Tag Archives: genealogy

“Who are you?” These Photos Call Out to Me

3 Nov

I look through this photo album and I cringed. There are so many unnamed children and adults. Did they survive? How are they related? Who are you? Who ARE you?

For some I am fortunate, there are names written on the back of the photos in English, or German or Yiddish. And someone can translate the names for me. The English ones are easy, I usually know who they are and how they are related. Some are photos of people I knew about, but had not seen.  Some I post on Tracing the Tribe Facebook group to see if someone can translate the words written on the backs for me.

Others are photos of people now identified as a cousin. But I have no idea who they are? How they are related? Or what happened to them during or perhaps after the Shoah? The photos are from the 1920s and 1930s in Europe. It is almost painful to look at these photos because I do not know what happened.   And I imagine the worst. I only can look at a few photos at a time.

My grandmother's first cousin, Dora, and her husband.

My grandmother’s first cousin, Dora, and her husband.

The ones I know give me a chill.   I see one of a couple, Dora and Max, from what I think is their wedding in 1924. Oh My. I met Dora in Israel in 1975 when I took my Grandma Thelma to Israel to see her brother and family.   She had not seen her brother since 1932, over 40 years. Much had happened to them and to their family.

While in Israel on this trip, I met many family members who came specifically to see my grandmother. Although I had lived in Israel and gone to college there for a year, I had not met these people before.

But really of the new family members I met, I remember Dora and her daughter the best.   I still l can hear her daughter asking me all sorts of questions about my grandmother. When I questioned her, she responded saying basically, “Look I am told that this Thelma is my mother’s first cousin. My mother lost so much in the war, I want to be sure who she is before I bring her to see this Thelma.”

And so I answered the questions. The answers were right. My grandmother and Dora were first cousins. They had not seen each other also in over 40 years.

They spoke only in Yiddish.

I will never forget their meeting. I will never forget the tears and the pain as Dora told my grandmother what had happened. I will never forget seeing them sit together on the couch in our room holding hands and crying. Dora’s daughter, who was the age of my mother, handing them tissues. I was overwhelmed. I was just 20, and this was beyond my abilities to cope. I sat and I listened and I watched.

The back of the photo with the inscription.

The back of the photo with the inscription.

So to open this album and see a photo of Dora and her husband from 1924 almost breaks my heart. A photo inscribed to my grandmother: “Die Kusiene Taba Schenk in America, Die Beste grusse fenden wir dir deine kusiene   Dora and Max 11/2/1924.”

Taba Schenk, Tova Szenk, my grandmother’s maiden name. My grandparents married a few months later, and my grandmother became Tova/Thelma Amsterdam.

In the photo, Dora is a young woman, but she looks just like the woman I met so many years ago in a hotel in Tel Aviv. She is not as old of course. But the face is the same. She is cleared eyed holding on to a long strand of pearls, her husband sitting next to her.
Dora’s life changed with the war.   But she survived. She had children and grandchildren. And eventually reunited for a visit with her kusiene Tova.

About the photo album:

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

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

An earlier post about the trip to Israel with my Grandma:  https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

Another Bialystok Treasure Investigated

21 Oct
The book's cover is not in great shape, but the book itself is wonderful.

The book’s cover is not in great shape, but the book itself is wonderful.

Among the items that became part of my custodial responsibility was the book: Bialystok Photo Album of a Renowned City and Its Jews The World Over. Compiled and Edited by David Sohn, in 1951. The book attempts to show life in Bialystok before World War II; information about the Holocaust and the 60,000 Jews from Bialystok who were murdered; and show that life continued for those who survived and who lived throughout the Disapora. One two-page spread is so emotional as it lists the horrible events that happened to the Jews of Bialystok during the Shoah.

Two important pages.

Two important pages.

My great grandparents, Louis Goldman (Baruck Lev Litwack) and his wife, Ray Goldman (nee Rachel Wolff) were extremely active in the Bialystok society in New York City and were part of the large number of landsmen from Bialystok who helped to create the Bialystok Home for the Aged in NYC.

