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Sisters: Grandma Esther and Aunt Minnie

19 Oct

Esther and Minnie 1

Today I found a photo gem.  I love this photo.  I see my Grandma Esther and her sister, Aunt Minnie.  I see the fence around our bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake.

The photo looks out to what we called the “front lawn,” and in the background I see the lake.  You might not notice it, but if you look through the fence, you can see a bit of blue surrounded by trees.

There are several things that make this photo special.  First, I love how my grandmother is standing.   She had a habit of holding her foot up like that in photos.  I guess she liked to stand that way.

Second, she has her sunglasses off to the side, and I remember those sunglasses!!  Although I usually think of them on her face.  She wore them all the time.  Third, their hair!  Neither of them are totally white yet.  Later Grandma would put a rinse in her hair which gave it a blue tint!

Also, they are dressed up! All I can think of is that they were going to a show that day at one of the big hotels.  Otherwise they would have been in shorts and shirts and sitting in a chair either playing canasta or knitting.

This has to be in the late 1960s.  I might have taken this photo with my Brownie camera.  Once I got a camera I started my life long habit of taking photos of everything.  It might have been someone else, but for now I will claim it.

I have written before that we spent every summer in the Catskills.  I had all four of my grandparents and many other family members together all summer long.

Grandma Esther, Grandpa Harry and Aunt Minnie shared a bungalow!  How that worked, I never asked.  It was just the way it was every summer. I assume their love for each other overwhelmed their annoyances!

In the winter they lived in the same building in Co-op City, NYC,  but in different apartments.  Uncle Al, Aunt Minnie’s husband had passed away years before.  From that point on the three of them were always together.

I cannot imagine them apart. The sisters were always together in my mind, loving and fighting.  Many times, I think back to them when my sister and I squabble.  A vision of the two of them fighting over a canasta game, they were always partners, flashes and sometimes I just want to laugh.

We were so fortunate to have our summers in Kauneonga Lake surrounded by people who loved us.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/25/the-grandmas-forever-canasta-game/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

 

Bells Chiming Make Me Feel Better

15 Jul

When I was a child, and home sick, my mother would give me a little bell to ring if I needed her.   My brother and sister also had the use of the bell when they were sick.  I loved that bell.  I knew as long as I had that bell, my Mom or my Dad would come into the room and make me feel better just by being there. Its sound brought me comfort.

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Space shuttle bell on the left; Tinkerbell bells in the back.  Chilean bells in the front.

So, of course, when I had children, I also wanted them to have a special bell to ring for me.  I tried many.  For my daughter, I tried a little plain bell first.  But the sound was really dull.  With her bedroom upstairs, I needed something that would sound better and stronger.  We found one in Disney World.  A little Tinkerbell bell that was perfect, as my daughter loved Tinkerbell.   In fact, my Dad would call her ‘Tink’ all the time.  Although in reality, she thought she was Tigerlily.  That is a story for another day!

When that Tinkerbell bell eventually broke from use, we purchase a new one. It was not the same for her.  Too bright, not darkened with use.  But luckily, we were able to rehang the original bell, fixing it and reclaiming its tinker.

For my son, I purchased a bell from the Kennedy Space Center.  I am not sure why the space center sold bells, but the sound was good.  Since my son liked space ships and rockets, this bell was perfect for him, with its dangling space shuttle.

Whenever they were sick, I would give each of them their special bell to call me when needed.  Did it always work?  No, not often.  Usually they would just call me, and I would come. But for me it was a comfort to know they had a bell.  In my mind, having a bell was about continuity and love. By giving them a bell, I was giving them the power to bring me to them, like a magical wish.

I always have been attracted to the sound of bells. I love listening to handbell choirs. There was even a Hershey’s television commercial that used chocolate kisses as bells.  I loved it.  So when I travel, if I see an interesting bell, I am attracted to it.    I did fine some lovely bells in Chile a few years ago. To be honest, although they are lovely to look at, they do not sound good at all.   In fact, no bell quite sounds as good as my mother’s bell.

Actually, I have my mother’s bell, so I really need no other.   I believe my Mom brought to me when she came to visit one time because she knew my attachment to it.   I keep it in my family room.

It is a small brass bell, with a bit of red trim, set in a holder.  On the bottom it says “Made In India.”  But 60 years ago, when my mother first had this bell, I do not think there were many things from India for sale in the USA.  I now know that it is called an elephant claw bell, because of the shape of the bottom.   I have seen several similar bells with base for sale on line.  Sometimes they are called “antique ceremonial meditation bells.”

