchased a farm in the Thorofare section of West Deptford Township NJ from John and Mathilde Eastlack, on the road from Thorofare to Salem. It is thought that the Kaplans had been living in Camden prior to moving to the farm. On May 20, 1913 twins Jennie and Benjamin Kaplan were born. Four weeks later tragedy struck, when on June 19, 1913 Rebecca Kaplan died of burns suffered when a can of kerosene exploded, as reported in the Gloucester County Democrat. This caused the dispersal of the Kaplan family. Morris went to work as a wallpaper hanger, first in Camden and later in Collingswood NJ. Jacob and Samuel Kaplan moved to Philadelphia, while Hyman was sent to live with his Aunt Dora and Uncle Julius in Duluth MN to learn the jeweler’s trade, and later settled in Canton OH The twins were shuttled from family member to family member for a few years, and possibly spent a brief time in an orphanage. By January 1916, John Eastlack foreclosed on the mortgage of the farm, as most of the $3000 note had not been paid. Eastlack, who also owned an adjacent farm, reacquired the property through sheriff’s sale.

Joseph Kaplan remarried and brought his two young children back home. After a brief time in Duluth, he returned to Camden, making his home at 1111 Baring Street, between Kaighn Avenue  and Sycamore Street, just east of Broadway. At the time of the 1930 Census the family was still living at 1111 Baring Street. Joseph Kaplan was working as a laborer in a machine shop. Jennie Kaplan was working as a finisher in a leather factory, while Benjamin worked in a jewelers shop, possibly that of Mike and Joseph Greenetz, to who he was related by marriage, as Esther Kaplan Denbo’s daughter was married to one of the Greenetz brothers. Shortly after the April 1930 Census enumeration Jennie Kaplan married Louis Edwards, an interfaith marriage which caused a brief rift between father and daughter. Benjamin Kaplan went to Ohio in the mid-to-late 1930s to attend watch repair school; he was living there in December of 1941 when America was drawn into World War II.

Benjamin Kaplan enlisted in the United States Army shortly thereafter. Qualifying for flight duty, he was killed during a bombing raid on Kiel, Germany on June 13, 1943 while serving as a B-17 crewmember with the 410th Bomber Squadron, 94th Bomber Group, Heavy. Jennie Kaplan Edwards and her family lived during the 1930s and 1940s in North Camden, at different addresses on and near the 900 block of Howard Street. Relations between Jennie and her father Joseph were healed, and she nursed him through his later years, until his death on March 31, 1946.

This information courtesy of cousins Jim Bessing and Gene Edwards, June 2004.

Staff Sergeant Benjamin Kaplan

On Leave In Camden

Jennie Kaplan Edwards
922 Howard Street
Staff Sergeant Benjamin Kaplan

with nephew
Gene Edwards
Howard Street
North Camden 

Louis & Gene Edwards
On the 900 Block of Howard Street, 1940s

ABOVE: Father and Son, Louis Edwards (left) and Gene Edwards on the 900 Block of Howard Street, photo from the 1940s. The John R. Evans Company leather factory is visible at the rear of the picture, on Erie Street. The two-story industrial building on left was used as a warehouse by the Mathis Shipbuilding Company in the 1940s.

Kaplan Family Tree - 25 March 1986