Archive | Szenk Feuer Blogs RSS feed for this section

The Murder of Chava Feuer 1942

22 Apr

It is not every day that you find out exactly how your great grandmother was murdered in the Shoah.  But it just happened to me, and I am in shock.

I was taking a webinar called “The Case of The Missing Ancestors: Genealogy Tips from Nancy Drew,” that I signed up for from the Erie Community Library.  The speaker was Ellen Shindelman Kowitt. I am still searching for my grandfather’s three siblings.  After hitting dead end after dead end, I thought maybe this workshop would help. 

The speaker mentioned looking up the name of the town instead of the name of the person.  So while I was listening on one device, I entered the name of my grandfather’s birthplace, Trzciana, Poland, on another device.

At first I just found a short Wikipedia entry telling me that Trzciana was a small village in Buchnia County, the seat of the administration office, and so was called Gmina Trzciana.  It was just outside Mielec, which I knew.  It currently has a population of 1462.  No mention of the Shoah.

Then I entered “Trzciana and the Holocaust.”  A book popped up:
The Holocaust and European Societies: Social Processes and Social Dynamics edited by Frank Bajohr and Andrea Low.  There were also some sample pages that I could read, including a section on an event that happened in Trzciana.

I knew my great grandmother, Chava, was murdered in her town.  I knew she had been hidden. And that saved her when the rest of her family was taken. I thought she was murdered at the end, after the war was over. But that is not the case.  She was murdered in 1942. There is an entire paragraph about the murder of my great grandmother Chava, the wife of Gimple.  MY Great Grandmother.

I can imagine the fear she had when she knew the Nazis were searching for all the Jewish people in the area. When she knew that the Polish people were afraid and turning the Jews in.  How in fear she must have been when she went to a family that had hid her before. But I am sure she knew there was no hope.  No hope, no help. Just death. And did it really matter when everyone else was already gone? Her husband, her four children. Her extended family.

Yes, I am crying.  Yes, I think I am in shock.  This I never expected.  I did not find my great aunts and great uncle.  But I found this. 

I have ordered the book.  I need to see it and touch it.  To really believe it.

But read for yourself the murder of Chava Feuer, my great grandmother, for whom I carry her name.  May her name and memory always be a blessing. (Yes, I know it says Chana, but believe me it is Chava.)

She says “Do with me as you please.” This touches my heart. I was an obstinate child. I would often say to my parents and grandparents, “Do what you want, I am not moving.” My grandfather would shake his head and laugh, while my grandmother would say, “You are just like her.” The “her” being Chava, whose name I carry.

What Happened to Grandpa’s Twin Sisters?

16 Apr
My great aunt Tova, my great Grandparents Gimple and Chava. The man driving is an Uncle. And the horses and cart they bought with the money my grandparents sent. They all perished.

Would it be horrible to say that I am disappointed to find that my grandfather’s two sisters were not the victims of Josef Mengele?  It sounds horrible even to me.  But I have been searching to find out what happened to them for over a decade.  And I thought I finally found a glimmer of hope.  I remembered that they were twins.  Perhaps they made it to the right concentration camp and were separated out. I could at least have some closure.

But no.  Another dead end, I write without a pun.  I had already searched through Yad V Shem, where I found my grandfather’s parents and one brother.  I have found my great grandparents, Gimple/Mordechai who died in Auschwitz and Chava who died in the town.  My great uncle, Shimon died in Belzec.   All three testimonies were put in Yad VShem by a cousin, Shalom Hollander.  Although he entered many other testimonies, there are none for the other three siblings.

I have searched through the Jewish Gen files.  I have found many, many, well hundreds of family members who perished in the Shoah.  But I cannot find my grandfather’s two sisters and their families and his other brother.  It is what I have been searching for since I started my genealogy searches. 

I tried the place that usually helps, Tracing the Tribe Facebook Group.  From one member, I found out about the the Arolsen Archives, International Center on Nazi Persecution, in Bad Arolsen in Germany.  And I had great hope.  I filled out three forms with all the information I had on my great aunts, Tova and Tzelia, and great uncle Nachum.  I admit it was not much.  Just their names and town of birth, parents and approximate date of birth. 

I was sure to add that Tova and Tzelia were twins.  I have a photo of Tova.  I knew she was married.  She probably had children. But by the time I spoke to my grandfather about her and his other siblings in the 1970s, he had forgotten the names of her husband and children.  So my search was based on somewhat limited information.

Unfortunately, the Arolsen Archives could not help.  For each of my requests, I received the same message. “We can inform you today that we – based on the data you provided – have made an extensive check of the documentation available to us.
To our regret, it has not proved possible for us to ascertain any information.”

