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Getting My COVID Vaccine Takes Me to 1960s

5 Feb

This week I received my first COVID vaccine. I traveled through a snow blast to get to my 10:30 am appointment. My walking buddy took me. I don’t like to drive, so she volunteered to get me there. While we went, I thought of my Mom. I called her the snow witch because she attracted snowstorms. She died during the December 27, 2010, snowstorm that blanketed the New York City area over two feet of snow. For me, the snow seemed apropos. Mom was telling me she was looking out for me. Getting the vaccine was important.

When we arrived at the vaccination site, we lucked out finding a parking space in the crowded area.  The parking lot was full, but we were able to find a street parking space not too far away.  In fact, when we left, I told another woman who arrived that we were leaving and had a great spot.  She followed us and parked there as we drove away.

But the main point is that I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.  Yes, I stood in a line for a while.  Actually, there were four parallel lines waiting to be checked in after our temperatures were taken and our paperwork reviewed.  Then it was to the computer check in, and finally the shot line, then I sat in a chair while a nursing student gave me that wonderful little jab.  I honestly felt the edges of my lips curl into a smile as the needle went in.  I never wanted a vaccine more than I wanted this one.

I then joined my friend and sat there for the required 15 minutes.  It was well worth it.  My friend, a dentist, already had both her doses. But she was happy to go back with me to make sure I got my vaccine.

While I was waiting in line, and then waiting for my 15 minutes to pass, my memory went back to my first pandemic vaccine.  Yes, I did have another one.  Just like many of my peers born in the 1950s and 1960s. I was one of the millions of children vaccinated for the polio vaccine.  Then for children, it was the taste of a sugar cube that saved our mobility and lives.

Every summer we went to the Catskills, to the mountains, to get away from the New York City area where parents were afraid that we would get polio in the summers.  People forget that polio was one reason why families wanted to escape the metropolitan area.  But I remember.

I also remember the long line that we stood in to get our vaccine. It was 1962 or 1963. I don’t remember the exact date. But I know I was 7 or 8 years old. My parents, my brother, my sister and I, stood outside in a slowly moving line that snaked into the North Bergen High School building. We never actually stood still. We just kept moving, and others kept joining the long line. Just like I did for the Covid vaccine: in one door and out another.

When we finally reached our goal, there was hundreds of little paper cups. In each one was a sugar cube. But not any sugar, these were doused in the live polio virus. To add to my enjoyment, each sugar cube that had the vaccine was a lovely shade of pink! We joyfully ate our sugar as we walked away. To be honest, I wanted a second sugar cube.

There was a worry that a few of the children might actually get polio from the live virus. But because it was the BEST way to keep the virus at bay, parents were willing to take a risk.  Due to these sugar cubes and the other vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin, in the 1950s and 60s, polio basically disappeared.

So now when I stood in another line to receive another vaccine to help stop the spread of a different pandemic, a little part of me stood in that other line, remembering another vaccine in a time when lies and anti-vaxxers were not trying to destroy faith in vaccines.  When we did not have people protesting and trying to stop people from getting their vaccines, as some protestors did at Dodger Stadium in California. When people understood the need for all to come together to stop a pandemic.  When kindness to others and true altruistic love for your neighbor took precedence over the lies found on social media that seem to be corrupting kindness.

I was so thankful to get my vaccine this week. I look forward to getting my second dose in three weeks, which also reminds me of my polio vaccine sugar cube. We had to have three in all for the vaccine to work.

I am still smiling, even though my arm is a bit sore. As each of my friends and relatives get their vaccine, I feel relief. Life will get back to some semblance of normal. And this vaccine will help us get there. I just wish that kindness to others really meant something. That this kindness included keeping everyone safe and the COVID pandemic at bay.

https://www.cdc.gov/polio/what-is-polio/polio-us.html

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-04/anti-vaccine-activists-dodger-stadium-have-more-plans

Pippi Longstocking and It’s A Small World Always Have A Place in My Heart

17 Jan

Over time my sister and I have been amazed that her daughter’s personality is more like mine, while my daughter is more like my sister. I am known to call them by each other’s names because they do something that is so much like the other.

