Clara Blackman Zusman (1898-2008)

Clara Blackman Zusman was born in Lidvinka (now Ludvinka), Russia in the late 1800s, circa 1898. Lidvinka was a small town with both Gentile Russians and Russian Jewish inhabitants. Her parents, Sura (Sara) and Bern, had seven children together, listed here in descending order: Avrum (Abe), Beila, Molla (Molly), Rushka (Rose), Bertha, Clara, and Moshe (Morris). Clara’s father was known as Bernard in Portland, and was a cabinetmaker. His last name, Blachman, was anglicized to Blackman when the family immigrated from Russia to the United States, as were many of the family’s first names. Clara was the youngest daughter. When she was 15, she spent time in a different town, possibly Golta, to learn sewing and dressmaking. 

Avrum immigrated to America first. He came to New York, and then to Portland, Oregon, where he had some friends. This occurred right before the First World War, around 1912 or 1913. He wrote back to the family and convinced them to come to America. When Clara was 16, the Blackmans sold all of their belongings and took a train from Lidvinka to Hamburg, Germany, excluding Molly, who was left behind in Russia because there wasn’t enough money for her to emigrate at the same time. Beila, Bertha and Rushka travelled by boat from Hamburg to Philadelphia, while Morris, Clara, Sara, and Bern stayed in Hamburg for two weeks because Sara had fallen ill; they eventually travelled by boat to Ellis Island once she recovered. Once reunited, the seven Blackmans took a five-day train ride from New York to Portland to join Avrum. 

Clara’s first marriage lasted for ten years before ending in divorce. Clara Blackman met her second husband, Ben Zusman, through her brother Avrum. They were married Neveh Zedek synagogue in Portland, Oregon, by Rabbi Rosencrantz. Ben Zusman was in the restaurant business in Portland, and ran a restaurant with his brother on Fourth and Yamhill. Clara worked for her sister, Rose, at a dress shop in Portland, before opening her own shop with her niece Fanny on Morrison Street between Broadway and Park. The dress shop was named Clair-Fan Dress Shop. Ben and Clara were married for 43 years before Ben’s death. 

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