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My Great Uncle Discovered In A Wonderful Photo

14 Jun

Once again, I browsed through my grandmother’s mystery photo album trying to identify more of the many photos from Europe.  This time I had success.

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I noticed a familiar face among a photo of six men playing cards and smoking.  All were young, well dressed, and looked posed to me.  But seated on the left side, I noticed someone who looked like my great uncle Isaac.  When I studied in Israel during 1974-75, I spent much time at my great uncle and great aunts’ home in Kiryat Haim, near Haifa.  I also brought my grandmother to Israel in 1976, when she saw her brother in the first time in over 40 years.  (See blog below.)

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The back of the photo had a stamp from Boleslawiec, and I knew that was my grandmother’s home town.  So it would make sense that Uncle Isaac would be in a photo taken there.  And also, a short message was written in Yiddish, right over the spot where Uncle Issac was sitting on the front side of the photo.  I thought I could make out the name Izhak.

Thank you to Esther, another member of The Tracing the Tribe Facebook group.   She translated the back for me. “This is brother, Itzek.”  Itzek was what my grandmother called her brother.  I was right.  I correctly identified another photo.   Or at least one person in the photo!

I wish I knew the identities of the other young men. I am thinking they were friends, or perhaps cousins.  He had a brother, but I would assume, David would have been identified in the photo also.

By the time this photo was taken, my grandmother was living in the United States.  She left Poland in 1922, when she was 16, the oldest of the children.  I would assume this photo was taken sometime in late 1920s early 1930s, before the world changed.

Each time I identify another of these photos, I feel a moment of pure joy.  I have written a number of blogs about these photos.  Several of them are listed below.

 

PS. Uncle Issac is the one who made a jacket for my Mom,  which I wrote about here: https://zicharonot.com/2019/05/20/this-jacket-is-a-survivor/

 

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

https://zicharonot.com/2018/12/06/identifying-a-photo-is-hanukkah-miracle/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/15/boleslawiec-pottery-pieces-create-a-feeling-of-despondency/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/10/01/the-rosh-hashannah-card-has-a-story/

 

Loving All Things Dr. Seuss

10 Jun

I am a bit obsessive compulsive.  For me that means when I like something, I want to know everything about it.  When I like an architect, I study his or her work.  When I like the books written by a certain author, I also want to learn about the author.  When I like art, I need to know about the artist.   I think it all started with Dr. Seuss.

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My collection of Dr. Seuss books.

I believe I remember the first time my Dad read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me.  I can see myself sitting on one leg with my brother on the other leg.  We are wearing footsie pajamas.  I loved that book.  I also loved Go Dog Go!   The pictures, the language, the rhymes all contributed to my anticipation of a new book by Dr. Seuss.  I loved all books Seussical.  I wanted my parents to read them to me again and again and again.  In fact, I learned to read by reading Dr. Seuss books.

And who can ever forget The Cat In The Hat?  I am always worried that the house will still be a mess when Mom gets home.  Even when I am the Mom!!

Of course, when I had children, I made sure that all the Dr. Seuss books were in my home for me to read to my children.  Which I did as much as possible.  Although my children are grown, I keep those books as I await the arrival of grandchildren.  I know that I will be excited to read these books to a new generation.

Among our favorites was The Lorax, as my husband and I are committed to keeping our world as green as possible.  Reading The Lorax is a wonderful way to explain what happens when people do not care for or protect the world and the environment.  We used to watch the 1972 animated movie about The Lorax when our children were little. Yes, we own a 1990s VHS of this movie!  I guess it is a collector’s item now.  We have seen the new 2012 Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, but for me the original is best.

My husband loves these books as well, especially And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  Why that one?  Because he grew up on Mulberry Street in St. Louis!

When our children were little we were excited when “Seussical the Musical” was presented by the local children’s theater. I especially loved the songs, Oh, The Thinks You Can Think and How Lucky You Are! (See link to songs below.)

When the book, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography was published in the 1990s, I had to have it.  Reading it was somewhat eye-opening.  Theodor Geisel was a much different man than his alter ego, Dr. Seuss.  I was a bit disappointed in what I read, but how could I not still love what he created?  So I did. I also learned from the book, that he lived just north of San Diego for the last part of his life.

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The Cat In The Cat at Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss

In 2015, while spending a few days in San Diego, I wondered about finding something related to Dr. Seuss while we were there.  I did not have to look too hard.  While we were visiting museums in Balboa Park, we came upon a Dr. Seuss exhibit at the History Museum: “Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss.”   Serendipity to be there at the right time! 

The artwork, the statues, the rooms set up like scenes from his books.  All of these gave me joy. The exhibit is closed now, but I can always remember it because I purchased the book that went with the exhibit.  I also purchased Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War 11 Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Geisel. They actually mailed the books home to me, as I had no room in my luggage. But I needed those books! I still enjoy them.

But my love of all things Seuss does not end with books, books and more books.  Four years ago, I discovered that there was an area at Universal Studios in Florida called Seuss Landing.  Is it possible to find a more delightful spot for a Seuss addict?  No.  We went to see the Harry Potter worlds of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, which were quite wonderful.  But when I found Seuss Landing on our way out of the park, I knew I had found my happy place.

