Morris, Louis, & Gussie Burka

In September 1902, two months after the death of her husband Jacob in Montgomery, Alabama, Pauline Rothenberg Burka admitted the three oldest of her four children into the Home. Morris was 11, Louis was 9, and Gussie was 5 years old.

In October 1904, the Home opened the Isidore Newman Manual Training School (then only up to the eighth grade) to educate its children first but also admitted White children of all religions whose parents paid tuition. In May 1905, Newman’s faculty identified five “strong pupils” from the Home as candidates for the anticipated high school. Only one of those students, Morris Burka, returned the following year, the others having been reclaimed by relatives. Principal James Addicott hailed Burka’s academic prowess, claiming the young man illustrated that “some of the very best pupils in the school are from the Home.” In addition to his strong scholastic performance, Morris played tuba in the Home band.

Before Morris completed his education at Newman, he was discharged to work as a stenographer and office boy for the Feitel Bag Company, which reconditioned used burlap bags, a mainstay in the cotton industry. In 1927, Morris and his youngest brother Israel (“Zeke”) opened a similar operation –the Burka Bag Company — in Galveston, Texas. But Morris’s ties to the Home remained strong, serving as alumni association president and marrying fellow Home ward Lena Tobias in 1917. In recognition of the care the Home provided to his parents Morris and Lena as well as to several of his aunts and uncles, Morris Burka, Jr., served on the board of the JCRS, the Home’s successor. 

Morris Burka Jr, 2004

In a 2004 interview by JCRS, Morris Burka, Jr. reads Morris Feitel’s 1906 letter to Home Superintendent Michel Heymann offering to take charge of Home ward Morris Burka (Sr.), agreeing to “take the boy, and board and clothe him at my brother’s residence on Prytania Street,”  pay him $2.50 per week until he merited more pay, and “try to make a good business man of him.” Courtesy JCRS.

Morris Burka and Lena Tobias Burka, c. 1917

Morris Burka and his wife, the former Lena Tobias, who also grew up in the Home, are shown here around the time of their marriage in 1917. Photo courtesy of Morris Burka’s grandson, Dr. Aden (Andy) Burka.

Morris Burka, c.1930

Morris Burka on horseback, likely in Galveston, Texas, c. 1930. Photo courtesy of Dr. Aden Burka.

Louis Vance Burka lived in the Home until 1907, when at age 14 he was discharged with his assent and his mother’s permission to New Orleans pharmacist Henry Welsch, who ran a drug store at the corner of Magnolia and St. Andrew Streets. Louis lived with and worked for Welsch for at least three years before selling lumber and later serving as secretary-treasurer of the M. Feitel Wrecking company. Like his brother Morris, Louis also married a Home alumna: Mary Weiss. When Mary died in 1986, she was buried in New Orleans’s Hebrew Rest Cemetery #2 not only with her husband Louis, who died in 1935, but also with Morris and Lena Tobias Burka.

Burka headstone

Home alumni brothers Morris and Louis Burka were buried together along with their wives, the former Lena Tobias and Mary Weiss, both Home alumnae. 

Gussie Burka lived in the Home until 1911, when she was discharged to her mother and brothers. In 1924, Gussie married Cleveland native Benjamin Goldman. Louis and Mary hosted the wedding at their house and Morris gave the bride away. Although Benjamin was not a Home alumnus, he spent most of his professional life in Jewish philanthropy, including as executive director of the Jewish Federation and executive secretary of the Jewish Welfare Fund. In those capacities he was keynote speaker at a 1955 banquet in honor of the Home’s 100th anniversary, and tragically suffered a fatal heart attack at the banquet following his remarks. Gussie Burka Goldman had died two years earlier.