But recently, on a family Zoom, I realized that my reaction to my daughter is often the same as my mother’s reaction to my sister.

In the early 1960s my family went to the World’s Fair in New York City. (See blog below.). We had a great time.  Our favorite ride was the Disney, “It’s a Small World,” which premier at the World’s Fair.  My sister, who was just 4 or 5 at the time, fell in love with the song. 

She was in love with the song and used the $5.00 gifted to her from our grandmother to buy a special booklet about the ride that included the 45 record. My mother asked her to be sure that is what she wanted, as she used her entire $5 for it.  (I used my money to buy a Cinderella watch.)

The song became the bane of our existence.  My sister played that record endlessly.  “I did play it multiple times a day on the small record player that we were allowed to use unsupervised,” she said.  To be honest it drove us all crazy.

One day she came home from school to the horrible news from my mother that the record was broken.  My mom was cleaning and accidentally broke it.  My sister was devasted, but what could she do. It was gone. My Mom was such an honest, good person.  We all believed her.  And I think we all, except my sister, were relieved.

Fast forward about 10 years.  Our house was robbed.  The thieves came in through the back door. The police believe my brother surprised when he got home from school as he came in the front door.  (I have written about this before in the blog below.). It was traumatic for all of us!!!

But in the aftermath, on the floor of my parent’s bedroom, where the thieves had dropped all the stuff they did not want, was the 45 record of “It’s A Small World”.  It was not broken.  It was intact.   My sister was shocked.

“Mom,” she said.  “It’s not broken.”  She says it was the biggest betrayal in her life!  My parents were both speechless and laughing.  My Mom admitted the truth, she just could not stand to hear that record again.  So they hid it. 

My sister says, “Mom did not have the heart to actually break and throw it out.” She thinks it is because she purchased with the money from grandma.   Now, 55 years later, my sister still has the record.  She admits she was obsessed by it and had to keep listening.  (Unfortunately,  while my sister found her record, my watch was stolen during the robbery.)

The doll and towel I purchased in Sweden.

Fast forward to the late 1980/early 1990s and my daughter’s favorite book, “Pippi Longstocking!”  She had to hear that one book every single day.  My husband or I read it to her.  It was my husband who broke first.  He finally had enough of her obsession.  He told me that he refused to read it again.  He took the book and put it at the very top of the floor to ceiling bookcase in our bedroom, knowing she would never find it.  I have to admit, I was right there with him.  I could have taken it down, but I never did.

We were so relieved.  We just never wanted to hear that book again.   Little did we realize that the book was in her soul.  When she wrote her college applications, she wrote about how she identified with Pippi Longstocking in her essays.

While she was in college, she came home for a break and was helping me sort through books.  I had totally forgotten that Pippi Longstocking was still up there in the bookcase, on its side where it could not be seen.  She was up on a step stool, when she yelled in excitement.  “Mom, I found Pippi Longstocking.  It’s not lost!”

I was startled and started laughing until tears came.  She says, it never occurred to her that we hid it.  She felt no sense of betrayal, only excitement because she found her favorite book. Both my Mom and I could not get rid of the evidence of our ‘lie’ which in the end was our undoing. 

Like my Mom, I explained to my daughter how tired we were of hearing and reading the book. So we hid it.  I think we still have the book.  But in August 2019, my husband and I went to the Baltics.  I made amends. The only thing I purchased for my daughter was in Sweden: a small Pippi Longstocking doll and tea towel that was adorned with Pippi’s picture.

I must also say, that “It’s A Small World” is also my daughter’s favorite Disney ride.  I have ridden on that ride multiple times with her. One time, on a rainy day, when no one else was there, she and I did it over and over again.  She is so much like my sister!!!

When thinking about it, I realize that both my sister and daughter were interested in entertainment that explored the world and had a positive view of life. It’s a Small World shows the people of the world singing in harmony and joy.  Pippi is a free and independent girl who is kind and helpful and works against bullies! Pippi Longstocking and It’s a Small World will always have a place in my heart.