Although my Great Grandfather died in 1941, my family was still active in the Bialystok organizations in NYC. And my Great Grandmother Ray continued in a leadership role after her husband’s death.

I had placed this book in a pile of other books about Europe, but had not really searched through it for a while. I know I looked at it when we cleaned out our parent’s apartment and kept it as something worth investigating. But it went to the side as I dealt with other issues.

This week I decided to really look at it and see what I could fine. Thanks to my Aunt Leona, who passed away just four years ago, I did not have to look far. There was a handwritten note from my Aunt, with page numbers and identifications. I loved my Aunt Leona.

My Great Great Grandfather, a leading baker.

My Great Great Grandfather, a leading baker.

My Great Great Grandmother.

My Great Great Grandmother.

Photos of one set of my paternal great great grandparents are in this book.   Jacob Zev Litwack and Rashe Goldman were the parents of my great grandfather Louis Goldman.   I was a little confused at first because I knew that in Europe my great great grandparents went by the names Yaacov and Rashe Litwack. But I realized that Rashe Goldman could be changed for two reasons. First her maiden name was Goldberg, so this could be a mistake. Also, since her son took the name Goldman when he came to the USA, the name on the photo could just reflect his new name.

Whatever, the case, my Aunt definitely identifies them as her grandfather’s parents.   It is also exciting to see that their occupation is also mentioned: leading bakers.   When my great grandfather came to the USA, he became a tailor.

There are many photos of my Great Grandma Ray. One by herself and several in group shots.   And then there are pages of the “Deceased Leaders of Our Landmanshaft.” On one of those pages is my Great Grandfather Louis. Right there it says, Chairman of Bikur Cholim and a co-founder of the Bialystoker Center and Home for the Aged.

It makes me so proud that my great grandparents were so active in tzedakah and good deeds.   It is a tradition that continues in our family. So many members of my family have been active in volunteer work for the Jewish community. My Dad was the president of his synagogue for 11 years, and served in many volunteer roles throughout his life. My parents were always supporters of the Bialystoker Home, as were my grandparents.

And I like to say that the tradition continues on in my daughter. I think her great great great grandparents would be proud to know that she lives in Israel and works for a non-profit that promotes peace, The Peres Center for Peace.

But there was a surprise. There is another Ray circled in the book. Ray Nosoff. I had not heard that name before. But my aunt’s notes came in handy. Ray Nosoff is the niece of Louis Goldman. Her maiden last name was Kramer and her mother was Louis’ sister. She lived in Brooklyn.   After googling her name on line, I found out that she was born in 1887 and died in 1966 and was buried in Washington Cemetery in New York. Which makes total sense as my great grandparents are also buried there!   I also found the names of her two of her children.

This was exciting, as Louis Goldman was the next great grandparent that I wanted to investigate.   I had already found out much about his wife, Ray Wolff Goldman. But had not much to go on for Louis.

I now know his parents were bakers. His sister also immigrated to the United States and their family was also active in the Bialystok organizations.

I have more investigating to do, but I have started on another genealogy journey thanks to another Bialystok treasure.

 

 

To view Ray Wolff Goldman’s family: https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/serendipity-wins-in-finding-a-family-connection/

Treasures in the Bookcase

16 Aug
Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

I honestly thought that we had discovered all the treasures in our Catskills house. Last summer my siblings and I had torn the house apart, filling a 20-cubic yard dumpster with unused and unusable items.   We had discovered a mother lode of photos and a photo album from the 1920s that I am still slowly scanning and finding more information about our maternal grandmother and her family.

But I had forgotten about the old bookcase in the corner of the living room. I actually did not think about it until the very last day we were in the Catskills this summer, when I got a ‘jubba’ as my grandfather would say — a feeling that I had to open the glass door.

My Grandma Esther's bookcase in the corner.

My Grandma Esther’s bookcase in the corner.

