Susman Russakoff was born in 1884 in the village of Staradub in the Ukraine. Fleeing the pogroms, he made his way to New York City in 1904 and later sent for and married his childhood sweetheart, Manya Simkin. An apprentice jeweler and watchmaker in the old country, Susman settled at first on the Lower East Side and commuted to jewelry store jobs wherever he could find them. After Manya joined him, Susman felt strongly that he did not want to raise a family amid what he considered crowded and dirty conditions of the Lower East Side. When Manya became pregnant with their first child, Susman looked for opportunities elsewhere and soon learned of a faraway town called Skowhegan, Me., where there were no skilled watchmakers. He and Manya moved there, and he opened Russakoff Jewelers in 1907 on Skowhegan's main drag, Water Street, where it has remained for three generations. Susman's youngest grandchild, Andrew Russakoff, and his wife Donna now own and run the store.
Susman became friends in his early days in New York with Isadore Targovnik (later Tarr), who also would eventually move to Maine. The Targovniks lived in Astoria, where they often hosted recent Jewish immigrants for evenings at Yiddish theater, followed by late-night discussions at their home. Susman became a regular at these while working for a jeweler in Astoria.
Isadore later settled in Lewiston, and the two men and their families got together when possible.
Susman and Manya had seven children, all raised in Skowhegan, all now deceased. However their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren are alive and well in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Alabama, Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon and France. All feel a strong connection to Skowhegan, where they often have gathered for reunions.
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last updated : April 27, 2011