These two blogs talk in more detail about the robbery and It’s a Small World Ride.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/14/it-was-a-small-world-at-the-new-york-citys-worlds-fair-196465/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/02/locking-up-candy-saves-the-day/

An Elegant Evening At An Embroidery Convention

15 Nov

Dressed for an elegant evening out, my parents are 28 years old in this photo.  My Dad was the co-owner of an embroidery shop in New Jersey. (See blog below.). In this photo they are at an embroidery convention.  When I look at them, I am amazed at how young they are here!

My mother’s lovely handwriting on the back says, May 1957, Laurel’s Embroidery Convention.  The dress my Mom is wearing is totally embroidered.  It is a fabric made in my Dad’s shop.  I have vivid memories of this dress, as it hung in the basement closet forever.  It was either a pale beige or rose color in my memory. The skirt was perfect for twirling.  How do I know?  Because my sister and I loved to play dress-up with this dress!

My Mom is also wearing my Grandmothers mink jacket!  In May!  But wearing a mink jacket is the height of elegance in those days.  However, I have to laugh because above her head is a basketball hoop.  So although the party was elegant, they had to walk through a sports area to get to the dinner event.

I remember hearing of the Laurel’s. It must have been a convention center/meeting place in New Jersey, probably in Secaucus, New Jersey, near Laurel Hill, also known as Snake Hill.(See info below.)  Over the years, the hill has been decimated as the highways were built and some of the rock was taken out when quarries were allowed there. But a little bit of the hill still remains!  It can be seen at Laurel Hill County Park and from the New Jersey Turnpike.

My Dad is dressed up as well in a really nice suit.  Dad was an elegant dresser.  He purchased shoes in Europe when he traveled.   He always worked in the fashion industry and looked the part.  He had so many suits and shirts and ties.  When he passed away, many of his grandchidren and I took a few of his ties to keep as a memory.  He had ties of every hue and color. His closet was a rainbow of shirts and ties. Everything organized and ready for the next fashion statement.

The one element of this photo that does offend me is the cigarette in my Dad’s hand.   My siblings and I hated his smoking.  We often had major battles over this.  Like the time I flushed his cigarettes down the toilet.  Or when my brother hid all his extravagant cigars behind the books on the top shelf of the bookcases. Dad never found them!  But cigarettes were a part of life in the 1950s.

My sister was not alive when my parents went to this convention. I was 2 and my brother was 3. Which means, I am sure, my grandparents were babysitting for us, as we were still living in an apartment above their bakery in West New York, New Jersey. (See blog below.)

I have to add an update! Thanks to a reader, I now know that the Laurels was a big hotel in the Catskills. A competitor to Grossingers, it was one of the largest hotels. So I am sure my grandparents were taking care of us, but we might all have been in the Catskills staying at our home in Kauneonga Lake while my parents went to this convention. The Laurels were located near Monticello in Sullivan County!

Photos really bring back memories. It brings back memories of my father’s embroidery shop in West New York, NJ.  Embroidery was a big business in the USA in the early and mid 1900s.  Now there is nothing left of these many shops!  Though I do not remember this event per se, I do remember my parents dressing up for other events.  I do remember the dress and the mink jacket.  Those memories bring me happiness in this time of staying home during the pandemic.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/26/a-hudson-county-embroidery-shop-started-my-dads-career/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/01/bakery-aromas-bring-back-delicious-memories/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_Hill

Reupholstery Keeps the Spirit of My Furniture, I Hope

20 Oct

Over 30 years ago a truck arrived at my home delivering my grandparent’s bedroom furniture to my home.  Made in the early 1930s, the cherry mahogany furniture was hand carved. The two chairs were covered in yellow silk and stuffed with horsehair, I knew that because the fabric was beginning to fray and the stuffing was coming out. 

