The Heavens Opened for RBG

19 Sep

I believe that the heavens opened on Friday night.

As we entered the holiday of Rosh Hashannah, the start of the new year, the days of Awe; and entered the holy day of Shabbat, the Sabbath, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, passed into the cosmos.  She left this world a better place for all women.  She fought the battles of women’s rights at a time when most women were treated as second class citizens.  She was a warrior for women.

In Judaism there is the belief that someone who dies on the Sabbath is a Tzadik, a righteous person.  Another belief says that a person who dies just as Rosh Hashannah begins is also a Tzadik, because the Lord waits for the very last minute of the year to take this person.  They are so needed on Earth, that their very time is counted to the minute.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died erev Shabbat and Rosh Hashannah.  The moments before these two holidays connverged.  But more so, she died on the 18 of the month.  For those who are Jewish, the number 18 has its own significance, as the two letters, Het and Yod together spell the word, Chai, which means life. Her life had such meaning to so many women and men who she helped.

 Ruth Bader Ginsburg had such a life.  She was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.  She spent her life battling for women’s rights and gender equality.  She never backed down.  She was a warrior.  She dissented.  Her great legal intelligence helped her seal many decisions as she could interpret the laws, which make her interpretation valid. She did not back down.

Earlier this year I joined a group of women from the Kansas City area to go on a virtual tour of the Notorious RBG Exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.  It was a wonderful experience learning about what this extraordinary woman had accomplished. I had to have both a I dissent pin and a t-shirt.  A t-shirt that I am proudly wearing now.

Earlier today, I went to services for Rosh Hashannah. Our shul has been having services for a few months now.  There are rules in place to keep us safe. We all wore masks.  The service was shorterned.  The doors were opened for air circulation.   We sat phsycially distanced. We were not to sing, only the hazzan. No children under 12 were to be present.  But still the soul of prayer was there.

When the Unetanneh Tokef was chanted by the Hazzan, I thought of Justice Ginsburg, as these words were ingrained in my being:

“Let us now relate the power of this day’s holiness, for it is awesome and frightening. On it Your Kingship will be exalted; Your throne will be firmed with kindness and You will sit upon it in truth. It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness; Who writes and seals, Who counts and Who calculates. You will remember all that was forgotten. You will open the Book of Remembrances — it will read itself – and each person’s signature is there. And the great shofar will be sounded and a still, thin voice will be heard. Angels will be frenzied, a trembling and terror will seize them — and they will say, ‘Behold, it is the Day of Judgment, to muster the heavenly host for judgment!’ — for even they are not guiltless in Your eyes in judgment.”

The Holy One knows the goodness of Justice Ginsburg.  Her death comes at the end of a horrible year.  But the Jewish New Year started after her death.  A new year is here.  I have faith.

As I said the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, which I say every Rosh Hashannah for my family who perished in the Shoah, I also said Kaddish for Justice Ginsburg.

May her name and memory be for a blessing. May her soul be bound up in the bond of Eternal Life. May her family be comforted with the mourners of Zion. Her memory will not end. We will all remember and work to continue the example of the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Yes, I believe the heavens opened last night to claim the astounding, amazing soul– neshumah –of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Tzadik, a good and righteous woman, Yita Ruchel.

Now we among the living must continue her work. Vote for women, vote in memory of a women’s warrior. Vote in the name of Justice Ginsburg.

The Piano Behind the Fireplace

13 Sep

Our house in the Catskills has been in our family since 1962.  It has gone through many changes.

When my grandparents purchased it, the house had been divided into four apartments.  Slowly, slowly it was returned to a single-family home, with an attached apartment.  Rooms that were divided were opened up or reunited with the house.  Small additions were redone. New additions were created. (See blog below.)

In the living room, a stone fireplace is the focal point.  At one time the back side was covered up and behind it a tiny kitchen and bathroom was put in.  My grandparents restored it to one room.  Behind the fireplace they put a trundle bed for grandchildren and, eventually, their old upright piano.

The fireplace in the center of the living room.

That piano was the bane of my summers.  Over 100 years old now, the piano was purchased second hand for my Mom to use when she was a child.  But Mom’s abilities outpaced this piano, and in the late 1930s, when Mom was about 10 years old, my grandparents purchased a baby grand piano for her use in their New Jersey home. (See blog below.).

Mom eventually became a special student at Julliard.  She studied music there all through high school and had hoped to go there for college. But my grandparents thought a music career was not a good choice.  So Mom went to Douglas University in New Jersey and studied education.

When the baby grand piano arrived, my grandparents had the old upright taken up to the Catskills to their bungalow in the small colony they had created.  Their bungalow was one of the bigger ones, with two bedrooms, a kitchen sitting area, and an enclosed porch.  The piano was put on the porch.

As little children, before my sister was born, my brother and I actually stayed in this bungalow with my parents and grandparents. But once my sister arrived, we started staying in our own bungalow.  The piano stayed with my grandparents.  Whenever Mom wanted to play, she just went over there.  

When I started piano lessons,  I was expected to practice….even during the summer when I had NO lessons. At first it was not a problem, I just showed up to my grandparents and went in and played.  I got treats and lots of positive reinforcement for practicing, even though I would rather be outside playing.

