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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/

 

Winning A Law Day Essay Contest In 1972; The First of Many Times I State My Views

9 Oct

On May 1, 1972, I read an essay at the Crystal Room at Schuetzen Park, North Bergen, which I wrote for my English class taught by Mrs. Whitehouse at North Bergen High School.  In fact, three of us read our essays that evening.  We had swept the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s 1972 Law Day USA Law Day Essay Contest.  I presented my first-place essay; then came two boys in my class: Phil Templeton’s essay was second, Donald Kienz came in third.

I have to be honest, Mrs. Whitehouse gave me an A- for my paper, while the boys each got an A, I believe.  All I know is that after I won, I brought my paper back to Mrs. Whitehouse and she gave me an A+, which I believed was deserved.

I recently rediscovered my essay, the newspaper articles and the letters from the mayor and the superintendent of the board of education in with papers I took after my parents died and we cleaned out the house.  My parents were quite proud of my award, and they saved everything.  The program, the letters, the speech and the newspaper articles were all together in a bundle.

The event itself was a big deal in our family!  My mother took me to Corduroy Village to get a new dress.  Usually my sister and I went to Little Marcy’s for our clothes.  Corduroy Village was for only special occasions.  My Mom and Mrs. Shore had me try on multiple dresses.  We ended up with a light pink suit.  My Mom loved pink and with my black hair, it looked good. But to be honest I hated the color pink. But I could not fight both Mom and Mrs. Shore.   I wore the pink suit!

Although I could not stand up to the combined efforts of my Mom and Mrs. Shore, I did learn something important from that event.  I learned to stick up for what I believe in and say what I mean.

What amazes me is that I feel the same way now about politics, as I felt then, when Richard Nixon was president.  I also have to say I lived in North Bergen, New Jersey, and there was quite a bit of avarice and issues with local politicians.  Hence my strong comments about stealing public money!  I also have to say, that if my memory serves me right, my essay was extremely different than all the others.  I was on a roll against bad government, while the other essays had more mellow topics. My parents were actually in fear for me to read this out loud. But it started me on my lifelong commitment to speaking out when I believe it is important.

Below I present a portion of my high school junior point of view which won the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s May 1, 1972, Law Day USA Essay Contest.

“In this age of discontent, pollution and governmental corruption, something must be done to recapture the American spirit.  If it is not, soon our country will decay.  Holders of public office should be screened before they are allowed even to be a candidate. Their background should be carefully checked…  One who holds a responsible office should be well-educated, intelligent and of good character. Once elected, if a person begins to cheat the public during his term in office, he should be impeached immediately and be forbidden to run for office again. There is too much crime in government; too many office holders have been known to steal public funds.  Too much of the funds intended for hospitals, old age homes, education and institutions for the mentally ill finds its way into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians.

In order that our government once again rise in the esteem of the population, a give-and-take relationship must be developed.  Actually, a country that is well-run can be compared to a well-adjusted marriage, with the population and the government representing the partners. To maintain a lasting relationship, they must demand mutual respect and understanding that comes from an appreciation of the others’ principles and ideals.”

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/10/shopping-on-the-avenue-i-dont-mean-fifth-i-mean-bergenline/

Another Photo, Another Trip to the Yad V’Shem Database

26 Sep

Since I recently returned from a trip to the Baltics, and actually used my school-girl German,  I decided I needed to open my Grandma’s album and continue my search.  I chose a photo with German writing, since I could translate that.

The note was written to my grandma, from her cousin.  “For my cousin, Tauba.  I send my ‘Bilck” (I think that means image).    Dated August 22, 1931, from Wieruszow, a city I have written about before, you can read about it in the blog below.

I had a difficult time figuring out his name.  I knew the Anshel/Anssel.   But the last name stymied me.  So once again thank you to the Tracing The Tribe group, who gave me the last name Eisner.   It opened the door on the Yad VShem Database.

Anshel Eisner, who was born in 1906, was murdered in the Shoah.  The year 1906 hurt my heart, as that is the same year that my grandmother was born. 

His parents, Moses Aron Eisner and Rivka Manes, were married in 1898. His mother and my great grandmother were sisters. I image they were happy to be pregnant at the same time. (Thank you Elzbieta from Tracing the Tribe).

He is probably one of the many cousins that she told me about…that she played with at her grandmother’s house.