The mirrors and furniture were beautiful to see and to touch.  I had so many memories of my grandparents entwined in the furniture.  From my early childhood in New Jersey, when the furniture was in their apartment above the bakery.  When I spent the night, as a small child, I slept in bed with Grandma.  Grandpa was usually up and baking throughout the night. His bedtime began about 8 am.  In the early morning grandma would leave to go work in the bakery.  I knew that when I woke up. I was to get dressed and go downstairs, where Grandma would make me breakfast.  I was never afraid. I was in a safe place, near the chair where Grandma sang Yiddish songs to put me to sleep and under the feather quilt in the winter.  So cozy.

Later the furniture moved to their home in the Catskills where they lived after they closed the bakery.    They would spend most of the winter in the Catskills, but would return to their home in West New York for a few weeks when it got too cold.   The bedroom furniture, along with their other lovly 1930s furniture, stayed there after Grandma died in 1981 and until Grandpa died in 1989. The only piece that did not make the move, was the baby grand piano. (See blog below.)

The bedroom furniture was promised to me, the oldest granddaughter.  And when my grandfather passed away, about 9 years after my grandmother, my parents packed up the furniture, found a mover, and sent it to me along with a few other pieces.  (See blog below.)

I made some changes.  My grandparents slept in twin beds. I saved the headboards, but I had the foot boards and the side railings made into a lovely television stand that matches the rest of the suite.  We did not need these as we use a king mattress.  The headboards are in my basement.  Too lovely to get rid of, they sit waiting for some future date when they will be used.

I left the yellow silk on the chairs.  All these years.  It was the original upholstery, and I could not change it.  In my mind when I saw the fabric, I could see my grandparents. I could remember sitting in the vanity chair and hearing my grandmother singing to me.   I could see myself sitting at the vanity brushing my hair and trying out her hair adornments.  I could remember Grandma sitting behind me and brushing my hair 100 strokes, to make it shine.  The fabric stayed.

The chairs with the original fabric.

Over the 30 years I have had the furniture, the fabric faced the many challenges of two small children.  It continued to decay, fray and split.  Finally, after 86 years, I decided this fabric was done. I had to reupholster the furniture.

I did it tentatively.  It took me months to find a fabric that I liked. A fabric I thought would go with the furniture, but also recall the fabric that was part of it for almost nine decades.  My Grandmother liked yellow and flowers.  I love teals and blues and geometric shapes.  How could I compromise? 

But then, the perfect fabric appeared. Amazingly it was at Joann’s, the craft and fabric store. And Grandma was watching out for me. It was on sale, 40 percent off!. I also was given the name of a fantastic upholstery, Gearhart Upholstery in Buckner, Missouri.

The mainly blue and teal woven upholstery has a bit of yellowish gold swatches.  And the pattern is both geometric, but there are flowers.  Lovely blue and teal flowers. Even though the colors are different, in my mind I kept the spirit of grandparent’s furniture. 

Purchased by my grandparents in 1936.  Sent to me in 1990.  And finally recovered in 2020.  I hope the furniture is loved by my family for many more decades. I hope the memories I cherish will turn into new memories for another generation

https://zicharonot.com/2020/09/02/vintage-greeting-cards-stir-my-imagination/

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

Reading My Parents’ Eighth Grade Autograph Books

4 Jan

It used to be when you graduated eighth grade, you had your friends and teachers sign your autograph book.  The idea was that you would keep this book forever to carry the memories of these friends, who you thought would always be your friends, with you wherever you went.

I remember my autograph book.  Most people wrote silly poems.  Some wrote true hearted messages.  The teachers would mainly sign their names.  And of course, our parents, siblings and grandparents would sign our books as well.

So imagine our wonder, when we cleaned out our parent’s apartment, to find both of our parents eighth-grade autograph books!  I recently spent an hour going through these books from the 1940s and thinking about the people who signed them.  Most have passed away.  Some I did not know.  But others bring a face and a memory and love to my mind.

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Dad’s autograph book.

My Dad’s book is green and torn.  It looks like it has been battered. My Dad graduated eighth grade in June 1943.  He was 14 years old, would turn 15 in a few months.  He attended Joseph Wade Junior High School in the Bronx.  I know that his next stop was DeWitt Clinton High School.

