June 9, 2024 ICFS Spring Meeting

For the first time in over four years, the Spring ICFS meeting will be in-person (and with lunch too)! And for those cousins who can’t be there in person, we will also have a Zoom session to allow you to attend the meeting (lunch not included).

IN-PERSON COUSINS: Lunch starts promptly at 1 pm. Food service will stop at 2:30, so arrive on time.
DIASPORA COUSINS: The Zoom meeting starts at 2:30 pm. A link to the meeting will be provided by e-mail.

Mr. Broadway Kosher Deli (formerly Ben’s Deli) 
209 W. 38th St., Manhattan
Glatt Kosher

110th Anniversary

110th Anniversary Round-Up

What a weekend! 110 years (and a few months) after the Israel Cantor Family Society was founded, 52 members gathered in New York City for a weekend of cousinly camaraderie. It was the largest Society gathering since the 100th anniversary in 2013 and featured cousins from 1 to 101 years old. After several years of meetings on zoom, it was thrilling to gather in person and experience our past, present, and future on a sunny-turned-rainy fall weekend in Manhattan, the (American) ancestral home of our forebears. Said one cousin, “It’s pretty remarkable that after 110 years, the Cantor diaspora still gathers and makes each other laugh!” As the family continues to grow and put down roots all over the ever-changing world, gatherings like this one make our sense of community and family stronger. 

So, what did we get up to? 

Saturday, October 28


Cantors near and far descended on Manhattan for the first gatherings on Saturday morning. 

The first group of relatives met at the Gilder Center at the American Museum of Natural History for some family-friendly tours of the exhibits organized by Susan G. Aaron and Sara H and their three children enjoyed the butterfly, others took in the rocks, and gems exhibits. 


At the same time, about 25 Cantors gathered at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum on the Lower East Side, the only remaining Greek synagogue in the nation, and a repository of history and artifacts of the 2000+ year-old Romaniote Jewish tradition. 

After Shabbat services, the group joined the congregation for Kiddush with Greek delicacies and heard prayers in Hebrew and Ladino from the congregants. Some cousins dined with Koula Kofinas, a congregant in her 90s, who shared her experiences as a Holocaust survivor born in Larisa, Greece in 1938. “In Greece,” Mrs. Kofinas said, “I was treated lower than dirt. When I came to America, it was the first time I could hold my head up high. I was proud to be a Jew.” 

You can learn more about the testimonies of Mrs. Kofinas and her husband Solomon here (article) and here (video). Thanks to Marc H’s organizing, we were able to experience a culturally rich pocket of Jewish history.   


Cantors dispersed for the afternoon. At 8pm, over 30 Cantors reconvened for a spectacular cabaret show at Don’t Tell Mama in Hell’s Kitchen. The star of the show was Craig Pomranz, one of New York’s most critically-acclaimed saloon singers… and our cousin! Craig performed a special show called Berlin to Simon & Garfunkel to Dylan: It’s All Kosher, featuring songs from the Great American Songbook by Jewish composers. Craig treated the sold-out room to over an hour of song and history. He invited the crowd to sing timeless hits by Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, and Stephen Sondheim. His renditions of “Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg) and “What the World Needs Now is Love” (Burt Bacharach and Hal David) were especially moving.   

In response to the turnout, Craig wrote, “I just want to say how much it meant to me that you came to my show. The evening was exhilarating and you all made it a very special night. I was so honored when Mady ‘pushed’ me to do it, and for those of you who were able to come, thank you so much. Meeting family in this way and at this particular time is really wonderful. I know we all appreciate the very special care and work the Society puts in to maintain our relationships.”