I can see it being a meditation bell, as It has the loveliest of tones. My bell has the same tones as those used by my yoga instructor to indicate the end of class.  But for my bell, when I ring it, my soul and heart returns to those happy memories. And I see my Mom in my mind — my young mom, the mother of three small children.

Another bell was important to my family. We used it only in the Catskills, my Mom and my Grandma used a large metal dinner or cow bell to call us to come in.  The bell hung outside the door of my grandparents’ house, facing the back towards our bungalow.  We had four acres of land including woods, so they often did not know where we, the children, were playing. Sometimes we were at our neighbors’ yards playing. It did not matter, when heard that large bell ringing, we knew to come.

Grandma would also ring that bell when she wanted one of us to come down to her house to get something or do something for her.  My mother would ring to bring us in, yelling our names along with sounding the bell.  It was used daily.  When she had grandchildren, my Mom used the bell to call them in as well.

Th bell is still at our Catskills’ home waiting for another generation to be called. Its loud clanging, not so beautiful in tone, but beautiful in memories.

The sound of bells chiming almost always puts me in a good mood and make me feel better.

 

 

 

https://www.thetabernaclechoir.org/videos/carol-of-the-bells-mormon-tabernacle-choir.html

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe4IZ7aGikw

 

For My Grandpa, Being a Kohan Was His Joy and Duty

27 Jun
Inside Shul in Kauneonga Lake

My Cousin took this photo from the women’s balcony, at least 30 years ago. My Grandfather is standing on the right, walking away from the bima.

My maternal Grandpa was a Kohan, a descendant of the Priests of Israel.  Even today, Kohanim have roles and duties that are part of their lives.  Grandpa was born in Galicia, an area of Austria/Poland that often changed borders.  He came to the USA in 1920.  And eventually owned his own kosher bakery in New Jersey, as well as a small bungalow colony in the Catskills.  But he always kept the rules of the Kohanim.

Grandpa often served as the Kohan during the Pidyon ha Ben ceremony.  This ceremony is also called the redemption of the first born.  In biblical times the first-born child, if it is a son, of an Israelite family had to be given to the Kohanim.   The family needs to present five silver coins to a representative of the Kohanim.  My grandfather was often asked to serve as this representative.   He would lead the ceremony and take the silver coins, which he kept until the boy was bar mitzvah, when he would return the coins as part of the child’s bar mitzvah gift.

I remember as a child being at a Pidyon ha Ben service.  I was so intrigued by the ceremony.  But I think more by the money.  I asked what Grandpa did with all the silver coins.  My Grandma told me that Grandpa did not use that money.  He saved it in a special place to return to the boy when he was older.

I wonder how they could keep track of that money.  But then my grandparents owned a kosher bakery, and my grandmother saved every silver coin that came into the store.  When she died, we found 900 silver coins, from dimes to silver dollars.  They were divided up so that everyone one of their descendants had some.  I still have mine.

Grandpa rarely went to a cemetery.   In fact, I don’t remember him ever going to a cemetery. He always paid shiva calls, but not the funeral.  Kohanim do not go near the dead. He did not go into a service until my grandmother died.   Kohanim do not go near the dead.  In fact, some Jewish funeral homes are built with two foundations, so that Kohanim can stay in the outer area during a funeral. There but not in the same structure.  I can still see my Grandpa during my Grandma’s funeral, even though it was almost 40 years ago.

Grandpa went to services on Shabbat.  He made so many Kohan aliyot at Shabbat services.  When they moved to the Catskills full time.  He was often the only Kohan at shul.  It became his responsibility to go every week and be the Kohan.  He took this honor seriously.

When he was in his later years, over 80, he would drive partway to shul and then walk the distance that he could walk.  Although he was brought up not driving on Shabbat or working, in the 1980s at his shul in Kauneonga Lake, people drove to services, even parking on the grounds of the shul, Congregation Temple Beth El. But not Grandpa.  He would park by Sylvia’s clothing store, up the hill from the main part of Kauneonga Lake and easier for him to walk.  I once asked him why he didn’t just park at the shul.   His response, “I walk as far as I can, because I can do that for Shabbat.”