The messages that mean the most to me are from his Mom: “Hope you climb the ladder of success, Mother.”  I have seen her handwriting many times.  I wonder why she did not sign it with love.   From his Dad: “Good Luck and Happiness, From Father Harry.”

The most exciting note for me was from his grandmother, I have no knowledge of her handwriting.  She was born in Russia. The note itself was written by someone else: “To my grandson.  Congratulations on your graduation from Junior High. Best luck in your High Schooling.”  But the signature is my Great Grandma’s:  Ray Goldman!

There are notes from his brother and sister, a first cousin and his Aunt Minnie.    His brother’s note is a typical brother note: “Well, you finally graduated – Congratulations.”  His sister’s note was a silly poem, but then she was just 11 or 12 years old. “I never thought you would make it, “wrote his cousin David,” “but I am very glad I have to eat my words.”

The final note that has meaning to me, is a silly poem from Willard.  Willard, Willie, was Dad’s best friend.  They were bar mitzvah a few weeks apart and studied for their bar mitzvahs together.  They had many stories of how they misbehaved for the Rabbi or anywhere else. Willie and his wife were part of my parent’s lives, and so our lives, forever.  There was not a family event or special occasion without them with us.  My Dad’s 60th birthday party was at Willie’s house.  My ketubah, Jewish marriage license was signed by Willie as one of two witnesses.  This is a friend who stayed a friend forever.

img_7403

Mom’s autograph book.

My Mom’s book is different in style and condition than the book my Dad used.  Mom’s book is still in its box.  Its’ blue leather cover is immaculate, sort of like my Mom.  Even though she was six months younger than Dad, she graduated earlier.   Mom graduated from No. 4 school in West New York, New Jersey, in January 1943.  The school building she attended no longer exists as it was replaced with a new school.   She went on to attend Memorial High School in West New York.

The interesting part about Mom is that she actually taught in No. 4 school for many years before being transferred to No 2 school in West New York.  Mom taught in the West New York elementary schools for 30 years, from 1964 until 1994.

Mom’s book is different in another way.  My grandparents came from Europe.  She had only her Mom and Dad, and my grandfather never really wrote in English.  Her grandparents and many aunts and uncles were still in Europe, many of them did not survive the Shoah.  One of her grandfathers and one aunt had made it to the USA in 1936 through the efforts of my grandparents, but I believe by 1943 my great grandfather had already passed away.

img_7410

My grandmother wrote in the book:  Dear Frances, Luck and Success. Your Loving Mother.”  That was the only family member who wrote it in.  Her brother started to write something, but did not finish it.

But there are several names in the book that I know well.  The first is Doris Chesis. She wrote: “Work for the Character and after a while the Character will work for you.”    She and her family lived in the same building as my mother. They rented an apartment from my grandparents.  Her brother, Murray, also wrote in the book. He graduated with my Mom, and they actually dated in high school.

Although I never met Murray, I have seen photos of him.  As for Doris, I remember her from throughout my childhood.  Her oldest daughter and my brother were the same age.  Her son and I went through high school together. And her youngest daughter and my sister were about the same age.  I am still friends with Doris’ children on Facebook.  Shocking how long that friendship has lasted.

The final name is as important for my Mom as Willard was for my Dad.  Wini Anoff and my Mom were friends from kindergarten (see blogs below).  I do not know life without Wini!  Her daughter and I have been best friends forever.  And I mean that as we were born two months apart and do not know life without each other.  Our grandparents were friends. We spent every summer together in the Catskills.

So Wini, this is what you wrote in my Mom’s autograph book:  In the four corners of the page : For Get Me Not.  “Dear Frances,  Needles and Pins, Needles and Pins, When you get married your troubles begin. Your sister grad-u-8, Wini Anoff.”

I so wish she had written something more personal.  But Mom and Wini were both just 13.  They would be turning 14 in a few months.  Since Wini is still alive, I should ask her what she would write now, knowing all that has happened in the 77 years since she wrote this note.