The night was over for some but continued for others. Some of the millennial Cantors soldiered through the be-costumed crowds of Times Square Halloweekend to bowl at Frames Bowling Lounge. Lizzy C writes, “The cadre of 20 and 30-something 3rd/1st cousins and siblings ventured out to Frames, where we took over two lanes. Some Cantors dominated (Max) while some Cantors failed miserably (Lizzy). Until the next time we can show our gaming prowess…”

Sunday, October 29


Balmy weather on Saturday yielded to a rainy and gray Sunday. Despite the looming skies, more than 25 Cantors of all ages met at the Museum at Eldridge Street for a tour of the magnificent Eldridge Street synagogue and walking tour of the Lower East Side, arranged by Ken W. Our well-versed tour guide shared stories about monuments and events that would have been well-known by our ancestors who lived there. Highlights included seeing the magnificent artistry of the synagogue, the aged glory of old cinemas, and the irony that the former Jewish Forward building, a beacon of Jewish socialist thought, has been turned into luxury condos.


The final event of the weekend was the Family Feast at the Wall Street Grill. As we began, Phil did one of the hardest jobs of the whole weekend: Organize 52 relatives into a 15’x20’ rectangle so he could take the family portrait that we will look back at for decades to come. This was Phil’s ninth time taking the reunion photograph since (his first one was at the 65th in 1978 at The Fallsview Hotel).

After the photo, Sarah K-E and Mady C marshaled the next activity: A cousin scavenger hunt! Alice M-C shares a beautiful summary of this game: 

“My father (Daniel Cantor, son of Herb) is fond of saying, ‘everybody’s interesting.’ Most often this is in reference to strangers—a taxi driver with whom he’s struck up a conversation, or the person ahead of him in line at the post office—but in light of recent events, I’d like to create a specific corollary. Everybody’s interesting, even your own family.

Such was discovered at the final gathering of the 110th ICFS Anniversary Weekend: the Family Feast. At a delicious kosher restaurant, out of the cold rain on a covered rooftop in the old heart of New York City, we were given the ingenious assignment of playing what I have mentally termed “family secrets bingo.” It is not a perfectly accurate name. The facts on the board weren’t really secrets, and it wasn’t bingo—indeed, only a fully filled card could be exchanged for a prize (lottery scratchcards dispensed vigilantly by Tante Mady C.)—but it had the same emotional effect. Here were cousins we thought we knew, revealed to possess talents and quirks we’d never considered. Suddenly the rooftop was filled with darting, exclaiming relatives. Who is both the doctor and the lawyer? Who is a crackerjack Scrabble player? Who is an artist, and who raises chickens? Who has a seat from Shea Stadium in his home? Wait, you mean two cousins have seats from Shea Stadium in their homes?

We gamboled from group to group, seeking answers from cousins we knew well and cousins we were very glad were wearing their name tags. We compared notes and commiserated about the most elusive factoids. We poked fun at each other. We paused the game to chat. In short, we Cantored.

When the first board was filled up, we cheered. And then redoubled our efforts, vowing to discover who imports wine and who does social work and who started political parties, for we had discovered what should have been obvious all along. Everybody’s interesting, especially your own family.

We listened avidly as facts bloomed into stories. Sonny Cantor favored his corner of the room about how during World War II, he lunched twice in Europe with a relative who shared his name (there were at least two Irwin Cantors back in the day). The first lunch was in France, while German bombs were falling across the river. He almost died not long after, but survived to make it to the second lunch, in Germany at the end of the war, a meal of triumph and liberated champagne.

I was in that corner, leaning on my mother’s chair, and as Sonny spoke I marveled that as our oldest member and attendee, he was a full century older than our youngest attendee. Baby Sima is one. Sonny is 101. They are cousins. I thought: A hundred years from now, some young cousin will be standing where I am, listening to Sima tell stories of her youth. How miraculous that is. How lucky that cousin will be. How lucky we are, all of us, to be here today.”

— Alice Markham-Cantor, November 2023

Our family tree was displayed over 29 sheets of paper on the wall at the Wall Street Grill, beginning with Feivel Kantrowitz and spans nine or ten generations of Cantors. Several marriages, births, deaths, and new members have been marked on the tree since the 100th anniversary.

