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My Obsession With Grandma’s Album Leads to the Shoah

17 Jun

My Tante Esther played an important role in my life.  My grandmother’s younger sister, Tante Esther came to the USA in 1936 along with my great grandfather.  My grandmother was able to bring them here and away from Poland.

Tante Esther and her husband, Uncle Leo, lived close to us in North Bergen, New Jersey.  Uncle Leo also came from Europe, from Germany, and worked for my grandparents at their bakery in West New York, New Jersey.  He was not family then, just someone who needed a job.  When my Tante came over, she married my Uncle.  Grandma had already told Uncle Leo not to get serious about any one, as she had a sister for him.

Uncle Leo worked with my grandfather as long as the bakery was in existence.  It was Uncle Leo who dropped off a box of bakery goods every Sunday morning on his way home from baking all night.  It was Uncle Leo who once brought my brother home from the bakery after my brother had mixed the sugar with the salt.  I still remember, my brother being handed off to my Dad with Uncle Leo’s terse words, “Here Take Him,” before he left to return to the bakery.  My Mom had to call my grandmother to find out what had happened.

We often saw Uncle Leo at our synagogue, Temple Beth El.  He always had candy in his pocket, so we always made sure to give him a hug and say hello.  We loved him for other reasons, but the candy was always special.

My grandmother came to the USA when she was 16 years old.  I have written about Grandma and her family many times.    As I have written about her photo album filled with unidentified photos.

Here are two more photos.   Luckily my cousin is still alive and can help identify her mother.  She is positive that her mother is the woman on the left in the photo of the two women and two boys.

But the other photo, my cousin says is not her mother.    I thought it was.  But after having the back translated by several different people on the groups Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Ancestry in Poland, I think my cousin is right.  This is not her mother!

Inscribed on the back is a note to Talci, or Talei, or Palci,  as a remembrance from Estera.  My grandmother used the name Tala in Europe.  I assume, Talei could be a nickname. But I would think that if the photo was her sister, the message would have mentioned that!!!  Thus, I am thinking this is a cousin about the same age and named for the same person as my Tante Esther!  Definitely not my Tante.  I put the picture here so you can see how difficult this becomes in identifying people.

As for the photo with the two women and the boys, I am stymied as to who the other woman and the boys could be.  I know my grandmother had many first cousins. I am assuming they are members of the family. Someone important to my grandmother for a photo to be sent from Poland.

My obsession with these photos  makes me know who I hope it is.  I hope and wish it is her cousin Tova Malcha and perhaps these are her  sons.  Tova and her family were murdered in the Shoah.  I have no idea how many children she had or her married name. There are 135 people with her maiden name murdered from the town she lived in Viroshov/Wieruszow Poland.  I know she died and her family died.  What I do know, I heard as a young woman when my grandmother met with Tova Malcha’s brother in 1976 in Israel.  (Read blog below.)

I have no identified photo of her.  But I am hoping that when this photo was sent to my grandmother, sometime after she moved to the USA, that the two women she loved the most, her sister and her first cousin, her best friend, were in this photo.  (See blog below.)

But I know it could be someone else.  Another cousin perhaps?  I have written about others.  All I know is that when I search through this album, many times I am caught up in the Shoah.  I end up at the Yad VeShem database searching for names that match these photos.   Then I cannot look at the album again for months.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/20/viroshov-wieruszow-a-jewish-community-destroyed/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/11/the-yad-vashem-shoah-database-each-name-becomes-a-memory/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/26/amazing-what-information-two-photos-can-provide/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/11/03/who-are-you-these-photos-call-out-to-me/

 

My ‘Feh’ Mood Seems Overwhelming

24 Jan

There are certain Yiddish words that just fit.  When you say them, you know that everyone understands exactly what you feel and why you feel that way.  And lately one words keeps coming to my mind all the time: Feh!

Feh:  I am so disgusted.  I have reached the age where I look at life in a different way.  I get so disgusted with unreasonable behavior.  With those more concerned about their own glory than the people they are supposed to serve. People so caught up in their political side that they are forgetting that people are now suffering without pay.  That our economy is hurting, our people are hurting.  Feh on them all. Actually, our political world is beyond feh!  I would say it was all “verkakte,” screwed up!   I have been calling my two senators several times a week.  Does it help? Who knows! But I feel better for trying.