For me, seeing someone’s handwriting brings them back to life.  The autograph books perhaps did not contain many signatures and notes from people who continued to be a part of my parents’ lives.  However, I get joy seeing names and signatures of the people I did know.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/08/11/mr-anoff-and-the-sardine-sandwich/

Childhood Events Definitely Impact My Adult Choices

5 Dec

When I was a child, I remember going to my grandparents’ cousin’s candy store on Bergen Boulevard near Journal Square in Jersey City.  My brother and I have discussed their names, as it is a memory from long ago, over 50 years.  He remembers the wife as Anna, and I remember the husband, as Morris.  We will go with these two names.

Like my grandparents, they were from Europe.  I believe that Morris was my grandfather’s second cousin.  That is a connection I have yet to finalize.  But I am pretty sure he was not a first cousin.  However, in the area they came from in Galicia, Mielec, my grandfather’s family was large and very intermingled.

The best part of going to the candy store, of course, was the candy.  We could eat whatever we wanted, within the reasonable constraints of my mother. The other part was seeing Morris and Anna, who were always excited to see us.  They never had children of their own, but they loved us.

Sometimes, my Mom would drive my grandmother, my brother and I to visit them in the candy store.  I have good memories of being there. My grandmother and Anna always had a good time visiting.  So even though it was my grandfather’s cousin, my grandmother often went to visit without him.  And since she never learned to drive, my Mom had that job and we got to tag along.

Morris always sat behind the counter and ran the cash register. He sat there because he no longer had legs, he lost them to diabetes.   Anna ran the store.  She was tiny and very energetic.  That is why what happened is so sad.

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Morris’ rocking chair. Now owned by my brother.

Anna died first.  I don’t think she was that old.  But when she died, Morris could no longer stay alone. The store was closed; their belongings were sold or given away, and Morris went into a nursing home.  I remember my parents speaking about it, because we were gifted his rocking chair.  It did not go to the nursing home with him.  My brother still has the rocking chair in his home.  The tangible evidence that Morris and Ann were part of our world.

The nursing home Morris lived in for the rest of his life was in Bayonne, New Jersey, close to where our family dentist had his office.  Usually we all went to get our teeth done at one time.

But on this day, it was just my Mom and me.  As we drove away from the dentist office, she turned to me and said, “I want to go visit Morris.  I know he lives near here.”I don’t remember how old I was, somewhere between 10 and 12.  To be honest, I thought we were going to the candy store.  But I was in for an unpleasant and emotional surprise.

When we arrived at a large one-story building, my mother and I entered and went to the desk, where Mom announced that she wanted to see Morris.  The woman stopped what she was doing and called to someone, a nurse/supervisor/care giver came out.   Both were so surprised that we were there to see him.  The supervisor said, ‘Oh my, who are you? You are the first people who have ever come to visit him.”

My Mom was stunned.  “Are you kidding me.  He has nieces and nephews.”  But she was not joking.  No one had visited Morris in the year or so he had been living there.

The nurse walked us to his room.  In fact, by the time we got there, I think three or four nurses or caregivers were following us.  Mom walked in first and knelt down beside Morris.  “Morris, It’s me Frances, Nat and Thelma’s daughter.” She said in Yiddish as she reached out to him.

Morris started cry.  He put his hands on either side of Mom’s face and sobbed, “Frances Frances.” Her name was like a chant.   While Mom hugged him with one arm, she put out her other arm, I knew that meant I needed to come over.

“Here is Ellen,” she said.  My face was now embraced by his hands as he cried into my hair and stroked my face.  I was crying by then as well, as were Mom and the nurses/caretakers.  We stayed and talked to him for about an hour.  It felt longer.  He spent most of the time crying and hugging us. And asking about all the family. I have never forgotten.

As we went to leave, the supervisor asked Mom for her address and phone number in case they needed to reach someone.  They had no contacts for him.

We went and sat in the car.  My Mom cried for an additional half hour or so.  Just sobbing, with her arms crossed on the steering wheel and her face down in her arms.  I cried with her.  It was one of my saddest moments as a child.  When we got home, my Mom called her parents.