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He looks a bit like her own brothers.  So much so that I will now look at group photos to see if I can find him.  And I think I found him standing on the far right of this photo that includes my great uncle, who is seated on the left. (See blog below.)

Anshel was married to Liba/Libka.  I could not find her on the data base.   But it said that Anshel was a merchant and died when he was 32 years old.  1942. That was a big year for murdering my family.

His testimony was prepared by his uncle Yitzchak/Isaac Ajzner/Eisner.  I did an advanced search and found that Yizchak prepared testimonies for 54 people who were murdered in the Shoah, including his parents, his siblings, his nieces and nephews and cousins.  He also included friends who perished. These people came from Wieruszow, Lodz, other cities in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

I assume that not all 54 are related to me.  But I take them to my heart.  I add them to the hundreds I already mourn for who perished.  I think of the many cousins I should have in my family who are gone and forgotten and who names have disappeared into the whispers of the past.

Each photo I find that leads to the database breaks my heart a bit. But then, in my heart, I thank my Grandma for saving all these photos.  For keeping their memories alive in a book hidden in the attic for me to find and rediscover and remember.

Baruck Dayan HaEmet.  May their memories be a blessing.  I hope I help them live though my blog.

 

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

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/06/17/my-obsession-with-grandmas-album-leads-to-the-shoah/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

 

Discovering My Amsterdam Heritage in Amsterdam

26 Aug

Amsterdam has been the destination my heart has yearned to visit. My Grandfather’s last name was Amsterdam. We know his family moved from Spain to Portugal to Amsterdam to Poland where his family got the last name Amsterdam while others became Hollanders. So I always wanted to see where my family found safety. (I have written about this in the blog below.)

My first connection came unexpectedly. We first toured the Anne Frank House, which was of course heartbreaking to know how close they came to survival. But while there I noticed something I never realized. Anne’s mother’s maiden name was Hollander. I had an Oy vey moment. I knew that Anne Frank and my mom were both born in 1929. But now there was the connection in name. Could we possibly have been distantly related? My horror was multiplied. I have already found so many of my family murdered in the Shoah. (See blog below.)

Then while taking a canal tour we rode past the new town hall and ballet. We were told that the old Jewish Section of town was razed to build this and there was a community outcry. But it still happened. As we rode past I saw a black monolith with Hebrew inscribed in gold. I knew I would be back.

The next morning my husband and I took the 14 tram to the Portuguese Synagogue. We walked around the area. It was not open yet, so we could not go inside. But I assume this is where my family worshipped after their arrival in Holland. I saw the outside of the Jewish Museum. I need to go back to visit these sites in he future.

In front of the Synagogue was a statute with the date February 25, 1941. On this date was major strike started against the Nazis because of the roundup of Jewish citizens. The Germans were harsh in stopping the strike. Many would died and be deported. It was my first reminder of the Shoah.

But my focus was on finding the monolith. My husband and I started walking the almost mile to the Town Hall. Along the way I saw my first stolperstein, golden stones, in front of a home listing the Holocaust victims. I knew they existed but had never seen them before outside of photos. It was another ache to the heart.

We continued our walk until we found the monolith on the edge of the land overlooking the canal. The black monolith commemorating those who died. Again I thought of all who found safety there in the 1600s but could not find it in the 1900s. I have to be honest, it reminded me of the giant black monolith of “2001 A Space Odyssey ” indicating great change. The change here was the decimation of the Jewish community.

A short walk away from the monolith was a statute in honor of Spinoza, who was born in Amsterdam at this location. I was surprised to find it here, although I know his history. There was a plaque nearby that discussed Spinoza’s impact on ethics and philosophy.

My desire to discover my Amsterdam heritage in Amsterdam was not totally quenched. I will need to go back to the Synagogue and museum another time. But I still feel closer to my family history.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/09/as-spain-welcomes-back-jews-expelled-in-the-1400s-i-share-my-spanish-roots/

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

Some of My Paternal Family Mysteries Solved, But Not All

18 Jul

For more years than I care to share, I have been searching for answers to my paternal grandfather’s many family mysteries.  My grandfather did not want to talk about his family.  My grandmother, his wife, was the one who told me the little bit she knew, with a caveat,
“when you marry, check out the family, because you marry them as well.”   ( See links to blogs below.)