Another dead end.  But I was not totally surprised.  I know that Mielec and Grandpa’s home town of Trzciana, were among the first cities that the Nazis chose to kill all the Jews.  Only 100 Jewish residents from the area survived the war.  Some were killed at the Denbica/Dembitz Murder site.  Others went to the Lodz Ghetto and then Belzec  Some died in Auschwitz.  But some died in their community, like my great grandmother.  Some were burned in the synagogue.  Some were burned in the mikve.  Some were shot. 

I have discovered many people with similar names, but not these three.

I assume they died nameless, not a number in the Nazi machine.

So perhaps not finding them is a good thing.  Perhaps they died quickly.  They did not have to suffer the indignity of being a victim of Mengele.  They did not make it to the Concentration Camps.  But what is so sad is that no family member was able to write their testimonies.  No one could enter their names in to Yad VShem data base.  And I cannot either, because I do not know what happened.

Perhaps my quest to find out the names of their children will never be achieved.  I will never find out what happened.   Each time I have found out what happened to a family member. I have had another little stab in my heart.  Perhaps it is time to let this search end.

A Ketubah Mystery

7 Dec

My maternal grandparent’s ketubah has presented a mystery!

I know for a fact that my great grandfather’s name was Gimple.  That name is what was used in the Yad V’shem testimony that describes his death in the Shoah.  That is the name my grandfather always used when discussing his father.  That is the Hebrew name that was given to my cousin when he was born in 1949 in memory of him.

So why does it say my grandfather’s Hebrew name is Nisan ben Mordechai haCohen, Nisan the son of Mordechai the Cohan?

I was stunned.  I immediately put the Ketubah up on Tracing the Tribe Facebook page for help.  And yes, the name is Mordechai.  Was my grandfather hiding something from us all these years?  I don’t think so. His parents were his parents. But this seemed odd!

Then I thought could this possible be one of the many paired names, but one I had not heard of before?  For example, my paternal grandfather’s Hebrew name was Hirsch Zvi. This is a common paired name as one is Yiddish and other Hebrew for deer. But I had never heard that Gimple was a pairing for Mordechai. 

Thanks to the Tracing the Tribe group, I have since learned that it is. But a bit different.  It does not mean the same thing, but rather they were paired together. It seems Gimple started first as a surname and then eventually became a first name.  I started searching.  And I found response to someone else asking the same question.  It seems in Poland, where my grandfather was from (when it was Poland, sometimes it was Austria), there was a double name for Mordechai Gumpel, Mordechai Gumplein, Mordechai Gumplin and Mordechai Gumprecht, accorded to a Professor G. L. Esterson in Israel.  He supposes that since Gimple is so close to Gumple, that Gimple is also a double name with Mordechai!!!

Then another member of Tracing the Tribe sent me the link below to the Jewish People’s Museum in Israel.  It had an entire page dedicated to the name Gimple and its relationship to Mordechai! The names were paired together, as stated by above by Esterson! Confirmation!

To be honest, this makes so much sense, in my family because my great grandfather was the only man I have found named Gimple.  However, there are many men named Mordechai over the generations before the Shoah.  I wonder if his mother was trying to help end confusion by calling him Gimple, but giving him the Hebrew name Mordechai?  I will never know!

However, I now have to come to my son’s generation.  My son is named for my grandfather, Nisan.   He is also named for my husband’s uncle, Mordechai.   Thus, by happenstance, my son is also named for two generations at the same time, both his great and great, great grandfathers!  Is that not a weird coincidence!!

Sometimes looking back at old documents can improve our knowledge of our family.  I knew I had the ketubah. I had looked at it before. But because it was in such a bad shape, I just kept it put away and did not really examine it.  Today I decided to take a photo to keep its information safe as it continues to deteriorate.  Then I enlarged it on my phone, and there was the information that I had not noticed! 

Another Mystery solved thanks to Tracing the Tribe.

(In an addendum, I asked for help from Tracing the Tribe in deciphering the names of the witnesses, even though I knew they were not relatives. So just so my family knows. Their names were Benjamin son of either Yehoshua or Yehuda, the Levi. And Shlomo the son of Mendel.)

https://dbs.anumuseum.org.il/skn/en/c6/e241754/Family_Name/GOMPERTZ?fbclid=IwAR2UmU_uU4aKv-jbqxoVD6K16LRsd-dnbTHfZlkn4CegeS5xCbv8LPt5iDE

I Know These Names

17 Dec

As the snow continues to fall outside and I have a snow day from my job, I decided to continue searching in my Grandma’s Photo Album.  Since my last photo once again lead me to the Yad V’Shem data base and to another story of death during the Shoah, I searched for perhaps some happier photos.   I was successful.

I found three photos from the 1940s.  The first two were taken on November 25, 1945. Perhaps the photo with the three people is a wedding photo for Felix and Martha, along with Martha’s sister, Rosa.  They are celebrating something, as Felix and Martha are wearing flowers. The two women look so much alike. They have the same exact smile.   I know that they must be sisters.

