Jacob Koppel Kruman was a grain merchant in Ternopil, in the Galicia region. He and his wife, Gitzi Geller Kruman, had six children, Naftali, Harry, Abe, Sam, Frida and Rachel “Ruchtze.” Their four sons immigrated to various towns across Western Pennsylvania. Frida initially immigrated to New York before returning to Europe. Ruchtze stayed in Europe. Frida and Ruchtze were both killed during the Holocaust.
In 1918, Naftali “Neff” Kruman (1895-1958) married Bertha Arnowitz (1896-1939). She had immigrated to Braddock from Poland at the age of three with her parents and her three siblings, Herman, Rose and Lena. For a time, her father and her husband owned neighboring stores, a tailoring shop and an electrical contractor, respectively.
In 1936, after losing his job as an electrician with U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson plant, Neff Kruman bought a tire company at 206 Market Street in downtown Pittsburgh, on the current site of PPG Place. “My grandfather wrote a $50 check and told the guy not to deposit it right away because he didn’t have the money right then,” his grandson Eric Kruman told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2011. Operating as the Kruman Equipment Company, Neff Kruman sold air compressors, electric motors and accessories for cars and garages. About 1940, he moved the business down the block and added a repair shop.
Neff and Bertha Kruman had three children, Julius, Jack and Shirley. In 1945, six years after Bertha Kruman died, Neff Kruman married Jeanne Levinson (1902-1997).
Julius and Jack Kruman both worked for the family business as children and continued after returning from World War II. Following the war, they began dealing in surplus equipment, buying and reselling air compressors. Kruman Equipment Company became the largest air compressor distributor in Western Pennsylvania, located in a 13,000 square foot plant on Penn Avenue in the Strip District. A third generation now owns the business.
In 1954, Julius Kruman (1919-) married Harriet Newman (1928-). An advocate for Soviet Jews, Harriet Newman Kruman was a chair of the Women’s Plea for Soviet Jewry, a member of the Pittsburgh Conference for Soviet Jewry and a leader of the New Americans’ Club at Congregation Beth Shalom, where she was also the first female president of the congregation. In 2008, she published The Huddled Masses, a collection of oral histories of Jews from the former Soviet Union. Julius and Harriet Kruman had a son, Nathan.
In 1954, Jack Kruman (1922-2001) married Estelle Berenfield (1928-2013). After attending Colfax Elementary School and Allderdice High School, Estelle Berenfield Kruman, a pianist, studied music at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and earned a master’s degree in music education from the University of Pittsburgh. She taught music in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and at Rodef Shalom, as well as offering private piano lessons. She became a volunteer with the State of Israel Bonds, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Ladies Hospital Aid Society, as well as the Phipps Conservatory. In 2006, at the age of 78, she became a bat mitzvah at Congregation Rodef Shalom, where she and Jack were members. Jack and Estelle Kruman had four children, Eric, Brian, Donna and Nadine. Brian Kruman and his parents have all been members of the Rauh Jewish Archives Advisory Committee.
In 1947, Shirley Kruman (1924-) married Dr. Bernard Fisher (1918-). After serving in the medical corps in World War II, Fisher established a surgical research lab at the University of Pittsburgh and became a leader in breast cancer research. Shirley and Bernard Fisher had three children, Beth, Joseph and Louisa.