Tag Archives: Europe

The Rosh Hashannah Card Has A Story

1 Oct


In 1936 my Grandma Thelma’s siblings sent her a Rosh Hashannah card from Poland. On the front is a photo of her siblings. Seated are her brother Isaac and his wife, Bronia. Standing are her youngest siblings David and Esther. Soon after this photo was taken the world really began to change.

This photo looks so peaceful and calm. But so much was going on behind the scenes. Plans were already being made. Getting out of Poland was their main goal.

My Grandmother worked diligently to get her family out of Europe. She and my grandfather owned a bakery and had two young children. Grandma had taken her children to Europe in 1931 and since her return had been searching for ways to rescue her family and my grandfather’s family. It was very difficult.

Eventually, she got documentation to bring my great grandfather Abraham (her mother had died young) and her younger sister, Esther, to the United States. Esther was older than 21, but she was very tiny. So they made her younger. And thus she was able to come with her father.

The age difference was a bone of contention for years. My Tante always stating her ‘fake’ age, my grandmother always correcting her. It was made worse by the fact that my Grandmother had traveled by herself to the USA in 1922, when she was only 16. To get the papers she needed, she made herself two years older! The war over their ages went on for years.

It was great until Tante wanted to retire. Truly she was 65, but legally she was 62. I remember this as my Grandmother and Tante would argue about this as well.   Like sisters, with love, they found many things to argue about.

Front Great grandpa USA Visa

In any case two were saved. I have my Great Grandfather’s passport and visa. In the passport it states that he has to leave Poland within a certain time or the visa is invalid. Luckily my grandparents also sent money. Saving family was utmost in my grandparents’ mind.

But my Grandmother was unable to rescue her brothers and bring them to the USA.   They decided that they had to leave Poland: Uncle Isaac and his wife, Bronia, along with David and Bronia’s sister, Rosa. The Rabbi said that David and Rosa must marry before they left Poland. So a quick wedding was held.

They escaped Poland to Russia. Not as great, but they were tailors…or they became tailors. And so, my grandmother would say, they were employed to make army uniforms for the Russian army.

Their lives were not easy. They suffered. But they survived. Many were not as fortunate.

After the war they wanted to leave Europe. They were in Italy and the Facists were on the rise. They were afraid. They wrote to their sisters in the United States, and to Bronia and Rosa’s sisters in Australia. They decided whoever sent documents first , they would go to that country. They just wanted out of Europe as quickly as possible.

Once again they were among the fortunate ones with sisters on two continents working to save their siblings. The sisters in Australia got documents first. My great aunts and uncles moved to Australia. There my cousin was born. There my Uncle David passed away when in was in his 30s. He is buried in Melbourne.

When my cousin was a child, they decided to move to Israel. My Great Uncle and his wife; his sister in-law, and niece. My cousin and her family still live in Israel. My grandparents, great aunts and uncles have all passed away. But when I look at this Rosh Hashannah card, I see hope. I wish everyone a blessed, happy, healthy and sweet new year.




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Amazed Where I Found Anti-Semitism in Europe

13 Jul

Our European adventure had the added delight that our daughter and her fiancé came with us for the cruise section of the trip. They live in Israel, so we do not see them very often. In fact we were looking forward to getting to know our future son in law a bit better.

It was wonderful, we would tour with them in the morning and sometimes have lunch in whatever port we were in, but when we returned to the ship each couple was on their own till dinner time.

We were so happy to see their joy. And to see what a very nice young man she chose to marry.

On these tours we met many different people. And since we chose to do many walking tours, there was time to talk and visit. It was interesting and at times enlightening.

I have to be honest, I was concerned about going to Europe, especially France, with all the news about anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activities. Our cruise was originally going to Tunisia, but that port was cancelled. We would have been there the day before the attack on the beach that left 38 dead. And the night before we entered St. Tropez, there was a vicious attack that stunned France as a lone terrorist tried to blow up a factory, but first he killed and beheaded his boss.

So there was some stress on my part as to be aware of what was happening around us. But I still was stunned by where the quiet anti-Semitism actually appeared.

We were touring around Barcelona on a walking tour we booked through our cruise. As we walked through the Gothic town, the old town, a young girl and her mother (from the USA and on our cruise) started a conversation with my daughter and her fiancé. The conversation seemed animated.   So I stepped back to listen.

I was drawn into the conversation, as the teen girl, who had just graduated high school, asked some of her questions.   This girl from a small town in Georgia had never actually spoken to or met Jewish people before. And she had lots of questions, as did her mother.

I tried to be polite. But it got a little difficult after I realized the girl had told my daughter and her fiancé that they were such nice people, and she felt really badly knowing that they were going to Hell since they did not believe in Jesus.

What?!? Her Mom asked me the same question, but about Jewish beliefs. Don’t we think people who don’t believe what we believe will go to Hell?

“NO!” I told her. We believe that as long as people, Jewish or non-Jewish, acted in a good way, did good deeds and followed ethical standards, there was no Hell. Believing in Jesus in our mind had nothing to do with being a good person. And being a good person was the most important.

We told them about the seven Noahide laws that all people have to follow. And as long as a non-Jew followed these laws, they were good. For example you cannot murder or steal.   You cannot eat the flesh of a living creature. You cannot have idolatry.

And then I think we blew her away when we told her that many orthodox Jews believed that Christianity was pagan because they kept graven images of Christ. And seem to worship him. We discussed the Greek influence on Christianity and how this might have made ancient Christians believe that Jesus was the actual son of God. Because in Judaism, this belief is impossible, God has no physical form. We all have the spark of God inside of us, but there is no way we could be the actual child of God. Impossible.

And I pointed out all the “patron saints” we had seen in some of the cathedrals…. actually dead bodies kept in glass coffins. These bodies were dressed and had masks over their faces. And in each place we were told that on their saint day, the coffins were taken down from their alters, carried through town and then placed in the center of the church for all to pay homage to these patron saints.

This is very far from a Jewish version of “have no other God before me.”

The mother stopped trying to tell me about Hell and belief in Jesus. She slowly walked away from me. Perhaps she realized I was not going to change my mind and have an epiphany and believe in Jesus.  Perhaps I had been a bit harsh, but I really do not like to be told I am going to Hell because I don’t believe in Jesus.

So here I was so afraid of anti-Semitism in Europe, when in reality the only anti-Semitism I faced was from other Americans from a small town in Georgia. That was eye opening and somewhat disheartening.

But then I am from Kansas. And just 17 months ago an anti-Semite attacked the Jewish Community in an effort to kill Jews. He instead killed three Christians. If some one is going to Hell it is him and all those who practice hatred.