On the high holidays he was often the only Kohan at the Kauneonga Lake shul.  On the high holidays he would sit in the men’s section with his tallit wrapped over his head covering his eyes.  When I was little my favorite time was sitting with him in shul with his tallit covering me as well.  He kept his hands over his eyes under the tallit as he davened.  His emotions during the high holidays was overwhelming.  My sister said it was her strongest memory, how upset and emotional he would get them, as Grandpa usually had a great sense of joy.  But then as an adult she realized that the pain of the Shoah came to him then.  He was the only one left of his family.  All perished in Europe, while he was already in the USA.

Sometimes he was the only Kohan at shul to perform the Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessings.  Grandpa had a beautiful singing voice.  He often sang to us in Yiddish. During the Priestly Blessings, he sang for everyone and blessing the entire congregation.  At times there were other Kohanim present, especially if the holidays were early in September.  Then Grandpa would be joined by others on the bima.

At some point, another Kohan moved to the Kauneonga Lake area and also went to services.  Grandpa was thrilled.  Sometimes he would not go to services on Shabbat.  He would say, “Let the other guy have a chance.”

It was this statement that brought this story to my mind last weekend..  My husband is a Levi.  He goes to minyan every Wednesday, but to Shabat services about once a month. He almost always gets Levi.  Our congregation only has three Levis who come weekly.  They, like my grandfather, are happy when another guy comes. This week the Gabbi came and said, “Do you want Levi?” “Sure,” was my husband’s response.  “Good because the others say they don’t want it today, you should take it.”  During this short conversation, in my mind’s eye, I could see my Grandpa’s smiling and laughing.

Grandpa took his role as a Kohan with joy and fulfilled his duty.  I know he would be happy seeing my husband fulfilling his duty as well.

 

 

 

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1008437/jewish/Birkat-Kohanim-Melody.htm

 

My Grandmother’s Mysterious Black Notebook

13 May
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The black notebook.

I have a book.  It is small.  About eight inches by nine inches.  It has a black cover.  Inside are 33 lined pages, so total of 66 pages that can be written on.

It seems to be a diary.  Most of the pages, about 40, have entries that are dated in 1921.  So my book is almost 100 years old.  Two of the names I recognize.  My grandmother and her first cousin, Abraham, who perished in the Shoah.  The other names I am not sure about.  But these entries, even though they have different names, seem to be written by the same person.  My grandmother perhaps?  Or are they really two separate handwriting.  Now that I look at this page below, it seems as if two different people wrote. But many of the pages have the same writing and not changes like this one.

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Entries from March 1921 with my grandmother Tala Szenk and her cousin Abram Prentki’s names.

Some of the entries look like they could be poems.   Did they write these poems, or did they just copy them from some book?  It does show how my grandmother was educated in Poland.  Her father was a teacher. Grandma could read, write and speak in Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish.  After she came to America, she went to night school to learn English.

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See Lipka, her relatives she stayed with when she arrived in America.

In the middle of the book are names and addresses in English.  Names of people living in New York and New Jersey.  Hidden, I think, in the middle of the book.  Her escape plan?   My grandmother came to the United States when she was 16 in 1922.  I see the last name of the aunt and uncle who allowed her to live with them in the United States.  They must have sponsored her as well.  The name is Lipka.

It is all written in Polish.  But I can understand the names, because I recognize them.  And the name of my grandmother and her cousin jump out at me.  Especially since I have written about this cousin and not knowing who he was at first.  And then here he is embedded with her in this book.

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Who wrote these pages?

After the journal entries, if that is what they are, comes some blank pages, and then six pages written in a different handwriting.  It looks like a poem.  But I am not sure.  I am not sure what any of it is.

The last four pages are in Yiddish. Those I have had translated.  We think it is a story, perhaps not true, perhaps yes.   About a girl who meets non-Jewish man and how it ends in sadness.  The beginning reminds of the story of Tveye and his daughter Chava.  But this story does not end happily.  Did she read a book and decided to write that story?  I don’t know. I don’t know if she is writing about someone she knew or making up a story.   Perhaps the other entries would give me information. Perhaps.

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Why did she save this receipt as well?

Inside the book is a receipt for registered mail sent on November 16, 1922.  Did she send something back to her father and her siblings after she arrived in America?  I wish I knew.

My grandmother passed away 38 years ago.  I wish I had seen this book when she was alive so I could ask her what all this is!  We found it long after she died and my parents died.  It was hidden in the bottom of a box in the attic of their Catskills home.  Not thrown away, but saved for me to one day find.

This book is a mystery to me.  I need someone who reads Polish and can translate this book for me.  I love a mystery, but even more, I love the solution to a mystery!