Before I go into details, I have to thank Evan Wolfson, my, I think, fourth cousin on my father’s side, for his help!! He had sent me a copy of my great grandparent’s marriage license and said he was doing research at the Family History Center run by the Mormon Church.  On a serious whim, I asked if he could help with my mystery. Over two days he sent me record after record.  I am forever grateful for his help in working on my mystery!!!

What we all thought we knew and what I know now:

Grandpa Harry was born in 1888 or 1889.  No he was not.  He was actually born in April 20, 1890, in New York.   I know this from his registration papers for the military in 1914, where he claimed he was, (and I wrote from what he wrote) “the mostly supporter of my father and mother.”  He was an operator and cutter in his own business, as a pants maker, at 90 Attorney Street in New York.

By the way, his brother Jacob also filled out his registration card for military service then.  But since he was employed as a stenographer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he did not go, as he was working in ‘home support.’

Grandpa was the oldest of six children.   No he was not.  He had an older brother, Samuel, who was born in Russia and came to the USA as an toddler.   He also had an older sister, Celia, who was born in the USA, but died when she was about 24 years old of pneumonia and pulmonary edema.  She worked making shirt waists and was single when she died.  She is buried in Montiefiore Cemetery in New York.  We will have to find her one day.

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Standing: Great Uncle Lenny, Great Aunt Hady, Grandpa Harry, Grandma Esther. Seating are my great grandmother and great aunt from my Grandma’s side.

He was the oldest of the other children.  Grandpa Harry, born 1890; Jacob, born about two years later; Bertha, five years younger, and never married; Edith (Yetta), born 1898 and also never married; Hatti/Hady who was born in 1901 and married to Lenny Greenberg; and finally, Minnie/Miriam/Muriel, who married and had two children.

The other item I now know is that his mother gave birth to 12 children, of which 8 survived.  There is a child who was born in 1904 named Rosie.  But no other listings of her.

The story we all heard was that when Grandpa was in his early teens, his father abandoned the family and went to Seattle. And Grandpa then became the provider for the family, and also traveled to Seattle to find his father.   Probably, maybe for a while, then went back?  Not quite sure.  Here’s what I know.  Grandpa did go to Seattle, we have the photos and the story.  But it was not that early.   Did he find his father?  I am not sure.  Did his father come back for a bit?  Well he was in New York at least till 1915, so who knows what was happening. Perhaps he became ill as he was no longer working then.

I did go to Seattle and did research at the library.  I did find a Abraham Rosenberg there in 1906 who was a tailor, but I could not find the same man again.   I also now know that my great grandparents were still having children in 1901 and 1903.  Hattie was born in 1901 and Minnie/Muriel was born about 1903. And the child born in 1904.

I also know that when my grandfather registered for the military in 1914, he listed the sole support of his mother and father and siblings as the reason he could not serve.  I had heard for years that my grandfather supported all his siblings, many of whom went to college on his dime, while he was just a tailor.

I know they were living together at least until 1915 because they are on a census together.  But by 1920 Sarah is the head of her household, and Abraham is gone.   I wonder if he had gone to Seattle in 1905 after his last child was born, but then came back after my grandfather found him.  Grandpa would have been 16 in 1906. So that is possible.  Then after they got divorced, he left again?  I am only thinking this, I have no proof.  The only fact I know for sure, is that my father always said the only time he met his grandfather we when he showed up the day of his bar mitzvah in September 1941.   He had vague memories of his grandmother. But then she died when he was 8.

My other mystery was knowing nothing about my great grandmother Sarah.  Well I now know her maiden name was Ritt/Writt.  I first saw this last name on my grandparents’ marriage license.  They married on February 25, 1922. Grandpa was 30 and Grandma was 23.

But her certificate of death gave much more.  Her parents were Hirsh Ritt, who was born in Poland and Flora, also from Poland.  Hirsh makes sense as that is my grandfather’s Yiddish name.   Flora is unusual. It also states that Sarah was born in France, which was the first time for that announcement.  In other places she is listed as was born in Russia or Germany.  Still the woman of mystery.

When she died at age 68, on January 28, 1936, she was divorced and suffered from carcinoma of the pancreas.  She was only sick for one month and seven days and died at the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn on 555 Prospect Place.

My Grandfather was the one who provided the information about his mother.

Thus some mysteries are solved.  And others now stand out.  What do the divorce papers say?  I still cannot find those.  What happened to Samuel?  And Muriel?    And where and when did Abraham go to Seattle or did him?  And where did he live after he and Sarah got divorced?  I had heard he was with another woman?