However, my feelings changed after the 1962 summer.  My grandparents moved up to the new “big house.”  We moved up there as well, to live in a bungalow behind the house.  That freed up two bungalows at the colony that now could be rented.  The piano stayed down at the bungalow for at least a year.

Here is where my angst began.   I was expected to go down to the colony, which I wanted to do to see my cousins and my friends. But instead of playing, I was expected to go and practice the piano.  It was no longer my grandparents’ bungalow.  It now was rented by my sort of aunt and uncle.  They were actually the brother and sister in law of my uncle by marriage.  My Grandma Rose and their son, who I considered a cousin, lived there as well.  (See blog about Grandma Rose below.)

The last thing I wanted to do was practice the piano.  Two reasons, first I felt like I was invading their territory.  I now had a set time when I had to be there to practice.  Also, I wanted to play!  Everyone else might be in the lake, but when my set time came, I had to go over to their bungalow.  There were many fights over this with my Mom.  But eventually she let me stop.  It was just not fun.

My angst ended then.  The next summer a space was made for the piano.  That little kitchen and bathroom behind the fireplace were gone, as was all the plumbing and fixtures.  The walls were cleaned and wood paneling was put in.  In the area that was once a bathroom, the upright piano now stood, back in my grandparents’ house.

So now, I could practice anytime of the day.  I left my music in the house.  On a rainy day, I could practice for as long as I liked.  While, on a beautiful day, I could just run in after a day at the lake. A low note chord broke when I was young, and we never replaced it.  I used the note so rarely, that at the times I did, I would be shocked when no noise came out.

Over time, I went to college, got married and moved away.  The piano was rarely touched and soon went out of tune.  When I started going up with my children for two weeks each summer, I wanted to get the piano tuned.  But the person we called said it was impossible, it had sat untuned for so long and it was too old.  That made me so sad.  But we left the piano there, and occasionally I would still play even with the discordant sounds that came out.

But in this time of COVID-19, the piano has been revitalized.  My nephew, who also plays the piano.  Needed a place to stay.  He had planned a long trip to Europe and had not renewed his big city apartment lease.  He asked to stay at the Catskills home.  We all agreed.  It was perfect for all of us, because we have used his time there to get some chores done and things fixed that were benignly neglected as we are usually there only on weekends.

Thanks to my nephew, we now have internet in the home and we have tasked him with meetings with an electrician, plumber and other workers.  He got a dock put in at our lake front section of Kauneonga Lake.. 

However, his greatest success, for me, is the piano.  My nephew plans to spend the winter there as well. As it is a four-season house, he can. It was my grandparents’ full-time home. So he decided to get the piano tuned!!! He found an old-time piano tuner, who has restored the sound!  This gentleman slowly got it back into shape, by doing it correctly. Over several months he came and tuned the piano just a bit until the sound board and strings could accept a full tune.

But besides tuning it, the piano tuner has dusted it and oiled the wonderful old wood.  The piano looks better than it has in 20 years. It brings me joy that the piano behind the fireplace is now a working piano giving my nephew a chance to practice his hobby as he experiences the cold winter months in Sullivan County.

(Exact dates of when of when the piano moved to the house and when I practiced at the bungalow are somewhat unknown, as it was many many years ago.)

https://zicharonot.com/2015/05/30/remodeling-my-bathroom-reminds-me-of-our-catskills-house-the-house-which-always-changed/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/07/24/movie-night-in-the-catskills-was-a-wonderful-magical-night/

Vintage Greeting Cards Stir My Imagination

2 Sep

When my grandfather died almost 31 years ago, my mother shipped some furniture to me.  My grandparents’ cherry mahogany bedroom set, a lamp, an old radio cabinet and a few more pieces.  My grandfather had not removed my grandmother’s clothing from the dresser nor the items she had left behind in the radio cabinet that served as a closed bookcase.  My mother did not empty them out either.  She sent the furniture filled with my grandparents’ personal items because she just could not deal with them.

I emptied out the dresser drawers when I received it, donating most of the clothing to charity, the $10 bill I found hidden away, I still have for emergencies.  Although I used the radio cabinet, I left my grandparent’s items inside alongside the items I stored in it.  But recently, when I moved, I emptied out the cabinet and repurposed it as a curio cabinet.  I had looked at the items before this move.  In fact, I wrote a previous blog about my grandmother’s ledger books. (See blog below.). But the other piles I just ignored for 31 years.  Procrastination in dealing with sorrow is strong in my family.

But now I had no excuse.  I had to sort through the piles on the shelves.  My findings included letters that my sister, cousin, Mom and I all wrote to my grandparents. I must admit, most of the ones saved were from me. I think that I wrote the most because I moved to the Midwest.  There were also three letters in Yiddish.  I think they are from my Grandmother’s brother and sister in law.  I have to get them translated.

The antique radio cabinet.

Included in the piles were 116 unused vintage greeting cards from the 1940s, 50s and 60s:  sympathy cards; cards for birthdays, weddings, anniversary; get well cards; birthday cards for grandchildren; holiday cards. 