I realized I loved Seuss Landing more than the World of Harry Potter.  Do not get me wrong.  I purchased a Luna inspired magic wand that I can use to work magic.  I loved the atmosphere, the shops, the rides and the food of Diagon Alley.  But the world of Dr. Seuss still has my heart.

A few weeks ago we went back to Universal.  Yes, we did visit Hogwarts again.  And yes, I did have my wand with me.  And yes, I had fun.  But the magic for me was returning to Seuss Landing.

 

It was our first stop beginning our day at Universal, and our last stop on the way out.

I enjoyed walking all over this area with all the children and their families.  My husband and brother-in-law were with me.  Luckily, they are both pediatricians, so being around many children does not frighten them.  My husband went on two of the rides with me, and the three of us rode together for the Cat in Hat ride.

Just walking around makes me happy!  Seeing all the places from his books come to life delights me.  I love the book store filled with the many children’s books he created.  Yes, I went to the gift stores. This time I did not buy very much, as I had stocked up the last time we were there.  However, I do not mind the rides that end in a store, which usually drives me crazy.   In a Seuss Landing store, I just browse with a smile on my face.

Harry Potter World is wonderful,  but crowded with the many Harry Potter fans.  Seuss Landing is delightful, and not as crowded.  It is a great place to bring your younger children and enjoy going into a great world of imagination. An imagination that is not frightening at all, just fun!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36b07-zZZ8A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOIh1uVb6as

 

 

Visiting Kennedy Space Center: My Celebration of the Walk on the Moon

6 Jun

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon Landing fast approaching, I knew our recent trip to Florida had to include a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.  How could we not go and relive the excitement of the United States’ journeys to the sky and the moon?  So we did!

We went on an uncrowded Sunday, the first one in June 2019.  Not quite seven weeks before the historic 50 anniversary which will be on July 20!  Although we did not take the bus tour to the launch pads, since we did that four years ago, we still had more than enough to do by touring through the exhibits.  At each one remembering our own excitement as we watched the race to space advance during our lifetime.

While there, we made sure to visit the memorial to those men and women who gave their lives while involved in the space program. The names of the Apollo and shuttle crews who perished are inscribed in a black wall reaching to the skies.  We were the only ones at the memorial when we went.  I wish everyone would visit this area of the Space Center.  Those who perished in the two shuttle catastrophes are also memorialized in the exhibit featuring the Atlantis Space Shuttle.

Atlantis, the last of the Space Shuttles, is housed in a giant building.  You cannot appreciate the size of the shuttle and its rockets until you are standing next to them.  Impressive! You learn so much about the ability of so many who worked together to create the space program.

But before the space shuttles came the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  The Center is filled with information about the astronauts, the engineers and the many people who helped create the leap into space.

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Friendship 7 Mission Control

The Heroes and Legends includes an Astronaut Hall of Fame and an exhibit of the original mission control.  While looking at this room, you watch a short video about John Glenn’s first orbits around the Earth and the fears when one of the lights came on indicating that the heat shield had come loose.  Luckily that was not the case, but you sense the fear.  Mission control looks so outdated today.  Computers and electronics are now so advanced.

I now understand, even more, why the mathematicians I learned about in the book and movie, Hidden Figures, were so important.  The state of technology was low, and brains were important.  I loved learning about Katherine Goble in the movie.  Seeing the mission control short movie about the Friendship 7, reminded me the importance of her calculations, which were also used in the Apollo 11 and Space Shuttle missions, even though she is not mentioned.   I believe it is important to remember all the women who also had an impact on the space programs! I once thought my daughter would join these women at NASA. (See blog below.)

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Mock up of the newest moon rocket.

At the Kennedy Space Center, you can watch a variety of movies on the space program at the IMAX theater.  My favorite was the opportunity to listen to a briefing about what is happening at NASA and the chance to meet an astronaut at the Universe Theater.   We did learn that there is an effort to return to the moon in 2024 and we even saw a mockup of the space craft that will take astronauts there.

I still remember watching Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. (See blog below.). The summer of 1969 Is one I will never forget for both the walk on the moon and for the Woodstock music festival that was less than two miles from my home in the Catskills.

Space has had a place in the fabric of my family.  Visiting the Kennedy Space Center and learning about the past, present and future of the space program is a way to celebrate innovation and science.

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I visited the gift shop to purchase a t-shirt commemorating the 50th anniversary. I had to get a Snoopy shirt.  For me, the Apollo missions to the moon will forever be attached to Charles Shultz and his cartoon character, Snoopy.  In fact, the Apollo 10 lunar module was called Snoopy, while the command one was called Charlie Brown.

