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Donating My Holocaust Books to the Right Place

12 Jul

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My husband and I are members of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education (MCHE) in Kansas. There is an important reason for our support. I was named for my great grandmother who was hidden during the Shoah and then murdered by the people who stole her property. In her memory I feel it is important to keep contact with Holocaust organizations.

Since MCHE started, I have attended a few events and made financial donations. This year, we were among those honored for our 20 years of support. But two years ago, I became a bit more involved. I started serving as a preliminary judge for its White Rose Essay Contest. Open to students in eighth through twelfth grade, it is held each year in the Kansas City area. Preliminary judges help to weed the multitude of admissions down to ten in each category 8th and 9th grade/ 10th – 12th grade.

I enjoy reading the essays. It is amazing what some of these students do under the guidance of their teachers. The students have to research a specific topic, which changes each year, using both internet sources and books, many of which are held in the MCHE library.

I look forward to the essay contest each year and being a part of this process. I learn the stories of survivors as I read these essays, which has helped to encourage me on my path to discovering more about my family.

I have a collection of Holocaust books, both non-fiction and fiction. I have way too many books to be honest. Even with a Kindle, I still cannot let go of books very easily. But this weekend I had an urge to purge my bookshelf of books I no longer read.   And a thought occurred.   I had read all these Holocaust books, some several times. Perhaps the MCHE could use them for the White Rose contest, as well as for other researchers.

With that goal in mind, after two days of sorting through my books, I found 17 I was willing to part with and which I thought could be used for research. These 17 non-fiction books pertaining to the Shoah only touch the surface of my collection. But for me it is a positive start.

I contacted MCHE and offered my books.   There were six the historian definitely wanted for the library. The books were already in the car waiting to go. As soon as I got the email, I sorted the books into two groups and took all of the books over.

When I entered the Center, the director said, “Were you waiting in your car for my email?”

I smiled. “The books were in the car,” I admitted.

I did arrive within an hour of getting her email. To be honest, I really wanted a good home for these books where they would be used and appreciated. I think I found that home.

But on the other hand, I was worried that I would go through the books again and change my mind. It is difficult for me to relinquish a book. I even emailed my daughter with a list of the books and asked her opinion.

“I am planning to donate the following. If you have a feeling for any of these books speak now,” I wrote her.

She responded with one word: Donate.

The books they did not want for their library they will offer for sale to their members. That would be fine with me, as the income would still go to MCHE.

However, as I spoke to the Director I suggested they review my books. All were in excellent shape. Perhaps they should replace the books on their shelves with my almost pristine copies? She agreed this was a great idea. It made me feel even better. Perhaps even more of my books would remain on the shelves of the library.

Whatever MCHE and its historian do with my books, I am glad. I am letting go. When I get my letter acknowledging the donation, I will think about those who will continue to read and use my books and know that I donated my books to the right place.

 

 

http://mchekc.org/white-rose-student-essay-contest/

 

Finding The Nina’s Starts A Perfect New York City Day

3 Jan
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My Al Hirschfeld Collection, including the article that appeared in the NY Times a few days after his death.

Like many who grew up in the New Jersey/New York City area in the 50s, 60s and 70s, my Sunday morning routine included one important item, I had to open the New York Times and find the Nina’s in the newest Al Hirschfeld drawing!

My Dad started me on the search for Nina’s one morning in North Bergen.  I am sure he just wanted me to let hime read the paper.  Little did he know what would happen to me. I became obsessed.   I loved looking at the newest entertainment stars Hirschfeld had rendered in ink. They often were stars of Broadway musicals, another passion I developed. I especially loved when he did a complicated drawing that had more than one Nina! Heaven!

Thus it is not surprising that over the years, I purchased books of Hirschfeld’s drawings so that I could look for Nina’s even when I was not getting the “New York Times.” Especially when he passed away at age 99 and his long run of drawings for the paper and the world ended. I was saddened when he passed away close to my birthday in January of 2003.

I even saved the article that appeared in the New York Times on January 26, 2003, six days after his death. He was that important to me.

When I was older and moved to the Midwest, I was glad he was born in St. Louis, the same city where my husband was born.  Another connection!

There is something about his drawings that are so free and moving. He captured the essence of each person with such simple lines; it is deceiving. And so many of his drawings are just joyful.

I have been to the Al Hirschfeld Theater in NYC, (last time to see Kinky Boots) where a permanent display of replicas his works adorn the second floor walls. I made my daughter look at each drawing with me to find the Nina’s. A tradition she had to share!

This past summer, in July 2015, when I visited my family, I enticed my sister to go with me to the New York Historical Society to see the exhibition: “The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld.”