We now call it my brother’s bookcase. But in reality it was my paternal grandmother’s and before her it belonged to her parents. Since they lived in the same apartment, there was no real distinction. The bookcase came with the books in it after my Grandma Esther passed away. Over the years, new books were put in and the older books migrated to the bottom shelf.

We have placed it along side the fireplace behind the television. It acts as part of a wall, so that the area behind the fireplace can be used as a bedroom when needed. This semi-room holds an old upright piano, a trundle bed that opens up to two twins, and a computer desk. So we usually do not even think of this piece of furniture as a bookcase, but more of a wall divider.

In any case, my ‘jubba’ called me over to the bookcase about an hour before we were planning to drive home. And inside of it, I found treasures! Nine books containing bound copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922 through 1941, as well as a 45th anniversary book.   My great grandparents, Louis and Rae (Rachel) Goldman, were very active in the Bialyskoker group in New York City that founded the Bialystoker Home for the Aged.   In fact, he was on several important committees and boards.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

While just skimming through the bound copies, I found announcements of both my Dad’s and Uncle’s bar mitzvah. These were in English. The Bialystoker Stimmer was printed mainly in Yiddish. But there were also a few English pages or a few English paragraphs in almost every copy. I also found photos of my great grandfather on several pages that announced committee and board members.

His 70th birthday

His 70th birthday

But the best was a photo of him and a paragraph in Yiddish celebrating his 70th birthday. I can read enough Yiddish to recognize his name and a few other words. To be honest, I do not know what it says yet. But I will find out.

That was with just a quick skim. I needed these books.

I told my sister that I had to ship them home and search them. Since we found the books in what is my brother’s bookcase, my sister sent him a text asking if I could ship them to Kansas.

They both agreed that the books should come home with me, as I am acting as the family historian.   I was so excited. It was well worth the $40 I spent at Staples to ship them home.

Today the books arrived!

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

As I continued to go through the books, I found what appears an article about him. It, too, is all in Yiddish. I know I will need it translated. I am excited to know what it says about him. I know he was a tailor.

My Dad's first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

My Dad’s first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

I cannot read all the Yiddish, except really for the names and a few words. But in skimming the books I sometimes see a photo that jumps out at me. Like the one of my Dad’s first cousins, David. Well, it looked like a very young David. I was right, it was him at age 16, when he graduated high school. This article is also in Yiddish. I need a translator!!!

I realize that I will never know if my great grandparents were mentioned in other places. But I am taking photos of every page that has a photo or a mention of my family that I can find.

But besides the book, I posted the photo of my great grandfather Louis Goldman and the small article on the “Tracing the Tribe” Facebook group. I was hoping someone would be able to translate it for me. Although that has not yet happened, I remain hopeful. But someone posted a link to the Bialystoker Center Yahrzeit Cards website. There I found the yahrzeits for my great grandparents, my grandparents and my great aunt. I will say that the Hebrew name for my grandfather is wrong on the site. But it is definitely him. That was also interesting to see.

I started with the books from the 1940s, I am now in the 1920s.  There is much more Yiddish and much less English in these earlier books.  I am hoping to still find more treasures in them.  But to see members of my family mentioned in these early archives makes me so happy.  I knew my great grandfather was an active volunteer.  These books confirm what I had heard.  My heart is happy.

I hope to find a good home for these books after I am done investigating them. There are many other families mentioned in the books.   I do not know how many people saved them.   In our case it was benign neglect. We did not know they were there, so they were just ignored.   And allowed to survive. A happy, lucky find for me and my family.

PS: Thanks to Sabena and her Yiddish teacher who translated the paragraph about my great grandfather:  “Mr. Luis Goldman, has just become a septigenerian (70), and if he himself hadn’t told us, we would certainly not believed it. Mr. Goldman is among the most active people in Sumkh Nuflim (I think that’s a place) in the Center and in the old age home where his work is greatly admired. We wish him a lot of further birthdays with joy in his family.”