 

Two blogs about Abraham Prentki:

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/04/the-mystery-of-abraham-prantki/

 

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

Ring Jells Addiction Started in The Catskills

21 Apr

Sometimes I read a note on Facebook that just touches my soul.  It happened now.  Someone posted about meeting a woman shopping for Passover food in a grocery store.  She was crying while holding a box of Joyva Ring Jells in her hands.   It seemed her mother passed away, and this would be the first seder without her.  Her mother loved Ring Jells, and the sight of this box made her cry.

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This box is now empty.  But I enjoyed every one.

That should be my children one day.  I love Ring Jells.  While I cook my seder meals and prepare for the long hours ahead, I eat these throughout the day, to me, they are the most delicious chocolate covered sweets.   I am basically addicted to them. The taste of raspberry and chocolate together delights me. Thank goodness I only find them during the holidays.

My addiction started when I was 16 years old working behind the deli and cheese counter at the Daitch Shopwell in Monticello, Sullivan County New York.   It is here that I served the women and men who spent their summers relaxing, cutting their cheese selections and their deli orders.   I worked at this supermarket for three summers, earning spending money and preparing for the costs of college.

But it is also where I learned to love Joyva Ring Jells.  We sold them in the dairy section of the deli, along with all the cheese.  We had a large display of them. Hundreds of ring jells for sale by the pound.  I loved them.  I have to admit it, I would snack on them.  Not eating tons.  But at least two or three each shift I worked.   Eventually the manager told me to stop.  And buy some.  So I did.  I would weigh out 3-5, pay for them, and keep them behind the counter with me.  Snacking as needed.  When the weekends were busy with crazy customers, I really did need them to get me through the day.

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Marshmallow twists live in my freezer.

I did not realize they were a special Passover treat.  In our house, my Mom was a Joyva Marshmallow twist fancier.  She would buy them at Pesach and keep them in the freezer all year to snack on.  Did you ever eat frozen marshmallow twists?  At first you have to be careful not to hurt your teeth, but after a bit they melt just a little and are delicious.  I admit I still have some in my freezer from last year.   Usually you had to get just plain white ones.  However, sometimes we could find the ones with pink insides!

After I learned about jell rings, I had to have those as well.  My sister and I favored them over the Marshmallow twists, which I think made Mom happy.  She would share them with everyone, but now had more for herself.

The ring jells, on the other hand, were the perfect snack.  I would take two  or three at a time, stick them on my fingers,  and get ready to eat.  We do crazy things when we were younger.

When I left the east coast for the middle of the country, I had an issue.  I could not find them in Kansas. But when my parents were alive and visiting, they would bring boxes of Ring Jells and Marshmallow twists with them. So we never suffered during the Pesach holiday.   They also brought Bartons candies, another treat that was nowhere to be found in Kansas City. Eventually these treats came out west, and  I could get them on my own.

Ring Jells are comfort food for my sister and me.  I am going to visit her the end of the week.  I sent her the following text message on the Thursday before Pesach: “So I purchased one box of raspberry jelly rings to bring to you. And one for my home. Cause I have to have some.  But I had three today and I feel better.”

She wrote back: “I bought two boxes for when you are here! LOL”

My response: “LOL I will leave mine at home.  We do not need three.  Great minds think alike.”

A number of years ago we went through a difficult time. We lost our parents and aunt in less than a year.  Five months later, erev Pesach, my sister’s husband also passed. It was a horrible time.   I did not know how we would survive that holiday.  But I have to say, our friends knew of our need and ring jell addiction.  Friends filled the house.

I don’t know how many of them went shopping. But in days we had boxes upon boxes of ring jells.  In the evenings, when most everyone had left, my sister and I ate ring jells and talked.   It was a Pesach that tried our souls.  And I hate to be trite, but the ring jells gave us a small amount of comfort in our first Pesach without these beloved family members.  (And a mighty thank you to all who purchased them for us.  I don’t know if I ever told you how important they were in this horrible time.)

Special foods bring memories and joy.  For me Joyva jell rings helped me through preparing seders and difficult times. They bind me with my sister.   I could see my children crying over them when I leave this world.  But I don’t think they will buy or eat them.  This addiction will probably end with me.

A zissel Pesach to all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/05/my-jobs-behind-a-deli-counter-daitch-shopwell-and-butenskys/

 

The Day A Wooden Swing Almost Killed Me: And Other Catskills Accidents

25 Nov
Grandmas and us

I always had a bandaid on my knee!