As the crowd settled, we moved to a welcome from Chairman Phil, a moment of silence for departed family members, blessings from Aaron H and Alice M-C, and dinner! Dinner was delicious and conversations flowed among cousins young and old, familiar and new. After the main course, Phil read out mazel tov greetings from Mayor Eric Adams and comedy icon Mel Brooks, sent in honor of our organization’s longevity. 

The festivities wound down around 7pm, as the youngest ones began to fade and cousins picked up their 110th Anniversary take-home favors:

ICFS’ first family cookbook designed and edited by Susan G:

The reprinted poster of An ICFS View of the World, drawn by Phil Cantor, the party favor from the 90th reunion in 1993:

This weekend was exceptional thanks to a number of factors: The well-thought out program of events with something for all attendees (see list of organizers below), the warmth of 1st-5th cousins meeting and greeting (some for the first time!), and, perhaps most remarkable in this busy time: 50+ people taking time to share time and space with each other simply because they believe in the power of family. The Cantor clan has grown and morphed over the years, from a tight knit immigrant tribe to what it is today: a diverse, evolving collection of cousins, committed to staying in touch. 

See you at the 120th!


  • 100th Anniversary Committee Members:
    • Susan G (Chair)
    • Phil C
    • Mady C
    • Marc H
    • Ken W
    • Sarah K-E
  • Special activity leaders: Tess L, Craig P
  • Write-up: Tess L
  • Website: Nate C
110th Anniversary Anniversaries

Announcing the 110th Anniversary

We are pleased to announce that registration for the 110th Anniversary is now OPEN!

The Anniversary is Saturday and Sunday, October 28–29, and will take place in various locations around New York City. Already, I’ve heard that cousins will be coming from all over: California, Florida, Massachusetts, Wyoming and, even, New Jersey! Highlights will include a lifetime of memories but also:

  • A kosher family feast at the Wall Street Grill.
  • Explore the new Gilder Center at the American Museum of Natural History.
  • Special kiddush at the only Greek synagogue in the nation.
  • Late-night bowling for those young or young at heart.
  • Tour of Lower East Side to get in touch with our ancestors.
  • And a special Cantor’s Cabaret performance by cousin Craig Pomranz.

There’s even fancy swag to take home too, with a Cantor Family Cookbook, with recipes sent in by yourselves and a print of the iconic poster, “The ICFS View of the World” filling your gift bag.

It’s a full weekend of events, and the Society is picking up most of the bill.

Your payment includes all 6 events!

  • Members: $100
  • Kids 11 & under: $50
  • Non-Members: $250

Register for the 110th Anniversary now!


Fall 2021 Virtual Meeting – 10/24

Greetings all ICFS members! There’s a chill in the air, a gourd on every stoop, and another ICFS meeting just around the corner. This time it will be at 3pm on Sunday, October 24, 2021.

The meeting is still being held virtually on Zoom (Next year in Ben’s Deli!), so check your e-mail inbox for a Google Calendar link. If you are having trouble, contact Phil Cantor to get the Zoom link directly.

Watch out for an e-mail before the meeting with attachments for use during the meeting.


Spring 2021 Virtual Meeting – May 2

The ICFS is back this spring with a virtual meeting on Sunday, May 2, 2021 from 4–6pm. A Zoom link will be sent out via e-mail ahead of the meeting.

Since we can’t get to Ben’s Deli, this meeting is BYOP (bring your own pastrami)


Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting – 10/25

Greetings again, ICFS cousins and Happy Succoth, everybody.

The Fall Meeting of the Israel Cantor Family Society ON ZOOM is coming up on SundayOctober 25th at 4 pmBrooklyn Larry is urging you STRONGLY (if you know what’s good for you) to Zoom with us on Oct 25.

Some details:

  1. If you would like some help working with Zoom, send an email to and we’ll walk you through it.  
  2. What would you like to know about the Society, what subjects would you like to cover, what networking would you like to do? Please send your ideas no later than October 11th to
  3. Also, we are looking for historical photographs of Society events. Do you have any photos from the reunions, meetings, or parties? We’d especially like to see photos from the early days. Do a little research, scan the photos (Staples can do scanning), or take a digital photograph of the picture, and send to no later than October 11th
  4. PLEASE Tell your siblings, children, and parents about the Zoom meeting, ’cause we don’t have everyone’s email!. 