PPS:  The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, would love to have the Bialystoker Stimme books!

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/bialygen/Yahrzeit.htm

Always Searching For a Touch of Jewish History

7 Jul

Whenever I travel, I try to incorporate a touch of Jewish history into all my trips. It started when I had little children, and an older friend recommended that I include something of our heritage whenever we traveled. It seemed like a good idea, so I started this tradition.

Our first attempt to fulfill this commitment was seeing a production of a new opera about the Golem in the Aspen Opera House. It was a wild opera. Many people walked out. But my children LOVED it. A great success.

Great Synagogue in Buenos Aires.

Great Synagogue in Buenos Aires.

Since then we have visited Jewish sites throughout the world: Jewish museums thorugh out the United States,as well as the Jewish Museum in Vienna and my husband visited the Jewish Museum in Athens. We have seen the synagogue on St. Thomas, the Great Synagogue in Buenes Aires, the holocaust memorial and several synagogues in Montivideo, Uraguay. We have visited Jewish sites in Canada.

Holocaust memorial in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Holocaust memorial in Montevideo, Uruguay.

So my trip to Europe this summer was no different. We had to incorporate a bit of Judaism into our trip, especially with all the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. I needed to do this!

While in Rome, we used the tour company, Jewish Roma, to book tours of the Jewish Quarter and the Vatican (to get a slightly Jewish slant on this very Catholic compound. ) The tour of the Jewish Quarter, or what used to b the Ghetto, was wonderful. Walking down the streets and seeing where so many Jews had been forced to live during the Middle Ages, in fact up until the 19th century, touched me.

I loved seeing the Great Synagogue and the museum with all its religious objects. I listened to the tales of the Shoah and the life of Jews in Rome for centuries. I was shocked to see the plaque on a church that once stood just outside the gate of the ghetto that was written in Hebrew but encouraged Jews to convert. I had heard of this practice, but to actually see it, was painful. I am glad they kept it there.

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

The small community of 12,500 Jewish people in Rome support synagogues, a day school and a hospital. They are well aware of their standing in the community.  Near the synagogue is a square where over 1,000 Jews were rounded up by the Nazi’s.  This October date is memorialized.  Of the 1,000 taken, only 18 returned.

I learned that in Rome the Jews are neither Sephardic nor Ashkenazi in their religious practice. Their service comes from a time before the divide. It is a Roman service. How interesting!?  We also ate fried artichokes, a Jewish Roman delicacy.  I enjoyed walking through the Jewish Quarter, seeing the Jewish Day School, eating lunch in a kosher bristol.

Our tour guide, Sara, told us how her family was actually from Sicily but was forced to move to Rome centuries ago. So I was excited when we were in Sicily to have to tour guide point out the original synagogue, now a church of course, and the road where the Jews once lived. There is a plaque on the wall of the street indicating that it was once the home to the Jewish population of Sicily.

What was once the synagogue in Sicily, now a church.

What was once the synagogue in Sicily, now a church.

Although there were small Jewish communities in some of the other places we visited, like Corsica, it was not until Barcelona that we had our next Jewish encounter. Near the harbor is a hill that is still called Montjuic, Mountain of the Jews. It was where the Jewish cemetery once was located. But as our tour guide told us, when the Jews were expelled the cemetery was destroyed. In fact the Jews of Barcelona were cast out in the 1390s, a hundred years before they were expelled from the rest of Spain. Now this is part of the site of the Barcelona Olympics from the 1990s. So although there are no Jews there anymore, the name remains.

We walked in the Gothic area of the city where the Jewish population once lived and where the old synagogue still remains, although we did not see it.

Our other touch of Judaism was going to a Flamenco performance. I had read that many people believe the Flamenco dance was an outgrowth of the closeness of the Roma community with the Sephardic Jewish community. Our tour guide, Bettina, commented on this connection as well. She told us about how the Jews were expelled and forced to leave.  When our tour was over, I commented privately to her about my family’s distant roots in Spain.  And how our family, then known as Faya was forced to leave.  I guess, that   even though the Jews left Spain so many centuries ago, little pieces remain behind. And that brings me some peace.