I am disgusted with baseless hatred.  And with people who spew hatred. I am disgusted with the increased acts of ‘anti’ behavior: anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, anti- immigrant, anti-anyone who is different than you. Feh on all the haters out there. I honestly never thought I would see an America so filled with hatred. But here we are! FEH!  I could just ‘schrai,’ scream,  in aggravation. And I do.

But my feh mood is more than just on the atmosphere of the political structure, it is also on the atmosphere of the world!  Reading or watching or listening to the news has brought about many feh moments the last few months.  I am at the point where I do not want to hear any more. But then I realize I have to listen. Despite my disgust and my temptation to yell, “Feh,” at my television, I keep on watching. But to be honest, this mishegoss is making me meshugah!

Then there is the atmosphere of the weather. Feh on the weather!  Climate change is killing me.  The summers are too darn hot!  And this winter has been a polar bear of ice, snow, sleet, graupel, freezing rain and more.  I am done. FEH! I do not want to kvetch, but who needs this weather? Not me.

Feh on the dirty snow piled on the roads and my driveway. Feh on the mud and muck coming into my home. Feh on the downed trees and limbs felled by 10 inches of wet nasty snow.  Just FEH.

I am so tired of schlepping!  I am tired of putting on layers of clothing and my boots.  I am tired of schlepping a scarf and gloves and hat with me wherever I go, and then running back when I forget something or if fell as I was walking into a building.  I am tired of schlepping my coat around when I go shopping at the grocery store.  If I take it off it takes up too much of my cart; if I leave it on, I get too hot.  Feh on my schlepping and my winter clothes!

I remember my grandmother saying feh on little things, like a mud-covered child, a dirty diaper, a messy face.  My fehs have reached epic proportions this year.  I am in super feh mode.  There has to be a word to express my extreme disgust.

I honestly do not want to become verbissen, totally bitter, by all that is happening in the world at this time.  But my feh mood seems to be over whelming some days!

 

 

December in Israel

16 Dec

I seem to spend a bit of December in Israel. Facebook reminds me. Ten years ago, four years ago, two years ago, and now, another December in Israel. I actually like coming in early December. There are not many tourists. The 70-degree weather is wonderful compared to the below freezing weather at my home. And I get to spend time with my daughter and her husband.

Today, my first day here on this visit, was the perfect December day. We walked the two tiny dogs the half mile to a small grocery store to stock up for Shabbat.

We purchased Challah and Challah rolls. The bread here is so delicious. Freshly made from the bakery, it reminds me of my grandfather’s baking. I do have a habit of over eating bread when I visit! My first roll here surpassed my tastebud memories.

As we walked we met others out and enjoying the day, walking with their dogs and small children. It was just delightful.

There are so many little parks along the way that we walked through. It made it fun for all to be outside. We passed children playing in three playgrounds on our way home. So peaceful. It almost makes you forget what is happening in other areas of the country. Almost.

It is difficult sometimes to connect reality to what is reported in world news. It is now my third day here and there have been three terror attacks near Jerusalem. Two soldiers dead; one infant dead, and by my count 11 injured. You have to wonder why? Killing by terrorists does not bring about peace, just more hate. And the cycle continues on and on.

In the meantime the international media usually does not report the Hamas attacks against innocent Israelis. When they do it is usually in the context that Israeli military strikes back. And then they barely mention that which lead up to Israel’s response. Frustrating on so many levels.

But here in the Holon, Rishon LeZion area, all is relatively peaceful.

The only indication that anything is happening is when we look at my cousin’s grandchildren and speak of their future. Someone says out loud, “well maybe there will be peace before they have to go into the army.” And my cousins says, “Oy They keep saying that. 20 years ago, 40 years and before. And still no peace.”

Israel in December is lovely. But you cannot disconnect from reality.

How The KinderTransport Touched My Family

5 Nov

I have always been intrigued by the KinderTransport that saved 10,000 Jewish children during the Shoah as they were transported out of Nazi territory and on to England by train and then across the English Channel.  In my mind I imagined the heaviness of heart of the parents as they put their children’s safety first and sent them to live in a foreign country with people they did not know.  What brave parents they were to know they might not survive, but to give their children a chance no matter the peril!