There was one sister birthday card.  My grandmother was able to save her sister from Poland in 1936 and bring her to the United States. They were extremely close. My great uncle was a baker with my grandfather.  But Grandma never sent this card to my Tante.  I thought, “why waste a good card.” I recently sent it to my sister, whose birthday is this month.  I think she will like it!

Card I sent my sister.

Among these vintage cards were two that really touched my heart. Created by American Greetings, these 25 cent cards were birthday cards for twins.  Why would Grandma buy birthday cards for twins? We knew no twins; we had no twin cousins; why?

I think I know.  I my theory with my sister.  We will never know, but it could be.  I honestly wish I could ask her.  But when I was a teenager, I learned her story.

The two twin cards.

We did not have living twins in our family.  But in 1930 my grandmother was pregnant with twins.  She already had two children. My uncle about 3 or 4 and my Mom was about 18 months when my grandmother was pregnant again.  At 24, she was not in good health.  Her childhood in Poland and surviving WWI had left its mark on her health.  Her kidneys were failing.  The doctor said she had to terminate the pregnancy or she and the baby would die (They did not know it was twins till after.).

And so the pregnancy was terminated.  Abortion was illegal in 1930.  However, Grandma was able to have the abortion by a physician.  Could it be that she was so sick, they had to do anything to save her life?  I assume so.  After the abortion they found out that she was carrying twins.

How do I know all of this?  My grandmother and my mother told me.  My sister knows as well. It was not a secret.  My grandmother was always open about how terminating the pregnancy saved her life.  She never got pregnant again.  I assume my grandparents were very careful.  

But after the abortion, my Grandmother was still quite ill. Her kidneys were still failing. She was so ill that she decided she had to go back to Europe and give her children to her in-laws as she was sure she was going to die.  She did not die and she returned to the USA with her children and then worked to get the family out of Europe.   (I wrote a blog about this as well, see below.). It was the abortion, the illness and this trip that led to my grandmother saving her sister’s life! 

When I saw the birthday cards for the twins.  My memory of my Grandmother telling me about this lost pregnancy came into my mind.  Did she ever think about all that happened because she ended the pregnancy? Did she buy these cards for the children who did not live?  Where they often on her mind? Did she celebrate their birthday privately?  

I will never know. 

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/07/my-grandmas-ledger-books-remind-me-of-her-financial-lessons/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

Dealing With A Speech Impediment is Not Easy!I Get Joe Biden And Brayden H.

22 Aug

In the last few months, I have had people ask me about Joe Biden.  Does he have cognitive issue?  Are you sure?  He seems to hesitate when he speaks sometimes.

My response is always, Joe Biden has a stutter.  People who stutter often have to stop to think about what they say before they say it.  It helps with the flow.

Why am I an expert?  Because it is an action I know well.  From the time I was 4 until I finished eighth grade, I had a weekly session with a speech pathologist. The year before kindergarten and in kindergarten, she came to our home and worked with me.

I was fortunate.  My Mom had a degree in elementary education and had worked as a teacher before she had children.  She knew that the way I spoke was not going to fix itself, and so she made the necessary and important calls get me the help I needed as soon as possible.

Once I got into first grade, the sessions continued. But now I left my classroom for a half hour, once a week to meet privately with the speech pathologist at the school.  I had tons of exercises to do.  And tongue twisters to say.  For me, “Sally Sells Seashells at the Sea Shore,” was not just a saying. It was a difficult and painful exercise, which I said over and over again in mirror.  W’s and Rs were so hard to enunciate.  I would look at myself in the mirror saying, “Ring, Wing, Ring, Wing.” I had to watch as my face moved. The speech teacher had me hold her face and she moved the muscles around her mouth, so that I also could move my muscles the same way.

I still do these exercises sometimes when I am alone, especially if I have to do public speaking.

People made fun of me.  A friend of my grandmother’s once told me that I should go on “Laugh In” because I spoke so funny.  At eight years old, I was mortified. And I did not want to go out of our house for a while.  My grandmother was furious. But that did not help. It was said and it hurt.

I hated going to restaurants because I had to say my order out loud.  I always wanted my Mom or Dad to do it for me. But at a certain point Mom insisted that I do it.  So I fought with my might NOT to go to a restaurant. There were many battles, where my anger and desire to stay home wrecked family events.  But the fear and shame of how I spoke made me defiant and added to my desire to stay home. 

I hated talking on the phone, for fear the person on the other end would laugh.  But my Mom would make me answer and practice phone skills with me.  My Mom never backed down.  I was going to learn to talk!

There were people who helped.  The Good Humor man in the Catskills was my buddy.   He always listened to me and knew what I wanted to order.  When he retired, the new ice cream man had a chocolate sundae waiting for me, ordered by our old ice cream man.  I called it a “yorchlet undae.” But the Good Humor men had compassionate, and always waited while I ordered.

My cousins and my good friends who knew me from early childhood, never made fun of me.  They waited and let me talk.  They understood what I said. But even if they didn’t, they helped me find the words.