I do wish I had booked a private Jewish tour of Barcelona before we went instead of relying on public tours and asking my questions. But I am glad that I have continued in my search to find a bit of Jewish heritage with every trip I take.

The Sad Scandal That Forever Scarred My Grandpa Harry

14 Jun

My paternal grandfather, Harry, was a difficult man to love. He never hugged us or played with us. He kept his distance, except to sometimes reprimand us from eating too much cake. “The Trolley Car Stops, Too,” he would intone if we spent too much time at the dessert table. Or to tell us to “Quiet Down.”

In the summers he would take long walks and sit by himself. Grandpa Harry, “Hersh Zvi,” was not one to dole out love.

When I entered high school, he actually began talking to me. I took some sewing classes and was making my own clothes and clothing for my sister and Mom. Grandpa was a retired tailor. And suddenly we had a language to share. He taught me how to match plaids and make my slacks more tailored. He could explain about French seams and other ways of making the clothes I made stand out. We formed the tiniest bit of a bond. I know he was so proud of everything I made, which made me feel good as well.

I knew he had had a difficult life. I remember my paternal Grandma Esther saying to me, “When you get married, make sure you check out the family. You do not only marry the man, you marry the entire family. And they can be crazy.”

And that was my Grandpa Harry’s family according to my Grandma. His family could have been a column in the “Bintel Brief” columns of the old Yiddish Jewish Forward. Except I am not sure my Great Grandma Sarah could write.

We think this is Grandpa Harry on his bar mitzvah day.

We think this is Grandpa Harry on his bar mitzvah day.

My grandfather was the oldest of six children: Harry, Harriet (Hady), Muriel, Jacob and two ‘maiden’ sisters. When he was either 13 or 14, his father abandoned the family and took off for the west coast. Disaster.

Grandma Esther once told me that my great grandmother was a ‘schrier,’ someone who screamed a lot. And although my great grandfather Abraham was probably unhappy, he should not have left my grandfather with the mess. And that is true.

Abraham was one of three to five brothers who all came to America at different times, or so we think. Their original last name was Grau, but in the USA Abraham Grau became Abraham Rosenberg. I believe he was from Russia, perhaps Bialystok.

So we know this is a posed photo, but it is when Grandpa crossed the USA looking for his father.

So we know this is a posed photo, but it is when Grandpa crossed the USA looking for his father.

In any case he was not a mensch at all.

My grandfather at age 15 took off across America by himself to find his father.   He traveled through the plains, up the mountains, to Seattle, Washington, in the early 1900s. Grandpa was born in 1888 or 1889. So this was in 1903 or 1904. Can you imagine! He might have wanted to get away as well. But I think he really wanted to find his father.

Well he did find him, in Seattle, living with another woman as if she was his wife. Or as my grandma called her, the ‘churva,’ which I believe means prostitute in Yiddish.

Grandpa Harry was not happy. I do not think the meeting went well. So Grandpa turned around and traveled all the way back to the New York, where he became the bread winner and head of the family.

He worked as a tailor and never finished school. But his five siblings, four girls and his brother, ALL went to college. He paid for it. His brother even became an attorney and lived Up Town.   Grandpa sacrificed his life for his siblings. He was a mensch! He gave them food, clothes and a college education in a time when women did not go to college. And he did not get much in return. I think this is why he so unable to show affection to his own children and grandchildren.  He held back.

Eventually, on February 26, 1922, he married my Grandma, after he finished supporting his siblings and mother. He was in his mid 30s when he married. Since, my grandmother’s father, Louis, was also a tailor, I believe grandpa married his partner’s daughter. In fact my grandparents and my great grandparents continued to live together.