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My interest sparked me to read books about these trains.  And even brought my attention to the orphan trains that brought children from the east coast out to the middle of the country on Orphan Trains. In my mind the two were linked together.  The KinderTransport children were not yet orphans, but many would be by the end of the war.  The Orphan Train children were often in orphanages or living on the streets when they were sent away.

But I did not know of anyone who actually rode the trains to a new life brining the children to safety away from the horrors of Europe, except for a man I met on a cruise several years ago.  (See blog below.)

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The sisters,  Martha and Rosa, who I now know survived thanks to the KinderTransport.

However, recently that all changed.  I now know that two of my relatives survived the Shoah when their parents put them on a train to England from Breslau, Germany.  Their mother was my grandmother’s first cousin.  These two girls were around the age of my mother, their second cousin. Except for a photo I found and wrote about, we would not have known about the sisters.

Their mother, Celia, perished in the Shoah.  I thought they had as well.  All I had was a photo of two girls and a brief inscription on the back.  But from that inscription, I was able to find out that at least one of the girls survived.  I did not know how she survived, but I knew she lived and wrote a Yad V’Shem testimony for her mother.  From little information I had,  I wrote a blog (see below) about a year ago, wanting to know more.

Recently that blog was read by someone in England, who gave me the news that both girls had survived and had come to England on the KinderTransport.  That one girl, Martha, had lived with this person’s in-laws during the war. The families had been in touch until Martha’s death.

Now I have new wonders.  Did my grandmother know that her cousin’s children had survived?  Did anyone know?  The testimony was not written until 1999 from Australia.  So perhaps not.  Perhaps the sisters had been lost to the family forever because of the Shoah. I think this is a question that will never have an answer as anyone who might have known is long gone.

I wish I knew more.  I have reached out to the person who contacted me to see if she has more information.  I have not heard back.  But I thank her for contacting me at all and helping to solve another Shoah mystery for my family.

My searches continue.  I must admit, that this one at least gave me some hope and some joy. The KinderTransport touched my family; saved two lives.  That is the best knowledge of all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/04/06/cruise-conversations-that-linger-in-my-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/26/amazing-what-information-two-photos-can-provide/

 

A Community Vigil Heals My Heart

29 Oct

I feel better now than I did a day ago.

On Saturday a madman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing 11 innocent souls.  I was so sad.  My sadness increased when a good friend called and say, “How are you?”  And added, “You will feel worse and then you will feel better.”  She then informed me that her nephew was one of the Rabbis there.  Her nephew who I have meet and had Thanksgiving dinner with years ago when he was young.  But he was physically fine.  He was not one of the many wounded or killed.   It did not matter, my eyes filled and my heart pounded.

“You are right,” I said.  “I feel so much worse and so much better simultaneously.”

Today I feel much better.  Today my congregation, Kehilath Israel,  was the host for The Kansas City Community Vigil organized by the Jewish Federation and JCRB. Another board member and I served as official greeters as thousands people came together to fight hatred and stand for goodness.

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The media worked to present what happened to our community.

We arrived early.  We were there when the police checked everything. We saw the work they put into keeping us safe.  Security was important.  But honestly the love and warmth of the people coming into our sanctuary removed the stress of needing police and security.  We saw the members of the media come with their cameras and note books.  We saw our synagogue’s staff preparing for the crowds.

Over and over we said: “Welcome.  Thank you so much for coming. Thank you for being here.”  And again and again, people responded with a hug, or a handshake, or a smile, or saying “thank you,” or “of course” or “We had to be here.” “We are here for you.”

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People from every Jewish congregation came. From many churches, who wore their church name tags.  People came with crosses and Jewish stars, turbans and the collars of minister and priests. There were Hindus, Budhists, every religion, every color, every community was there!  I saw members of the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom, of which I am a member. Members of Grandparents against Gun Violence came out in their orange sweatshirts.  The Muslim community was there.  An Indian couple I have not seen in a decade came, and both embraced me in a warm hug. Thank you!

People reached out with love and kindness.  So many times, my eyes filled with tears as I felt their love to me and the community.  And I knew that the world was really a better place than I imagined a few days ago.  We welcomed thousands of people.  The estimate is that 3000 people attended. Thank you Kansas City!

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Hundreds of notes were written.