But it was my father’s first cousin, David, who stuttered, who made the biggest difference.  I will never, ever forget.  We did not see him often. But at every big family event, he was there.  And it was at one of my cousin’s bar mitzvah that David decided that it was time.  Perhaps my Dad spoke to him.  All I know, is that he helped as only he could. 

I was so shy. I was standing up against a wall, not speaking, when David came over to me.  I don’t remember everything he said, but his message was clear.  IF he could do it, I could do it.  He still stuttered sometimes, but I needed to know that I was a good person. And that the speech impediment did not define, SHOULD not define, who I was and impact my life anymore.  We spoke for a long time.  He told me his story. He told me how he got through with his speech impediment, went to college, got married and had a great job. He expected me to do the same. He gave me the confidence my parents could not give me as they did not understand. 

I remember my father came up and asked if everything was ok.  David say, “More than okay.” He hugged and told me if I ever wanted to talk again, that my Dad would call him. That he would always speak to me. And he did!

As a child, the show and movie, “The Music Man,” was my favorite because I understood Winthrop and I appreciated the Music Man, Harold Hill, who helped Harold, just as my cousin helped me!

So when I saw Brayden Harrington speak at the Democratic Presidential Convention.  When I heard his story of how Joe Biden helped him.   I had tears, but more, I nodded in understanding and support.   It was my first cousin once removed, David, who was my helper.  Who change the path of my life.  Who helped me out of my shell and helped me find my voice.

From a girl who was afraid to order at a restaurant, or speak on the phone or talk to strangers, I ended up with master’s degree in journalism.  I speak to strangers all the time.  I speak on the phone, to groups and even taught high school.  No one in my adult life knew about my issues. All that work in elementary and middle school paid off!  By high school I sounded like everyone else, because I learned to compensate!

Joe Biden; the king of England George VI, so finely illustrated by Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”; Winthrop, in “The Music Man,” my cousin, David:  all overcame a speech impediment by learning skills to compensate, as I do. I know when a word is coming that I cannot say that day.  Yesterday, or even a minute ago, it would come out. But at that moment I need to quickly find another to use.  But I am slick and quick and I learned over the years to avoid multisyllabic words in my spoken language.

So NO Joe Biden is not slow, or demented.  He, in fact, is amazing to me.  That he has gone so far and learned to speak out.  But more, he has become a role model of good to young people who also suffer from speech issues.

If you need help with stuttering: https://www.stutteringhelp.org/

A Quest Completed! Thanks to My Cousin!

19 Aug

In my quest to discover more about my ancestors and my family’s immigration to the USA, I have enlisted the help of my family.  My sister, an attorney, was given the job of research. When I could not find something, I often sent her an email and said ‘try to find this’.  And she did. Sometimes we argued about whether we really found who we thought we found. But in the end, we would determine the truth.  She is named for my paternal great grandmother, Raisha.

My cousin’s son, when he graduated college, and before he got a job, became interested in family as well, and created a marvelous family tree of my paternal side. I still send him updates when I get more information. He keeps it current as cousins marry and babies are born. Other cousins have sent me photos as they search through their parent’s albums. We have had great discoveries through these albums, including the only known photo of my other paternal great grandmother. (See blog below.)

For years I have wanted to find the graves of my paternal great grandparents.  I knew they were buried in New York somewhere. I actually remember my great grandmother.  Before COVID, I found what I thought was my great grandfather’s grave, and sent it out to my cousins, asking what they thought.  It was not the grave. Two of my cousins remember going to visit the grave with my grandmother, to see her parents.

My Great Grandfather Louis and Great Grandmother Rae in 1894 around the time of their wedding.
My Great Grandparent’s grave!

They said, it is in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.  OY, I really wanted to have pictures of the graves.  But I live in Kansas. I just needed this photo, to complete a desire in my quest to answer questions. Where were they?  Were they with other family?  No one wanted to make the journey out to the cemetery. They were all busy.

But, I have a fantastic cousin.  I call him the king of the cemeteries.  He does not like that title. But I give it to him out of love.  He is the one who makes sure the family plot where all my grandparents, my parents, his parents, my uncle and others rest, is always cared for by the cemetery.   When we have gone and seen something not right, we have emailed him. And he makes sure it is fixed. He is named after this great grandfather.  And they are both Baruch Lev, blessed hearts.

This week, when I got a call from him, I was worried.  He doesn’t call me that often.  And with me in Kansas, and most of my family in New Jersey and New York, I wondered did anything happen.  “Do you have Facetime?” he asked.  The next thing I know he was calling me back, and I was walking with him in Washington Cemetery seeing the graves of my great grandparents.  I have tears in my eyes now, but at that moment, I was elated.  “Take pictures.”    Of course, he was taking pictures.  He said, with nothing to do right now, he thought he would take a ride out and find the graves.

He could not find the grave of their child who died as an infant.  He did not see the graves of any of our great grandparents’ siblings.  And although my cousins thought that my grandparents were not buried together, the memory was wrong. They share a grave site.  

My cousin took pictures of the grave and the entrance to the section where they are buried, in the Bialystoker area.

