When Joan Patsy Ostroy (formerly Sternberg) was three years old and her sister Ann was one, her family moved from Manhattan, New York to Larchmont, an upscale suburb of New York City in 1945. Larchmont was known for its excellent public schools which was the main reason the Sternbergs moved from the city. Patsy and Ann’s parents, Lillie and Leo, were German Jewish refugees who had fled their home when Hitler and Nazism was gaining power in Germany. Luckily, most of their family were able to escape before the war.
Larchmont, during the mid-20th century was home to primarily white, upper class business people as well as middle-class Catholic Italians. At this time, the Sternbergs along with other local Jews experienced anti-semitism in their town. Jews were prohibited from joining the Larchmont Yacht Club and the Larchmont Shore Club, two close country clubs that provided well kept beaches, pools, tennis courts and offered sailing. Families like my grandma’s instead were members of the Larchmont Beach which was open to everyone regardless of their identity.
While discrimination from private facilities was one anti-semitic factor of my grandmother’s childhood, she also faced taunts and physical threats:
My grandma, her little sister, Ann and her friend, Karen, used to ride their bikes on Lyons Hill-a neighboring area- where some boys, who attended the local Catholic school lived. While my grandma and her friends would ride their bikes, the boys would call my grandma, Ann, and Karen “dirty Jews” and “Christ killers” and throw water at them. The worst incident was when the boys chased after the girls and ended up catching Karen and Ann. They tied them to a tree and threatened them with a knife. Luckily, my grandma had not been caught and got Karen’s dad to rescue them.
The Sternbergs lived in a tudor style house on the Manor. The Manor was the part of Larchmont that lined the Long Island Shore. Right along the water is a beautiful park -Manor Park- where locals can walk their dogs, jog and enjoy the serene views.
In 1948, Lillie and Leo helped found and organize the first reform synagogue in Larchmont. It stands today as a place of worship, a preschool, and a hebrew school.