To be honest, it did not take too much enticing the get my sister to leave New Jersey with me to see the exhibition. She knew how much I loved his drawings. In fact she and her husband purchased the book, Hirschfeld on Hirschfeld for me as a gift many years ago!

And, of course, she also grew up looking for the Nina’s. We might have had one or two arguments over his drawings through the years. Who would find the Nina’s first was a big deal!

The exhibit was wonderful. My sister and I went from drawing to drawing, checking the number by his name to see how many Nina’s we needed to find. And then the search was on.   We looked at every sketch, drawing and film.  It was delightful.

I wanted to take a photo at the art table that was set up. But the guard would not let me. Sigh.   I could almost imagine myself as Hirschfeld, but no such luck. I am not a good artist. But I was disappointed not to have the photo at the replica of his desk.

The gift shop lured us in. Luckily they would ship my purchases home! A book, a mug, a t-shirt and some gift cards went to the Midwest. My sister’s purchases spent the rest of the day in Manhattan with us, even attending a show with our Aunt and cousin.

It was a glorious New York City type of day: subway ride, taxi, show, lunch, ice tea at Bryant Park, dinner at the Bryant Park Grill in the City, hanging out with family, and Finding the Nina’s!

Treasures in the Bookcase

16 Aug
Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

I honestly thought that we had discovered all the treasures in our Catskills house. Last summer my siblings and I had torn the house apart, filling a 20-cubic yard dumpster with unused and unusable items.   We had discovered a mother lode of photos and a photo album from the 1920s that I am still slowly scanning and finding more information about our maternal grandmother and her family.

But I had forgotten about the old bookcase in the corner of the living room. I actually did not think about it until the very last day we were in the Catskills this summer, when I got a ‘jubba’ as my grandfather would say — a feeling that I had to open the glass door.

My Grandma Esther's bookcase in the corner.

My Grandma Esther’s bookcase in the corner.

We now call it my brother’s bookcase. But in reality it was my paternal grandmother’s and before her it belonged to her parents. Since they lived in the same apartment, there was no real distinction. The bookcase came with the books in it after my Grandma Esther passed away. Over the years, new books were put in and the older books migrated to the bottom shelf.

We have placed it along side the fireplace behind the television. It acts as part of a wall, so that the area behind the fireplace can be used as a bedroom when needed. This semi-room holds an old upright piano, a trundle bed that opens up to two twins, and a computer desk. So we usually do not even think of this piece of furniture as a bookcase, but more of a wall divider.

In any case, my ‘jubba’ called me over to the bookcase about an hour before we were planning to drive home. And inside of it, I found treasures! Nine books containing bound copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922 through 1941, as well as a 45th anniversary book.   My great grandparents, Louis and Rae (Rachel) Goldman, were very active in the Bialyskoker group in New York City that founded the Bialystoker Home for the Aged.   In fact, he was on several important committees and boards.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

While just skimming through the bound copies, I found announcements of both my Dad’s and Uncle’s bar mitzvah. These were in English. The Bialystoker Stimmer was printed mainly in Yiddish. But there were also a few English pages or a few English paragraphs in almost every copy. I also found photos of my great grandfather on several pages that announced committee and board members.

His 70th birthday

His 70th birthday

But the best was a photo of him and a paragraph in Yiddish celebrating his 70th birthday. I can read enough Yiddish to recognize his name and a few other words. To be honest, I do not know what it says yet. But I will find out.

That was with just a quick skim. I needed these books.

I told my sister that I had to ship them home and search them. Since we found the books in what is my brother’s bookcase, my sister sent him a text asking if I could ship them to Kansas.

They both agreed that the books should come home with me, as I am acting as the family historian.   I was so excited. It was well worth the $40 I spent at Staples to ship them home.

Today the books arrived!

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

As I continued to go through the books, I found what appears an article about him. It, too, is all in Yiddish. I know I will need it translated. I am excited to know what it says about him. I know he was a tailor.

My Dad's first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

My Dad’s first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

I cannot read all the Yiddish, except really for the names and a few words. But in skimming the books I sometimes see a photo that jumps out at me. Like the one of my Dad’s first cousins, David. Well, it looked like a very young David. I was right, it was him at age 16, when he graduated high school. This article is also in Yiddish. I need a translator!!!

I realize that I will never know if my great grandparents were mentioned in other places. But I am taking photos of every page that has a photo or a mention of my family that I can find.

But besides the book, I posted the photo of my great grandfather Louis Goldman and the small article on the “Tracing the Tribe” Facebook group. I was hoping someone would be able to translate it for me. Although that has not yet happened, I remain hopeful. But someone posted a link to the Bialystoker Center Yahrzeit Cards website. There I found the yahrzeits for my great grandparents, my grandparents and my great aunt. I will say that the Hebrew name for my grandfather is wrong on the site. But it is definitely him. That was also interesting to see.