I knew Hady/Hattie and her husband, Lenny (see blog below.). Edith and Bertha, I never met, but I knew of them as the two maiden sisters. They went to college, but never married. However they gave my uncle the middle name, Prim; and my aunt the middle name, Gwendolyn.

As for Jacob. That will be another blog. Previously, I had found some information about him, and my cousin Evan was able to find a bit more during his research.

Once again, thank you Evan for helping me with my mystery! And a thanksto Tracing the Tribe Group, where I first encountered my cousin.

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/14/the-sad-scandal-that-forever-scarred-my-grandpa-harry/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/10/25/the-missing-link-in-my-family-history-or-my-biggest-genealogy-block/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2018/11/16/epiphany-excitement-discovery-disappointment-hope/

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2015/02/18/the-littlest-gambler-learning-about-horse-races-in-the-catskills/

 

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

 

A Great Place for a Staycation

8 Jul

I love living in Johnson County, Kansas.  Our county is constantly listed among the most wonderful places to live in the United States.  We have beautiful parks, delightful museums and a multitude of theaters; our schools are excellent.  When my children were little, I often took advantage of the many free or low-cost activities available to keep them occupied.   It is easy to have a staycation, a stay at home vacation,  because there is so much to do.

Even though I no longer have small children, but am not yet a grandmother, I still like doing these fun activities. Luckily for me I have a friend who enjoys these activities as well.  I hope that we never grow up or grow old.  As they say, age is just a state of mind. And we keep exploring.

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In the last two weeks, my friend and I spent an afternoon at the local Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.  While there we visited all the farm animals.  But we also walked through the historic sections we were went through an apple orchard, visited a cow barn, spoke to a school marm in a one-room school house, visited a bank and a doctor’s office, went to a mine, visited an Native American encampment,  and entered several shops learning about blacksmithing, ice cream and the general store from the late 1800s to early 1900s in Kansas.

I admit we did not go on the hay ride or the pony rides.  We also did not go fishing or pan for gold.  But we could have!  And I have done some of these activities in the past.

We walked through the lovely gardens.  In some ways it was more delightful than the last time I was there with my friend and her grandchildren.  We did not have to keep track of anyone or find things for them to do.  We just meandered and enjoyed.

About two weeks later, I called my friend and told her we should go to the Johnson County Museum, located in the Arts & Heritage Center. I wanted to go specifically to see a temporary exhibit about The Wizard of OZ.  And for people living in Kansas, OZ and the Wizard are a big deal. This exhibit was from a personal collection of OZ memorabilia.

We did not only go to that exhibit.  We went through the entire museum learning about the history of our community and seeing mementos from the area.  The museum moved to its current location about four years ago.  I had visited the museum in its former location many times with my children, but this was my first time seeing it in its lovely new location.

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The electric house and a period car.

The exciting part for some of the children who were there, was the house in the middle of the museum. One of the first all-electric houses in the county, the house was enclosed inside  the new museum before the new building was completed.  Moving it took over six-hours from its previous location.  I actually enjoyed watching a video about the move.

There was another area called Kid Scape for the children.  My friend and I did not go in to experience the activities and the crafts, but we peaked inside.  I think my friend will be returning with her grandchildren!

The Heritage Center, where the museum is located, was a bustling place.  When we left the museum, we walked over the historical society, although we did not visit the displays as we  were captivated by the sounds of music. In another room, at the end of a hall,  a live band was playing ballroom dance music, specifically a tango.  We watched as about 12 couples danced around the large room.   I might have to come back with my husband one day.  We enjoy ballroom dancing. Unfortunately, he is usually at work on a Friday at 2 pm.

As we left the building, I looked over to where the black box theater is located.  Beginning in the fall, my husband and I will be coming for productions of the Spinning Tree Theatre shows.  We have been season ticket holders for several years and are looking forward to the company’s move to Johnson County.

I think our next adventure is a return visit to the Overland Park Arboretum.  The plants, the art work, and the pond, the train garden, provide a lovely spot to walk.  It will be another fun day in Johnson County.

 

https://www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/deanna-rose-childrens-farmstead/

https://www.jcprd.com/327/Arts-Heritage-Center

https://jcprd.com/330/Museum/

https://www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/arboretum-and-botanical-gardens/

https://spinningtreetheatre.com/

https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/c/johnson-county-ks/rankings/