Above the gate it says: Bialystoker. And under it UNT VEREIN SOMACH NOFLIM.  My grandfather was the president of the Bialystoker Free Loan Society, the Somach Noflim. This is the area where he was buried.  He was also a vice president of the once famed Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which he helped establish.  The blog below explains the goodness of my great grandfather

Above the Gate: Bialystoker Unt Verein Somach Noflim

Baruch Lev ben Yaacov Zev, died July 24, 1941, just a few months before my father’s bar mitzvah. He was 71 years old. And Rushka, or Raisha or Rae, or Rachel, she has all those names: Rushka the daughter of Avigdor, who died on November 29, 1956, on my brother’s third birthday. I was not quite two. I actually have a memory of her.

I once told my Dad, that my memory was Grandma Ray sitting in a chair in my grandparents’ Bronx apartment. She was not moving very much and she had lace on her head.  Later I told Dad it must have been a doily on her head.  And my Dad laughed. He said she had very little hair, and her scalp showed through, making it look like lace.

I consider myself so fortunate to have a family who appreciates my desire to have the history of our family written down for the next generations.   I appreciate my sister who does research; my cousins who send me photos, especially the ones with inscriptions on the back; my cousin’s son who does the family tree; and my cousin, Baruch Lev,  who took a day to go to the cemetery for me and give me this gift of our great grandparents’ graves.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/11/23/the-gift-of-a-photo-becomes-a-gift-of-genealogy/

Loving My Mother’s Wedding Memory Book

28 Jul

Spring and summer are usually wedding time. Although COVID-19 has altered many wedding plans, I believe we should still celebrate weddings.  About once a week I see photos on Facebook of an outdoor wedding in a backyard or a park, where a small group of people gather for a family wedding.  Other weddings, I know, have been put on hold.  But with all that going on, weddings are on my mind.

In June I wrote about finding my in-laws wedding album during our move.  Among the other items I discovered in my move, was a wedding memory book that my Mother filled out after she and Dad were engaged.  Funny how you grow up hearing family stories, but some important facts were left out. Those facts are chronicled in this memory book.

For example, I knew my parents met on a blind date set up by my Dad’s Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny.  They shopped at my grandparent’s bakery and liked my Mom.  So they arranged for their nephew, my Dad, to meet Mom.  I guess she liked him, because she loaned him the book, Animal Farm, and he had to come for a second date to return it.

What I now know is that first date was held on July 4, 1949.  Dad always said how difficult it was to go from the Bronx to West New York, New Jersey.  Now I truly believe him. It was a holiday. It must have been nuts using mass transit to go on a date.

But Mom must have liked the date. She remembered: “We went to the Roxy and then to Roth’s for supper.  I wore my black silk print and Don wore a tan sport jacket with dark brown pants.”  Can you imagine a blind date now on the Fourth of July with the man wearing a sport jacket and the woman wearing silk?  It would be perhaps a summer dress and the guy would wear nice slacks or shorts and a polo shirt. I think.

Mom was still in college.  They were both 20 years old on their first date.

They announced their engagement 19 months later on March 23, 1951, in Santa Barbara, California.  Amazingly they married just three months later.  I knew it was a quickly planned wedding. But I did not realize how quickly!

I never knew the exact date of their engagement. But it answers a question I always had.  I got married on March 22, a Saturday night. But my Mom pushed for a while for a Sunday afternoon wedding on March 23, which would have been the anniversary of their engagement! I am sorry I did not ask her why that date was so important.  I will just believe that March 22 still counts!

The story of their engagement I had heard many times. Mom and my Grandma Esther, my Dad’s mom, flew to California where my Dad was in basic training before going to Korea.  My Mom’s parents were extremely upset and worried that they would get married there. In fact, there is a photo of my parents by the courthouse in Santa Barbara that created a stir.  But no, they did not get married then.  They waited till Mom graduated college and Dad had a two-week furlough before going off to war.

They even got a few engagement gifts, mainly from close family.

My Mom even had a surprise shower on May 27, 1951.  I have photos and even a movie of the shower.  Dad was still in California.  I assume my uncle recorded the shower. My Dad’s sister, Leona, and sister-in-law, Mickey, hosted the shower at my paternal grandparent’s apartment, for 50 guests!  My Great Aunt Minnie, who was part of my childhood and even came to my wedding, gave my Mom the bridal book, I am looking at now.

My Mom, Aunt Leona, Grandma Esther and Great Grandma Ray at the surprise shower.

But the memory book had another surprise that was important in my genealogy research. I knew almost all the people at the shower.  A few I know basically who they are, but do not remember them.  And a few were a bit of a surprise, they are my grandmother’s first cousins and aunts for the Lew family. (See blog below.) These women have shown up in my genealogy research before.  It was actually these names in reference to my great grandmother that confirmed that my great grandmother was in fact from the same family in Russia as other members of the Tracing the Tribe Group I belong to.  And connected me with distant relatives here in Kansas.   This wedding memory book makes the relationship very clear.  It states, “Aunt Rose, Grandma’s sister”.  With this shower list, I am able to realize how closely in contact the family was in the 1950s.  

Of the 50 people at that shower, I only know of three still alive today. My Aunt Mickey, who hosted it; and my Mom’s two best friends Wini and Judy.