The third photo, from July 14, 1947, is inscribed: “To you, dear cousin, from Rosel.”  I am sure the ‘dear cousin’ is my grandmother.  It surprised me because this photo was taken a few days before my grandmother’s 41 birthday.

These two girls are much younger than my grandma.  Closer in age to my mother, who would have been 18 in 1947.   So perhaps they are the surviving children of one of my Grandma’s first cousins.  There were so many of them.  Her mother had seven siblings and her father three or four.  Although my grandmother’s siblings survived, many of her cousins perished in the Shoah.

Martha, the girl who I think married, looks so much like my mother.  Not her smile, but the shape of her face.  I can see that they are somehow related.

Now I am on a search to see where they settled after the war.  I have emailed cousins and my siblings in this search.  Mainly because I remember these names.  I have heard together.  I have heard my grandmother say them.  One of my mother’s first cousins has no memory of these people.  But since I spent so much time in Israel and traveled there with my grandmother, I am hoping these are among the people that I met so many years ago. (See blog below.)

I know my grandparents sent money to relatives after the war.  Were these people among those who they helped?  I do not know. My grandfather once said that he was always helping grandma’s family.  But I know he did not mind.  It was something that had to be done.

I wish these photos included a last name as that would make my search so much easier.  But in the long run, perhaps it does not matter.  At least I know they survived and that alone gives me joy.

 

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

https://zicharonot.com/2019/09/26/another-photo-another-trip-to-the-yad-vshem-database/

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

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

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

 

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/

 

The Gift of a Photo Becomes a Gift of Genealogy

23 Nov

When my paternal grandmother died, my dad and his siblings divvied up the photos in her albums.   It made sense at the time, as it was before the internet and the scanning of photos.  But it left each of the families with an incomplete overall picture of whose photos exist.

I have been going through family photos for a number of years.  One of my paternal first cousins has been going through the photos her father had from my grandparents over the two years or so, and when she finds something interesting, she emails the photos to me.  Last week was special.  She found a photo of our paternal grandfather’s mother.  I have written several blogs based on these photos.  (See list below.)

But I had NO photos of my grandfather’s parents.  ZIP.  It was a hole in my genealogy puzzle.  In July, I wrote a blog about my grandfather’s family and its many mysteries.  And last week,  my cousin sent a photo of our great grandmother with my uncle that she discovered.  WOW.  I was struck my how much my grandfather looked like his mother! I immediately put the photo into the blog. (See below.).

But I think the acquisition of this photo needs its own blog, as now I have photos of seven of my great grandparents and four of my great great grandparents.  That is amazing!  I think of my children and my cousins’ children and grandchildren, and I realize that to have these photos labeled is an important gift I can give them all.  For my future grandchildren as well, they can now look back and see some of their four times great grandparents.  That to me is quite wonderful!

I did know one great grandmother, Rae/Ray.  I have vague memories of how she looked. But I remember seeing her when we went to my paternal grandparents’ home.  She lived with them always.   We have the most photos of her as she lived until 1957.  I have photos at different stages of her life and her husband, my great grandfather who passed away in the late 1930s. (See blog about him below.)

Because of this great new photo, I thought it would be great for my family to see all of these photos in one place: my grandparents, my great grandparents and the two sets of great great grandparents.  I also used both their Yiddish/Hebrew names and their English names when they were different, so that everyone knows these names as well.  Also you will notice my great great grandfather Jacob Zev Litwack.  This is not the last name that my great grandfather used when he moved to the United States.

This is my Thanksgiving gift.  The gift of identified photos!  Happy Holidays to all.

 

MATERNAL Family

Maternal great grandma Sara, she died very young.

Great grandma Chava when younger.

Maternal great grandparents/Chava and Gimple

Maternal great grandfather/Shlomo/ Solomon Avraham .

Maternal grandparents. Taube/Tova/Thelma and Nissan/Nathan

PATERNAL Family

Paternal great grandma Sarah (The new photo!)

Baruch Lev/Louis and Rasha/Ray when they married

 

Paternal great grandparents Baruch Lev/Louis and Rasha/Rachel/Rae/Ray when older

Paternal great great grandparents Elka/Esther and Avigdor/Victor

 

Paternal great great grandmother Rasha/Rachel

 

Paternal great great grandfather Yaacov/Jacob Zev. (My great grandfather did Not use this last name in the USA )

Paternal grandparents Harry/Hirsh Zvi and Esther

Blog about my great grandmother and family mysteries: https://zicharonot.com/2019/07/18/some-of-my-paternal-family-mysteries-solved-but-not-all/

Other photos from my cousin:

https://zicharonot.com/2017/12/19/my-familiar-ancestor-who-we-cannot-identify/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/26/your-heart-just-gets-larger/

 

About my great grandfather, Baruch Lev:

https://zicharonot.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

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.

img_3908

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/

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 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/