I never went back to the nursing home.  I think because every time I thought of him, I started to cry.   But I know my Mom and my grandparents went.  To be honest he did not live long after our visit.   My sister, who is four years younger than me, does not remember Morris or Anna. But what she does remember is my grandparents and my mom talking about him.  And my mother always talking about what happens to someone when they are all alone in the world.

For the past ten months I have been a Spiritual Care Volunteer at an elder care facility.   Over and over again people have asked me:  How can you do that?  Doesn’t it bother you? Isn’t too difficult when someone dies?

The answer to all these questions is an emphatic NO.  Each week when I go, I am greeted by smiles and joy.  I speak to each one of them.  Some days I give them hugs.  Sometimes someone cries, especially if they have recently lost a loved one.  Most of them have family members who often come to see them.  Most important to me is that I know that I am going every week.  I am giving them the attention that Morris so deserved and did not receive.

This childhood event definitely impacted my adult choices. Each time I go, I feel a little lift to my heart, knowing that I have helped to brighten someone’s day.  It is the best feeling, because each time I go, a little of the sadness that has followed me for over 50 years, whenever I think about Morris, dissipates.

Survival of Shalom (Szulim) Hollander

25 Nov

Over my years of researching my family, especially my family who remained behind in Europe, I have found relatives who perished in both Belzec and Auschwitz Death Camps.  Those who died in the Lodz Ghetto.  Those who were probably burned to death in their community synagogue or mikveh. Those who were murdered after the war ended. They died in so many places, that I no longer am shocked, even though after each discovery, I feel a pain in my soul.  A pain that makes me stop searching for a month or so as I recover from the finality of my search.

I have a great grandmother who survived the war years hidden by a righteous Christian friend, but who could not save her from the final indignity:  murdered when she returned to her family property by the people who had squatted on their land.  I am named for her.  I keep her photo near my computer so she is watching my search.

There is at times a happier outcome.  I have also found those who survived.  My grandmother’s first cousin who survived the Shoah and the Kielce Pogram, and even wrote a testimony about her experience.   I have two distant cousins, the children of another of my grandmother’s first cousin, who survived the war after being put on the KinderTransport. Their parents did not survive. I have relatives who made their way to France, the United States, Australia, England and Israel.  Where once my families were in a small area of Poland, Austria and Russia before the war, now they are on four continents.

Now I add another story of survival through an extraordinary circumstance.  A relative, perhaps two, who survived the Shoah thanks to being one of almost 1100 names who were on Schindler’s List.

To be honest, I am a bit stunned.   I wrote about Shalom Hollander several times, in most detail in a blog that I published in June 2018.  This week Shalom’s story changed.

I was contacted by a distant cousin who read my blog.   She just recently has been researching her family and by goggling family names found my blog, “The Sorrow of Shalom Hollanders” (see below.). She sent me a message: “I must be an extended family member of yours. I am related to Tova Hollander, Mordechai/Marcus Amsterdam, Szulim (Shalom) Hollander, and all the people on this story. I found this while googling names and have been looking into ancestry.com. I would love to connect if you are willing.”

Of course, I was willing to connect.  I emailed her immediately.  I was delighted to find out that her great grandfather was Shalom’s brother.  He had come to the United States before the war, and so survived much like my grandparents.

The words that caught at my heart were these: My great grandpa’s brother was Shalom Hollander who you wrote about in your blog (not sure if you are aware but he is listed on Schindler’s List under the name Szulim Hollander). 

I had to look, and there he was:

Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database:   Schindler’s Lists: Electronic data regarding Oscar Schindler’s inmates, complied from two separate lists.

Szulim Hollander : Date of birth: 8 Feb 1906                                                             Persecution Category: Ju. [Jew] ;   Occupation:  ang. Tischler  (carpenter)         Nationality:  Po. [Polish] ; Prisoner Number:  69073

He survived because he was on Schindler’s List, but was it a good survival?  This knowledge hurt my heart.  While he was surviving, he lost his wife, his children, his parents, his sister.  So many relatives murdered.  I wish when I met him in 1976, I would have listened and learned more. But then, no one knew about Schindler or his list.  I am not even sure he spoke to my grandmother about how he survived.  Wait, I take that back.  Everyone we met with that trip told my grandmother their Holocaust story.   (see blog below.)