Earlier this year I watched as Israel sent its first spacecraft to the moon with the help of Space IL and the Israel Aerospace Industries.  The Beresheet spacecraft crashed in its final moments, just before landing.   Think of the capabilities of technology today compared to 1969!  And even today it is nearly impossible to have a perfect landing.  This indicates so spectacularly how remarkable were the United States early trips to the moon.   I look forward to the 55th anniversary and the next attempt by the USA to have a man and a woman once again walk on the moon.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/07/our-daughter-not-an-astronaut/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

www.KennedySpaceCenter.com

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-and-peanuts-celebrate-apollo-10-s-50th-anniversary

https://www.space.com/israeli-beresheet-moon-landing-attempt-fails.html

 

My Military Mystery (In honor of Memorial Day)

27 May

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Pine Camp, Jefferson County, NY, July 1924, presents me with a major mystery.  I have two photos that were taken there and are clearly marked:  Pine Camp, Jefferson C. N.Y. July 1924.  They are part of the many unknown photos in my Grandmother’s album that we found hidden in the attic of her home, 35 years after she passed away.  (See blog link below.)

The handwriting is not my grandmother’s handwriting.  But I think it was her cousin’s Katie’s handwriting, because in many of the photos Grandma and her first cousin are together.  Additionally my Grandmother lived with her Aunt’s Family from 1922 until 1925 when she married my grandfather.  Grandma and Katie became life-long friends, besides cousins..

I have to think that maybe they were visiting one of Katie’s brothers, she had three.  Or perhaps one of four brothers who Katie’s mother helped raise, and later Katie married into that family.  But I also have to assume that they knew someone who was there, and who sent them this photo.   I cannot imagine that they were allowed to visit them while they were on maneuvers.

Pine Camp was a military site.  The New York National Guard trained there in the summer time during the early 1900s.   Eventually, during the Second World War, Pine Camp was enlarged and became the training grounds for three divisions of General George S. Patton’s 4th Armored Division.  But that happened much latter.  It served as a prisoner of war camp and eventually was renamed Camp Drum in 1951.

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So who is the person they knew in this picture of six young men? And who is that commanding officer?  I have no idea.  But perhaps someone can help me solve my military mystery?

Great news! A distant cousin who I connected with several years ago, thanks to help from Tracing the Tribe members, said that one of the men is her great uncle who was Katie’s first husband!!! Thank you!!

 

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

New York State Military Museum:  https://dmna.ny.gov/forts/fortsM_P/pineCamp.htm

This Jacket is a Survivor!

20 May

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I am cleaning out my cedar chest.  I had no idea what was piled up inside.  But surprises keep coming! My biggest surprise find was a jacket belonging to my mother.  I honestly forgot it was there.  I thought I had lost it in my many moves years ago.  But here it is:  A grayish brown wool jacket.  It is definitely from the late 1940s/early 1950s in both style and by history.

This is not just any jacket.  It was made by my mother’s uncles.  I am not sure which one, either David or Isaac.  They survived the Shoah because they were tailors.  When they escaped Poland they headed into Russia, where I am told they worked making soldiers’ uniforms.  I have no proof of this. But that is the story I was told.

After the war, they ended up in Italy first, where they waited for papers.  My uncles had my grandmother and another sister in the United States.  My aunts had relatives, sisters I think, in Australia.  They decided they would go to live in whatever country and near whoever sent visas first.  They just wanted out of Europe and away from fear.

The visas came from Australia.  So they went to Melbourne.  This jacket was made by my uncles in Melbourne after they settled there and sent to my mother in the United States.  Can you image? I can’t.

I know they were in contact throughout their journey of survival.   I know that my grandmother and aunt tried to get them visas to the USA and sent them money to survive after the war.

I know that they helped to support them throughout their lives.  My Uncle David died when he was in his late 30s in Australia.  He is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Melbourne.  Eventually the survivors, my Uncle Isaac, his wife Bronia and, David’s widow, Rosa moved to Israel with my cousin, where she still lives with her family.

When they moved to Israel, we sent care packages to them.  It was 1965 or 1966.  I still remember when I was 11 learning about my cousin. We became pen pals, writing back and forth for many years.  We still keep in contact, but now through What’s Ap and Facebook.

The year (1974-75) I studied at Hebrew University in Israel, I would spend time with my family, my uncle, aunts and cousin in Kiriat Haim, which is just north of Haifa.   During one visit, Uncle Isaac surprised me with a bag to carry my school supplies when I traveled from Jerusalem to visit family.  He also made me a pillow to decorate my room.  I was a great bag for that as it was the perfect size with a zipper.  And no one else had anything like.  I actually used it to go to class.  I still have both of these items.

After my return from Israel, my mother gave the jacket to me.  It longer fit her and she thought I would wear it.   Since I spent so much time with my family in Israel, the jacket carried so many emotions with it.  When I was younger, I would wear the jacket and think of all my great uncles and aunts went through during the war.  How they survived the war and got out of Europe.  It is a jacket of survival and strength in my mind.

So I guess I will continue to keep this jacket.  It has a few moth-eaten areas.  The color has faded.  But to me, its symbol of survival and new lives makes it so valuable.  It tells me to never give up.  To survive and be a survivor.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2016/10/01/the-rosh-hashannah-card-has-a-story/

 

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

 

My Grandmother’s Mysterious Black Notebook

13 May
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The black notebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who wrote these pages?

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

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

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Why did she save this receipt as well?

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

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

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

 

Two blogs about Abraham Prentki:

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

 

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

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.

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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.

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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.