My parents married on June 17, 1951 at Talmud Torah in West New York.  My Dad’s sister was the maid of honor. My Mom’s brother was the best man. My Mom wore my Aunt’s wedding dress. As this was a quickly planned wedding, there was no time to order a wedding dress.  And my aunt, the maid of honor, wore the gown my Mom wore when she was in the bridal party of her brother’s wedding!  Sixty-seven years later, my niece married her husband on the same day.

I even have the list of everyone who attended the wedding.  Sadly, as was the time, everyone is listed as Mr. and Mrs., so I do not have many names of the women who were there, unless they were single and came by themselves.  But many of the names I know.  Many are family members. Many are people I knew throughout my life. 

The Lew/Wolf Family members who came to the wedding.

Those first cousins of my grandmother, who came to the shower, were also at the wedding with their spouses.  I met them a few times as a child and quickly forgot, as children will do. But I know I met them, as my grandmother’s family had a Cousins’ Club for many years. And I remember going and running around with lots of children in a big room. But like many children, my memory of the adults has slipped away.

After the wedding, my parents went on their honeymoon to New York City, spending two nights at the Waldorf Astoria!  They then went to the Catskills and spent five nights at Grossingers!  A true destination spot for honeymoons.

My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in the Catskills. My Dad always joked that his in laws came to be with him on his honeymoon.  And they did. They had dinner with them one night.  And with that dinner, my Dad had a funny story to tell for the rest of his life.

This tradition continued when my daughter and her husband got married. She wanted to show her husband our Catskills’ home. So they spent three nights of their honeymoon at our home in Kauneonga Lake. My sister went with them, as my daughter had never been there alone as an adult and did not really know her way around. But I like to tease my sister that she was continuing a family tradition.  (My daughter also got married on the anniversary of my husband and my first date.)

I am so glad my Mom kept records of everything in her beautiful and precise handwriting.  Reading through this book brought back stories and memories.  And brought back the joy of the wedding season that we are all missing.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/09/10/a-kansas-wedding-with-a-catskills-honeymoon/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/19/the-descendants-of-esther-lew-and-victor-avigdor-wolff-wolf/

Check Your Posts, Don’t Spread MisInformation!

26 Jul

When my daughter started high school in the year 2000, just 20 years ago. The internet was still new enough that some teachers were concerned about information that the students would get online using websites and not just books and magazines.  Would it be real? Would it be fake?  The librarian put together a group of parents who volunteered to check websites to make sure the information the students would find was accurate.

 I volunteered to be one of these parents.  I did this for two years. Every week or so, I would be sent a list of websites to check out. Which I did immediately.  To be honest, after being a research assistant for a professor in college, then getting a master’s degree in journalism, searching for the truth was something that I loved doing. This was the perfect volunteer position.

My search or need for truth reverberated in my family as well.  When my children got in trouble, they knew the rule. Tell me truthfully what happened. You will face consequences, but it will not be too bad as long as you tell the truth.  Tell a lie and the consequences doubled.  I hate lies.

That is my biggest problem with social media: the lies; the misinformation; the harmful memes that express false information.  I especially hate when a photo from 2, or 3, or7 years ago is used to say this happened now.  Like a photo of a vandalized replica of the Vietnam War Memorial which inferred that Black Life Matters protestors vandalized the memorial in Washington DC.  Sorry that photo was four years old; Had nothing to do with Black Life Matters; and was a replica of the wall, not the real.  So, of course, I had to post the truth in the comments.

The number of misinformed posts disheartens me.  I have to do something!!

I decided that my new calling was to rout out these lies and the false information on Facebook.  It offends me that the powers that be allow these lies to rotate through again and again. It horrifies me that sometimes people leave the false post up even when multitude of people tell them it is fake or false.  I feel much better when people take the fake meme or photo or article down!  It is a disservice to humanity.

There are people out there whose main purpose in life seems to be to sow discord and distrust among us.  But I also know there are governments who do that as well.  On Fareed Zackaria GPS today, he had two experts on who spoke about the misinformation campaigns currently being waged by China, Russia and Iran against the US and the 2020 election.  They play on people’s emotions to polarize us. And people keep falling for the lies.

Look we are polarized enough. We need to find compromise and learn to speak to each other again.  STOP believing all you see on Facebook. Many of the memes are made by people telling lies.  I have seen this coming from both sides of the political world as well as outside sources.

If you post something that is not true and I see it.  I will find the articles that refute.  Please take the fake post down and report it. 

Do not let social media be your only news source.  Try the Flip Side. This daily news email takes one topic a day and provides content from the conservative and liberal sides.  You see all the comments.  And you see what people are really say.   Here is a link to sign up for it:  https://theflipside.io?rh_ref=4a061f4d 

Do not just mindlessly repost something without first reading it or checking it or making sure it is the truth.  I don’t care if you are way right or way left, both sides are driving me crazy with ridiculous memes and posts.

Some of my friends might begin to get annoyed with me.  I am not sorry.  If you are posting misinformation, I am going to comment with the truth and with another article to support my claim.  If we all started doing this. If we all checked what we posted before we posted it, maybe the world can be a bit happier.   It is obvious to me that there are people who want to spread strife and discord.