I started with the books from the 1940s, I am now in the 1920s.  There is much more Yiddish and much less English in these earlier books.  I am hoping to still find more treasures in them.  But to see members of my family mentioned in these early archives makes me so happy.  I knew my great grandfather was an active volunteer.  These books confirm what I had heard.  My heart is happy.

I hope to find a good home for these books after I am done investigating them. There are many other families mentioned in the books.   I do not know how many people saved them.   In our case it was benign neglect. We did not know they were there, so they were just ignored.   And allowed to survive. A happy, lucky find for me and my family.

PS: Thanks to Sabena and her Yiddish teacher who translated the paragraph about my great grandfather:  “Mr. Luis Goldman, has just become a septigenerian (70), and if he himself hadn’t told us, we would certainly not believed it. Mr. Goldman is among the most active people in Sumkh Nuflim (I think that’s a place) in the Center and in the old age home where his work is greatly admired. We wish him a lot of further birthdays with joy in his family.”

PPS:  The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, would love to have the Bialystoker Stimme books!

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/bialygen/Yahrzeit.htm

My Days in the English Department Office at NBHS

19 Jan

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I basically spent the last two years of my North Bergen High School education hanging out the English Department office or in a journalism office working on the school newspaper or yearbook.  I am not quite sure how that happened.  I know my senior year I did an independent study research and I used the English office as my office.  I sort of took over seventh, eighth and ninth periods. 

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Mr. Vecchione, Mrs. Whitehouse, Mr. Polente, and Mr. Boyle were my verbal sparring partners. When I was not actually working on my project, I was sort of, helping out in the office. Sometimes I was arguing with the teachers over some cause I believed in…mainly women’s rights.   I think I was an English Department aide?  Who knows?  I cannot remember.

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But even before senior year, I had developed, what was for me,  an important relationship with Mrs. Whitehouse and Mr. Vechionne.

Celia Whitehouse’ impact on my life was the most visable.  She provided the space for me to become involved in journalism and creative writing. Although I was never editor in chief of the yearbook or newspaper, I had editorial positions on the newspaper both junior and senior year, and on the yearbook in my senior year. 

Even when I was in college, I would come back to visit the English Department teachers and hang out in the office.  I knew that they had to be missing me.  And since my sister was in high school for three more years, I had an easy in.  So conversations with Mr. Vecchione and Mrs. Whitehouse continued. 

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It was Mrs. Whitehouse, who told me, when I was looking for graduate schools, that Columbia University was not the only place to apply.  In fact, Missouri had a really good school of journalism.  I applied…why not?

Thus it is thanks to Mrs. Whitehouse that I ended up living in Kansas (and meeting my husband). I was accepted to both Columbia University and University of Missouri- Columbia for graduate school.  My Mom said…. in 1977…”How will I sleep at night knowing you are in Harlem every day?”  So I moved to Missouri.  “You won’t know what I am doing, so you won’t worry.”  I told her.  “Thank Mrs. Whitehouse for telling me to apply.”

When in high school I was in honors English and was a member of the Merit Society, which meant I could leave a class if there was no exam.  I took that to mean I would be leaving class whenever there was a substitute, and hangout in the English office.  Giving me even more time to be in my favorite place.  Mr. Vecchione would just sigh when I showed up and invaded his space.

I loved high school.  Junior prom, senior prom, yearbook, newspaper, literary supplement, independent study, school plays, all were fun times.  Even my classes were fun for me.  I loved school; I loved learning.  We had a community of about 20 students who were in almost every class together.  And the memories are still strong.

During my junior year of high school, I became ill toward the end of the school year.  I spent a week in the hospital, not fun at all.   Mrs. Whitehouse not only came to visit me, she wrote me a book: Ellen and the Sorceress. Handwritten….no computers in those days.  I still have the book!

My honors English teacher, however, sent a take-home test to the hospital with my friend, Faye, who was afraid to give to me.  I still remember her telling my mom about it, even though I was quite sick.  My Mom was furious.  She called Mr. Vecchione, asking, “Who sends a test to someone in the hospital?”  Needless to say, I never took that test. 

But then they knew I was a good student.  And I was not malingering.  Believe me, a week in the hospital was not enjoyable. 

My days in the English department were not wasted.  I received my undergraduate degree in English literature.  I worked on the college newspaper and yearbook, continuing on the path I found in high school.  Then on to graduate school, where I earned my master’s degree in journalism.  I even taught high school journalism for four years: in a way my homage to Celia Whitehouse, Anthony Vecchione and my many hours in the English Department office.