As we get closer to the meeting, we will send you an email with the Zoom link.  On the day and at the time of the meeting, just click on the link.

Put Sunday, October 25th at 4pm EDT on your calendar now, and join in with your family.
Watch your email for more details, Zoom information, and meeting link.

Your cuz,
Phil Cantor


Fall 2019 Meeting @ Ben’s Deli 10/27

Dear ICFS Member,
The leaves are falling, apples are in the farmers’ market, and pastrami is in the air. We’ll be talking about our recent 106th Anniversary held this past June 2nd at Belmont Race Track.

The fall meeting of the Israel Cantor Family Society will be held on 
Sunday, October 27, 2019 at Ben’s Deli (209 W. 38th Street – Manhattan) Lunch at 1 pm. Meeting starts at 2 pm. $10 per person… the Society picks up the rest of the bill.

Please RSVP,
Cousin Phil


Family Society Picnic – CANCELLED

Greetings cousins,

We hope that everyone is OK in this topsy-turvy time. Our thoughts go out to anyone effected by this terrible pandemic. 

The Family Society was planning a big picnic for May 31, 2020, but unfortunately gatherings are prohibited and we have to cancel the event. We will most certainly reschedule the event for next year in 2021.

Our fall membership meeting will be on Sunday, October 25, 2020, 1 pm at Ben’s Deli in New York City. 

Stay safe,
Phil Cantor 


Jeri Bilus, 1945–2020

The Israel Cantor Family Society is sorry to report that our member, Jeri Ellen Bilus, died last week at age 74 due to complications caused by COVID-19.

Jeri was born August 24, 1945 in Jersey City to Irving Bilus and Irene Cantor Bilus.  Irene was the daughter of Dora Cantor, the second wife of Benjamin Cantor; and was the sister of Edith Cantor Brown. Irene was the half-sister to Norma Cantor Lang and Karl Cantor, who were children of Benjamin and his first wife. Jeri is survived by her brother Ben Bilus and her sister-in-law, Betsy. Jeri’s closest Cantor cousins are Rhoda Brown Chait and Paula Brown Vogel, daughters of Edith Cantor Brown.

Jeri grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey and graduated from Syracuse University in 1967.  She moved to NYC after graduation where she became a teacher and then worked in the Lindsay administration. She joined Citibank in the Human Relations department and was working for American Express on 9/11 across from  the World Trade Center when it was attacked. She was evacuated and walked home to her apartment on the upper east side.  Starting in the 1990s, she survived a series of cancers and other health problems. The rehab/nursing facility she was in while recovering from pneumonia and a dislocated hip, had an early COVID case and was closed to visitors for the last several weeks.

The burial took place at the Bilus Family Circle burial plot at United Hebrew Cemetery in Staten Island where her mother and father and grandparents are buried. Unable to have a funeral service or sit shiva, due to the pandemic, only Ben, his wife, Betsy, and the Rabbi were present at the graveside. The Bilus family plans to hold a celebration of Jeri’s life sometime during the summer.


Family Society Spring 2020 Picnic

UPDATE 5/24: The spring picnic has been cancelled due to COVID-19. See you (hopefully) in the fall!

Hi Cousins,

We hope that everyone is OK during this extraordinary and distressing time. As a Family Society, staying in touch with our far-flung cousins is a way to keep connected. Hopefully we will be able to return to some type of normalcy sooner than later.

We are monitoring the situation and we are still hoping to have our Spring Picnic at Eagle Rock Reservation in New Jersey on Sunday, May 31. As we get a little closer we will, of course, let you know.  

Looking forward to seeing everyone in person soon.
Stay healthy and safe.  

Barbara Greene
Larry Becker
Phil Cantor