Many wrote notes to go to the congregations in Pittsburgh where the horror occurred.  We in Kansas know of this as our world was shattered almost four years ago when the JCC and the Village Shalom were the sites of hate killings.  We returned the love that we felt when communities across the world reached out to us.  We know how important those notes can be.

When the speakers began their presentations, my heart soared.  I will not mention what the Rabbis said, although what they said was important, I will focus on the others. Because what the others said meant so much to our grieving hearts.

First was my old neighbor, Art, who spoke for the Muslim community.  His words touched because I knew him and I knew it was so.  ” I speak from my heart,” he said. “We are with you,” he said. “Hate is destined to fail.”  He spoke of how the Jewish and Muslim communities work together.

We had a representative of the Catholic Church speaking for Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who told us “God is Love. And there is NO room for hate. We, the Catholic community, stand with you.”

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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver gave a rousing and heart_pounding speech, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. :  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And “Silence sounds like complicity.”   “In Ecclesiastics it says, ‘There is a time to be quiet,’ he announced, “But this is NOT it.”  “We are all Americans. This is America!” He added pointing to all of us in the room.”Besides Congressman Cleaver, Congressman Kevin Yoder attended as did candidate Sharice Davids. Kansas Governor Colyer was also in attendance. I am sure many others were there.

Rev. Adam Hamilton from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection was there with hundreds of his congregants. THANK YOU!  I felt the love from them as I welcomed them to our congregation.  He told us that there was silence during the Shoah, but that “We refuse to let that happen here.”  “We need to have the courage to speak up when you know something is not right.”  “We need to stand up!”

The Rev. Doctor Rodney Williams, told us that although America was currently living in a season of evil and hate, we will work together.  We will together fight against White supremacy. We will come together, as we fight back together in our unity.

And the crowd of thousands people were united in the message that hate will not win in Kansas City.  Hate and anti-Semitism, and anti any group was not going to win.  We would win because we will not remain silent.  And we remembered others who died because of hatred: The two who were killed October 24 in the Kroger’s supermarket, just for bing Black.

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Community Rabbis lit candles in memory of those who perished.

There was silence though as the community’s Rabbis lit a candle for each of the 11 murdered and then lead us in Kaddish.  The voices of the congregation came together to chant the pray for those who perish.

“May the One who makes peace on high, make peace for us, for all Israel, and for all who dwell on earth. And Let us Say, Amen.”

May their names be a blessing:  Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving  Younger.    And Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones who died at Krogers.

(As an aside, many more people attempted to come to the vigil. Traffic was backed up, parking lots were filled all around, it was a true city wide response of love against hate.)

Finding My Heritage In Spain

28 Oct

Our trip to Spain and Portugal had a special purpose for besides wanting to see places I had not seen. I also wanted to see the bits and pieces left of the Sephardic Jewish imprint on Spain. I have written about my maternal grandfather and his family’s Spanish roots in an earlier blog (see below). Now I wanted to see what I could see.

I was on a mission that started in Barcelona. I had been to this lovely city before and heard the story about the Jewish cemetery destroyed and replaced with a Christian cemetery. Now the only Jewish aspect was the name of the hill: Montjuic. However, in Barcelona you can visit the site of the Major Synagogue. A small space that you must walk down to see, this tiny space reflects the rule that no religious site would be bigger than the smallest church. So it is small. But I was glad to see that it has been found and reclaimed. There is a guide on site who gives a 10 minute presentation about it. So I am glad we went. Most places do not even have that!

Our next stop with a bit of Jewish history was surprising to me. We went to the small city of Sagunt or Sagunto near Valencia. I was not expecting what I found. First they were having a festival to celebrate their Middle Ages history, and as we entered I saw a menorah symbol on banners. The town had its Jewish quarter still designated including one of the original arches, called the Blood Arch. The tour guide did not know why. I have my own ideas. You actually walked through the Jewish Quarter in order to get up to the Roman teacher.

The narrow, hilly streets are picturesque, and walking through the quarter you come to the top where a private house stands on the site of the original synagogue, with an iron Menorah window. We were also able to see the archeology site of where they think the mikveh was located.

I have since researched and learned that in ancient days this town was called Morviedro. Here the Jews were protected from massacres in 1391 and Jews from other areas took refuge there. When the 1492 decree was made, the Jewish residents arranged safe passage out about 500 people.