As for my great grandmother, Sarah Rosenberg, we know nothing. Not her maiden name. Not when she was born or died. I do not think she was a very loving person either.  In fact, my brother reminded me that years later Grandpa found out his father was sending money, but his mother never told him!

My Dad on his Bar Mitzvah day on the roof of a building in the Bronx.

My Dad on his Bar Mitzvah day on the roof of a building in the Bronx.

I do know that in 1941 my great grandfather and his second ‘wife’ showed up in New York City, in the Bronx on the day of my Dad’s bar mitzvah. I do not know if one of the other siblings had kept in touch with him. I do not know why he chose that day. All I know is that my grandfather would not let him into the house. I believe my Dad met his grandfather in the hallway.

As for my grandfather’s siblings, we never met any of them except for Aunt Hady and her husband, Lenny. The others were not part of our lives. However, I do know that my Aunt Leona, my Dad’s sister, took piano lessons with her cousin at the apartment uptown. So she had some weekly contact with my great Uncle Jacob and his family when she was a child.

But I would one day like to know, where did my great grandfather end up and was buried? What was my Great grandma Sarah’s maiden name? Who was she?

And where are the children of Muriel, who had two sons; and Jacob, who had two children: Delilah and Betram.

I wish my Grandpa Harry had not been so scarred by his own father.He was a good man.  He provided for his family.  And he cared about us. I know in the moments that he discussed sewing with me that he wanted a connection with his family, he just did not know how. He was forever scarred by the scandal of his childhood.

Finding Katie!

13 Jun

When my maternal grandmother immigrated to the United States in 1922, she was sponsored by her father’s sister: her Aunt Gussie. I wrote about this in another blog, which I will reference at the end.

Grandma became very good friends with her first cousin, Katie L. They remained friends throughout their lives, even though they did not live near to each other. But the letters and phone calls seemed to keep their love for each other in tact.

Katie’s married name was Katie Alexander. That is the name we always heard, and this was the name we thought of when we spoke of Katie. It was so ingrained in our lives.   Grandma loved her cousin, Katie; she spoke of her often!

I think my sister was the most in love with the name.   She named her son, Alexander. And four years later, she named her daughter Katherine, or Katie. My Mom at first said, “How can you name her Katherine?” My sister was naming her daughter after my grandmother, whose name was Thelma in English/ Tova in Hebrew.

My sister reminded my Mom that Katie was Grandma’s friend and cousin. And since she did not want to name her daughter Thelma, she thought she would use Tova as the Hebrew name and Katie, Grandma’s cousin’s name for the English.

I laughed. I often tell my sister that she named her children for Katie Alexander. And so the name stays alive in my family.

Album

Last summer, while we were cleaning out the attic of the Catskill’s home that had been both our grandparents and parents, we found an old brown leather photo album. It was filled with photos from the 1920s. Many had no names. Some had Yiddish or Hebrew writing on the back. Some had just an address or a place.

Grandma:Katie

But within the photos was a photo from 1924 of Grandma and Katie. That was it. I decided I had to find out what happened to Katie Alexander’s family. Thanks to the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group, I now have that information. The wonderful members of the group found members of Katie’s family for me. And then I contacted them.

I have been in touch with one of her sons, a niece and a granddaughter. I have found out that another name we often heard in our home was Katie’s brother. We never knew Katie’s maiden name. She was always referred to by her married. But I realized after I send them some photos, that the Sam L. that my grandmother spoke was Katie’s brother. WOW!

I am hoping that they will be able to identify more of the photos in the album so we can put names to those nameless young men and women who were so important to my grandmother. I am so happy we were able to find Katie.

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/grandma-thelma-knows-what-she-knows/

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

Aging, Wisely and Joyfully

21 Feb

I spoke to my daughter a few days before her 29th birthday (yesterday). She lives in Israel and I live in the Kansas, so we spoke through a video chat. (Always makes me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the astronaut calls his family from space.) My daughter was bemoaning her advancing age.

“I am going to be old!” She cried. “I am almost 30!”