Please do not become part of the problem.  Check your sources.  I do not care what political side you are on. Just post articles and memes that are true!

My Personal Rules for Dealing with the Storm

18 Jul

For the past four months I have found it difficult to get back to my genealogy research.  I just was overwhelmed by moving and the pandemic and working from home and watching the craziness of the politicalizing health care and wearing masks. 

I touched a bit of my passion when I discovered my husband’s parent’s wedding album and was able to write about it and put a photo up for his family.  We were supposed to have a family reunion of all the first cousins in June, but that was called off due to the pandemic.  The blog about the wedding album was a way to remember.

But as for my research on my family, I hit a mental block.  I am beginning to think that the worldwide rise in antisemitism part of the problem.  When I research my family, I often end up back in concentration camps, ghettos, death and destruction due to the Shoah.

 I just cannot bear to deal with that now.  I see history repeating as horrible political cartoons and national figures make horrendous statements about Jewish people.   It disgusts me.  And even people who I consider friends, sometimes do not see the antisemitism in the comments or cartoons.  And that frightens and sickens me.

I have a high level of anxiety about baseless hatred.  The same hatred I see rising in the USA.  But not only the hatred, the use of the military to attack US citizens.  The use of unidentified soldiers in Portland illegally arresting people in a militia like the SS. It is against the law in the USA to arrest someone without identifying yourself and with no due cause.

The use of the military to attack peaceful protesters at a church so the administration could have a photo op.  The use of the military in non-identified uniforms at the Lincoln Memorial.


These soldiers and members of the military need to say a resounding NO!  They should not be brainless lambs like the Nazi/German soldiers whose response after the war was, “I just did what I was ordered to do.”

I am beginning to see some light.  The pentagon said No to the Confederate Flag.  The general who was at the church apologized for being at the church in uniform and giving what seemed to be military approval of this behavior.  The mayor of Portland saying get these federal agents out.

Sane people have to behave in a sane way.  Right now fear and lies are ruling our country. So my rules:

  1.  Do not be a lie spreader.  Please check your sources before you post anything.  Misinformation on either side increases the divisiveness. 
  2. Don’t stop talking to others who do not believe what you believe. If we stop talking to each other, we add to the polarization of this country.   We can agree to disagree, but we should not end conversation.
  3. Believe the science of disease.  Wearing a mask will not hurt you. You will not get sick from carbon dioxide. This is a cruel lie.  Wearing a mask does stop the spread of the disease. This is the truth.  And honestly, doctors and nurses have been wearing masks for a long time. And they are alive.  Except those who have recently died because of their constant exposure to the Covid virus.  Even masks and PPE cannot always save you from infection. But it does help.
  4. So wear a mask out of kindness for others.  Keep physical distance inside out of kindness to others.  This will eventually pass, but to save the most people as possible we need to be responsible.
  5. United we stand, divided we fall.  We are one country which includes people of all races, religions and creeds.  When one group is made the scapegoat or the outcast, we all suffer.  It is time for racism to stop.  It is time for anti-Semitism to stop.  It is time for rants against the other to just stop.  We have to learn to live together again.
  6. Finally, just be kind. The administration has taken kindness out of the vocabulary.  Follow the words that we are supposed to follow:  Isaiah 58:7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Ezekiel 18:7  Does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, Matthew 25:34-46: Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? “Feed the hungry, visit the sick and set free the captives.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, volume 7, Hadith 552) “(The righteous are those) who feed the poor, the orphan and the captive for the love of God, saying: ‘We feed you for the sake of God Alone; we seek from you neither reward nor thanks.” –  Quran, 76:8-9. “One should not behave towards other in a way that is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish nature.” Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8. My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” The Dalai Lama

Do NOT remain silent when you see evil taking place. The silent bystander, who does nothing, is just as bad as the ones who commit the evil. We have learned this from history. We all need to say a resounding NO to the cruelty that that is being spread.

Rediscovering My Master’s Thesis On The Jewish Press

22 Jun

As journalists and media outlets are facing some of their most difficult times with the loss of large newspapers and 24 hour entertainment/news, and the attack on the journalists in the USA, I found my latest move-related discovery: a box filled with papers included a red folder containing the survey responses from a 78 Jewish publications in the late 1970s, who responded to my master’s thesis request.

I worked on and wrote, “The Jewish Press: Journalism Versus Religion,” in 1979. Starting in the fall semester of 1978, I f finished with my defense and publication in December 1979.   I remember my advisor being happily surprised that so many responded to my survey.  I took the information and diligently typed this information on to computer punch cards.  Then reserved my time on the University of Missouri’s mainframe computer where, my cards zapped through the machine and presented me with the results. 

I have to laugh.  It took three tries. The first I dropped the cards, and I did not have them all numbered. This was a disaster in those days, because certain cards told the computer what to do.  You do that once, and never again!  The second time, a one card had a typo.  Finally, on the third try, it went perfectly.  Of course, four responses came after the computer work, so I had to mentally add them to the statistics.  The computer took up an entire room. You do have to laugh when you think about computers today and then 41 years ago. Sigh.