In fact almost every city we went to had some remains of its Jewish inhabitants. In Malaga, the birthplace of Picasso, we found it was also the birthplace of Yehudah Ben Gabriel, who revitalized Jewish literature. And we found the Jewish Quarter nit far from the Picasso Museum.

Gibraltar had a thriving Jewish community and still does. We saw people walking the streets wearing kippot. We walked to the old Flemish Synagogue and took a photo of the door to the walled area. Unfortunately we could not go in.

Only in Cadiz was all remnants of the Jewish community destroyed. Probably because of the 1755 earthquake and tsunami. But at one time there was a thriving community that had to escape due to the forced expulsion of the Jewish people. In fact 8000 Jews left Cadiz and traveled to North Africa.

A sign in Sintra

In Portugal we went to Sintra to see the Pena Palace. But while walking through the narrow streets of the city, I found a cork store where I purchased a purse. Then I noticed its address: Beco Judaea. The street of the Jews.

Church of Sao Domingos where Jewish citizens murdered in 1500s

The Jewish Quarter.

But it was in Lisbon that we had the most in-depth experience. Besides visiting some of the important sites like the palace of the inquisition and Rossi’s Plaza where the Crypto Jews were tortured, we visited the church, Sao Domingos, where the massacre of Jews began in the 1506, walked the Jewish Quarter, and learned how King Manuel I tricked the Jewish population and baptized them all without their permission. He wanted to marry the daughter of the king of Spain, but he also wanted to keep his Jewish citizens. This was his solution.

Finally we visited the Lisbon synagogue built in the early 1900s that still has services today. Portugal was a neutral country during the war, a Lisbon was a place of refuge. Today 2000 Jews live in Portugal.

Https://dis.bh.org.il murviedro-sagunto

One More Family Destroyed

6 Sep

It has been over a month since I last wrote about the testimonies of Shalom Hollander, my grandfather’s cousin who wrote the Yad VaShem testimonies for about 40 members of my family including my great grandparents and a great uncle.  I needed time away from the visions of horrors that his testimonies put into my mind as I thought of all these relatives who were lost. (See links to blogs below.)

But there was one last family that I was determined to write about because they all perished.

A family of five died in 1941-42.  They were Hirsh Tzvi Feuer, the son of Eliezer and Leah Feuer, and his wife, Dvora Amsterdam, the daughter of Tzvi and Chava Amsterdam.  As I have written in earlier blogs, the names Amsterdam and Feuer are common in my grandfather’s family.  My great grandmother was an Amsterdam, also named Chava, and my great grandfather was a Feuer. They, my great grandparents were first cousins.  There was so much intermarriage between these two families!

I have the names of all my great great grandparents and their siblings.  And, although I have the names of my three times great grandparents, I do not know the names of their siblings.  I am sure, however, that Hirsh Tzvi Feuer and Dvora Amsterdam’s parents are among those names.  Shalom identifies himself as a relative in these testimonies. Also he indicates that Hirsh was a farmer, and my great grandparents and their families were farmers in Trzciana.

Tzvi was born in 1895 and his wife, Dvora, in 1908, which make them contemporaries of my grandparents who were born in 1900 and 1906.  I would assume that my grandfather knew them when he was a child.  They lived before the war in Wola Mielecka, Poland, but they lived during the war in Trzciana, Poland, my grandfather’s home town. Wola Mielecka was close by, all the surrounding areas to the town of Mielec, Poland.

Tzvi and Hava had three children who perished.  Lea Feuer who was 4. Obviously named for her grandmother.  Chava Feuer, age 6, named for the other grandmother.  Then the third child, Eliezer, an infant, named for his grandfather.

I hope there are other children who survived. Who were older.  Hirsh Tzvi was 47 when he was murdered.  Dvora was 34.  I hope there could have been several children in their early teens?  Perhaps I am doing wishful thinking.  But in my heart, I want them to have been survived by someone besides Shalom Hollander. I do not want this entire family to have perished.

But like the family of Shalom Hollander, there is a possibility that they were all murdered along with thousands of others when the Nazi’s made the Mielec area Judenfrie.  Of the almost 4000 Jewish residents of the Mielec area, only a few hundred survived.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/07/the-sorrow-of-shalom-hollander/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/05/murdered-in-belzec/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/11/the-yad-vashem-shoah-database-each-name-becomes-a-memory/