In the same email, she mentioned her Aunt Susan also told her about me.  I remember Susan, I connected with her through Tracing the Tribe.  We met about five years ago and exchanged information.  We knew that her husband must be related to my family.  But I did not know of the connection with Shalom.

Now that I know Shalom had a brother in New Jersey, where my grandparents had a kosher bakery, many little pieces came into place. I had an ‘aha’ moment.  My grandparents definitely knew this family.   We knew many Amsterdam families in New Jersey.  I never connected them because Shalom’s brother in New Jersey used the last name Amsterdam, which is their father’s last name, while Shalom used Hollander, which was their mother’s last name.

My grandparents and parents could not have known Shalom and not his brother in New Jersey. They were probably some of the many relatives I met as a child, who just blurred together in my grandparent’s European connections.

One other bit of good news about Shalom.  He did remarry after the war and started another family.  What strength!  He truly was a survivor.  My grandmother and I only met with him that day in Israel.  I rejoice in knowing this news.  I wish I could meet his family.

I must add that there is another Hollander on Schindler’s List: Rachela Hollander was born on March 23, 1917.  She was just a young woman when the war began. She is listed as a metal worker.  I will assume that some way she is related to us as well.

KinderTransport, Schindler’s List, Kielce, Belzec, Auschwitz, Lodz Ghetto: My family went through the worst of the Shoah.  But it comforting to know that some connected with people who had a bit of goodness left in their souls and somehow they survived.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2018/08/12/discovering-karolas-kielce-pogrom-testimony/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/11/05/how-the-kindertransport-touched-my-family/

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

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

https://zicharonot.com/2018/09/06/one-more-family-destroyed/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/09/13/my-familys-holocaust-history-impacts-my-observance-of-rosh-hashannah/

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

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/

 

The Keeper of the Records

6 May

In my family, I have become the keeper of the records.  I believe it is because I actually do something with them.  I scan them in to the computer; I research these records; I write about them; and then I share the information with my family through my blogs.  I hope that my doing this will keep these memories alive for future generations.

So recently, when I was in New Jersey, I asked my sister where she had put our parents’ wedding album, as my sister wanted it when we cleaned out our parents’ home.  It was easily accessible, so I looked through it, searching for a particular photo.  I had seen it the album many times, so knew it was included.

The biggest problem with this album is that the photos are encased in plastic. That must have been the style as I have seen other albums from this era also with plastic.  So those photos are difficult to photograph or scan, as you see here.

img_3065

My parents listening to the reading of their ketubah.

I found what I was looking for: a photo with my parents’ ketubah, Jewish marriage license.  It was important for me because I have both their marriage license and the engagement agreement that was signed at the same time.

The engagement contract is in disrepair.  I hate even taking it out of its’ envelop, but I did for a photo.  It is signed by both of my grandfathers. It was kept in an envelop addressed to my Dad at my grandparents’ bakery.

img_3219

The ketubah is in much better shape.  Written in both English and Hebrew, it is pretty simple.  Not an artist drawing, but rather a form Ketubah filled in by the Rabbi.  The most important part for me is that it lists my mother’s Hebrew/Yiddish name.  We sometimes had a debate on that as my grandparents, and sometimes my dad, would call her ‘Fegilah,” little bird.  But we were pretty sure her name in Yiddish was Freida, which is confirmed with the ketubah.

The photo with the ketubah almost makes me laugh.  Their wedding was arranged quickly.  Dad was in the army and going to Korea.  Yet there he is in tails and a top hat!  My Mom is standing by the huppah in a veil that almost hides her face. It is much denser than the veil my sister, sister-in-law, and I wore, and our daughters.

They both look so serious.  It is difficult to believe that they were just 22 years old. My uncle, my Mother’s brother, is there as well.  Thanks to him we actually have a movie of my parents’ wedding!  No voices, but all the action is shown.

To me having this photo together with the ketubah is important.  It is a link that ties the document to the people in it.  Now forever together in this blog.

I think that is why I am the designated keeper of the records.