Back to my surveys. I sent my survey to magazines, newspapers, English and Yiddish publications. Any publications that identified as part of the Jewish press. Some of the editors/publishers just answered the questions with as few words as possible, others sent me paragraph upon paragraph of information about their publications and their thoughts. 

One person’s help stood out.  He wrote me a letter along with returning the survey.  In his letter, Bernard Postal offered as much help as possible in my project. My most vivid memory of working on my thesis was his wonderful help and advice! 

Mr. Postal had been an associate editor of The Jewish Week from 1971 until his death in 1981.  In the 1920s and 30s he worked at many publications including the New York Globe, the New York Times, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Jersey City Jewish Standard.  He was the editor of the monthly magazine, The Jewish Digest from 1955 till he passed away. He wrote books and he was honored by the JWB’s Jewish Book Council for his contributions to American Jewish History.

For me he was a godsend.  He had written an unpublished article in 1976 entitled, The American Jewish Press after 150 Years. He was interested in my master’s thesis and wanted to help. He wrote to me about my research. He spoke to me on the phone.  Finally, when I was in New Jersey during a break, I took the train to Long Island, where he met me at the train station and took me back to his home. We spent hours going through his personal archives.  He sent me away with a load of articles, information and a wonderful interview which took place on March 29, 1979. This interview is footnoted in my thesis.

We kept in touch.  I even invited him to my wedding, which took place a year after our day together.  He did not come.  And then, less than two years after my thesis was published by the university, he died.  I was devastated.   He was my mentor.  I was 26 and he was 75. I felt terrible that I had not gone to see him with the bound copy of my thesis.  However, his name and  memory has stayed with me throughout the years. 

Finding these papers, brought me back to the memory of my day in his home. Because of my thesis and my time with Bernard Postal, I always had a positive imagine of the Jewish press. I have had articles published in three different national Jewish publications, of which only one is still published today.

For many years, I have freelanced for the local Kansas City Jewish newspaper.  I will admit, that one of the people who responded to my thesis survey was the then editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, Milton Firestone.   He was one that answered with just a few words. I never worked for Milton.   I started freelancing for the Chronicle in 1985, when I was pregnant with my daughter, 35 years ago.  He had died suddenly two years before, when he was quite young, 55.  I never had the chance to discuss my thesis with him.  However, I still write an occasional article or commentary for the paper. 

When Milton Firestoen responded to my survey, he mentioned concern to the question about “the possible demise of your publication.”  His answer: there is “little new talent interested in producing a publication. Also, young people may not want to read it.”  I think he would be happy to know that it just celebrated its 100th anniversary.  Although, I am sure there is still concern about the future of the publication, just as there is for all newspapers throughout the world.

Rereading some of the survey questionnaires has brought me back to a different time. So many of these publications are no longer published, or if they are, in a much smaller format.  I think everyone who responded is no longer alive.  I am actually feeling so glad that I held on to this tiny bit of Jewish history.

I am still looking to see if I saved the letters and the notes from my interview with Mr. Postal.  So far, I have not found them.  But what I did find has given me a bit of joy.

Rediscovering My Husband’s Parent’s Wedding Album

15 Jun

As we have been unpacking since our recent move, we found items we did not even know we had.   Among them was my husband’s parent’s wedding album.  It makes sense we had them.  At the time his mother died and their father moved, one brother was living in Europe and the other brother was busy with four little children.   That meant that my husband and I did a lot of the sorting and cleaning.   Especially since his father was moving to live with his new wife.  A wedding album with his deceased wife would not have been a good idea.

I should also say my husband’s mother died when she was just 59 years old from lung cancer.  It was a painful time for her and for her family.  She was way too young. Smoking three packs of cigarettes a day was not the best for her health.   (See blog below.)

I digress.  We found the wedding album as we were packing boxes in the old house. The album was in an old box of items important to my husband.  We were sorting through the box to see what we needed to move with us.  Of course, the photo album made the move! We did not have time to really look through it when we were getting ready for the move. But now that we are here and unpacking, we took a break to look through a bundle of old photos.

Lee, his mother, was one of ten children in the Matassarin family. I knew eight of them. One died before she was born. And one passed before I joined the family. In this photo, most of her siblings and their spouses are in the picture. I am assuming the one that is not in were still serving in the military. It was soon after WW2.

Her parents died long before she married.  Her mother died when she was only five or six years old; her father died when she was a senior in high school.  (See blogs belos.)

Her oldest brother walked her down the aisle.  Her youngest sister was her maid of honor.  In some of the photos, she looks pensive.  I wonder if she is missing her father?  Her mother?  Even though she had so many siblings with her, I have to think she missed not having either parent.

My husband’s first cousins planned to have a family reunion next week. They planned a trip to Leavenworth, Kansas, to see the family home and to visit the Jewish cemetery where their grandparents were buried. It has all been cancelled due to the virus. I had planned to share the wedding album then. Instead, I share it here. Not all the photos, but at least this one that shows all the family together on a very happy day.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/05/06/remembering-my-mother-in-law-with-a-manicure-and-pedicure/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/