I have many lovely memories of summer in Kauneonga Lake, Sullivan County, the Catskill Mountains.  But I also have memories of injuries that came along with summer activities.

My grandparents’ bungalow colony was not large.  We did not have a pool, because we were directly across the street from Kauneonga Lake.  Who needed a pool? The dock and the lake were all we needed to spend hours of entertainment.

We had blueberry patches, where we would spend hours picking and eating blueberries.  We also used the blueberry patches for games of hide and seek, as well as war games that the boys among us organized.

There was also a swing set, which also provided hours of fun.  We would take turns swinging on the swings, seeing who could go higher; who could jump further from a swinging swing; who was the bravest.

At our colony, there were just three girls.  The rest were boys.  And of the boys, one was my brother and three were my cousins.  And they would urge me on to disaster sometimes.

Another fact about swings in the late 1950s and early 1960s is that the seats were made of wood.  Thick wood to hold the bodies of wilding swinging boys and girls.  Today swings are made of thick fabric.  So much smarter than wood.

Why am I so in favor of fabric swings?  Because a wooden one almost killed me when I was about six years old.

It was a beautiful sunny day.  We were all around the swing set, playing and spying on our neighbors, something we often did.  Looking over a small mound of dirt into their yard.

My brother was swinging higher and higher and then jumping off the swing.  I believe my cousins were doing this as well as the other boys.  I decided I wanted to do it as well.

I started to swing.  I remember my brother telling me to go faster and faster and to jump when the swing was as far forward as possible.   I thought I was fine, but I did not quite make it.

I jumped.   I fell to the ground.   The swing passed over my head.  I sat up.  I heard yelling.  And then nothing.

I woke up in my bungalow with my aunt and mom staring at me.  I was sick to my stomach.  My head was pounding.  I now understand that I had a concussion.  The swing had come back and hit me in the back of the head knocking me out.  I had to stay in the bungalow for the rest of the day.  Ice on the bump on the back of my head.  My aunt, Mom and Grandmas checking in on me.

To be honest, I stopped swinging after that. I would get nauseous just looking a swing set.

I would like to say that was my only adverse summer adventure.  But you know that is not true.  I remember the summer my Dad taught me to ride a bicycle.   For some reason every time I made a certain curve in the colony, where there was a little hill, I flew off my bicycle.  I was determined.   I would get passed that hill.  My knees tell the story. There are many photos of me with skinned knees all thanks to the bicycle and the hill.  But I did learn.

One injury was truly not my fault.   The Dads pitched in together to build us all a club house.  I remember sitting in it, when everyone ran out.  I was about three.  My understanding is that someone climbed on the top of the clubhouse…. I tend to think it was my brother as he was extremely active.

As the club house began to fall, everyone ran out, but me.  I was once again hit in the head. But this time, I had a deep, open wound.  Mom took me to the doctor, where I was given a tetanus vaccine and a butterfly on my scalp.   I really wanted to see that butterfly, but never did.  I still have a scar on my scalp and a tenderness.  I hate when any one tries to touch my head without notice.  It caused lots of aggravation as small child.  Especially since my other brother loved to see me scream as he pretending to go to touch my head.  Brothers and sister know how to push all the buttons!

I was not the only one to suffer from injuries during the summer.  I think everyone had at least one emergency visit to the doctor each summer.  But it was part of the fun and the excitement. The injuries became part of the summer stories, part of the memories that bound us together.

Woodstock Revisited in August 1998

17 Sep
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Photo #4: Monument at West Shore Road and Hurd Road, looking to Woodstock site.

Before the Bethel Woods Museum opened, a concert was held at the Woodstock site in mid-August 1998.  Alan Gerry, who had purchased about 2000 acres of land around the Woodstock site, and eventually started the museum and the Bethel Woods Music series, sponsored the three-day concert as a pilot program for his eventual summer series.  Now the Bethel Words Center for the Arts and the Museum, opened in 2008, are known throughout the Catskills community. Then it was just a dream.

My parents took a ride up to Hurd Road from our home on West Shore Road to check it out.  They eventually became season ticket subscribers to the music series and visitors to the museum.

When we cleaned out their home, I bundled up a bunch of photos and papers to take home, and I slowly have been going through them.  Today’s find was 20 photos from the 1998 concert site, before Bethel Woods was built.  I share a three of those photos here.

The monument area is very different now, with shrubs and landscaping.   Just over the hill and ridge is the site of the museum and the music festival.  The actual site of Woodstock has not been used for a concert for years.  It is kept as an historic site.

But it still rains in August.