“That is not old!” I insisted. “Look at me, I am 60. I am not complaining about being old.”

“Well once you are old, you are old!” She said. “I am not old yet, just getting there.”

We both laughed. But the truth is, I do not feel old. I feel pretty wonderful.

I recently participated in a two-day workshop on “Wise Aging” presented by instructors from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Although it was presented in Kansas City, there were participants from through the Midwest. We all learned how to be facilitators in this new program to help people transition in to the next stage of life.

I was surprised when I was called by our rabbi’s wife and asked to participate on behalf of our congregation. But she told me that she thought of me immediately when she realized she could not attend, as I was aging so wonderfully. That was two weeks before my 60th birthday, and I will admit to a bit of concern. But okay, I would do it.

The two-day workshop was intense and exhausting. Fourteen hours of learning and interacting with the other trainees as we attempted to learn about the Wise Aging program, bring this program to life and learn to teach it to others.

I loved the idea of helping people see themselves as elders as opposed to elderly. As we age, we have so much to give to others. We can mentor and teach from our experiences.

There was one part of the program I found distressing. There was much discussion about teaching people how to let go of bitterness and learn to forgive those in their past who might have hurt them. It seems many people, as they age, hold on to old hurts and real or imagined insults.

I say, “let it go.” As does this program. Let go of these feelings because bitterness only makes you feel worse. I am a firm believer of the rule of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur to say I am sorry to any one I might have hurt and to forgive anyone who has hurt me. It is so much easier than carrying all that baggage around. And it makes life so much more joyful.

This workshop opened my eyes to how others see themselves as they age.   Whereas my husband and I are really enjoying our lives as empty nesters, others seem to have a difficult time.

So I say. Go to a lecture. We try to go to a program at least once a week.   There are many free lectures and programs available. Go to a concert. Take a weekend trip if you can. Get a kitten. Having a pet does wonders for people as they age. Travel with friends.

Yes the body starts to give out a little. But exercise is wonderful for keeping your body healthy. You do not have to run marathons like my meshugganah husband. But you can walk. I walk two to three miles almost every day.

Soup

Do something different. Yesterday, in honor of my daughter’s birthday, a friend of mine and I went to the new IKEA store in Kansas. I had not been there yet. We walked all around the showroom and the marketplace and the warehouse. I got lots of walking in and bought a few accessories. Then we went out for a bowl of chicken noodle soup and shared a black and white cookie at a deli. Happiness can be a bowl of soup and a cookie!

Find things that make you happy. And be happy. You have so many experiences to share and so much good to do. Volunteer for an organization you love. Meet new people. Keep being curious. My curiosity has led me to investigate further into my family history and I have found cousins I did not know I had. I love a mystery and solving it. Now I am focus on the mysteries of my family.

There is so much to do and so much more time to do it, now that I no longer have children at home.

So I plan to continue to age wisely and joyfully. I hope my example will help my daughter accept her almost 30 years and age joyfully as well.

The Connections Keep Widening, My Family Contacts Keep Growing

16 Feb

Overwhelming, amazing, stunning, these words cannot really describe my incredible journey in researching my family history. And I have only finished two of my great-grandparents. I wonder what will happen when I research the other six?

Since researching one of my paternal great grandmothers, actually the one I knew as a small child, I have been really shocked.   I have lived in a city in the Midwest far from my family on the East Coast for over 30 years. And in the past month my research has shown me that a branch of my great grandmother’s family settled here. We just lost touch with them.

But what is absolutely amazing to me, is that I know many of these descendants. I have volunteered with them, emailed with them, see them around town. I am Facebook friends with three of these distant cousins. They are all people that I like. One of them played an important role in the life of my son, as she was an assistant superintendent of the school district where he went to school, during a difficult time in his life.

And now I find out that they are my third cousins. I know that is not a close relationship. But they are my cousins. And in Israel, where my daughter now lives, it is her second and third cousins who have reached out to her and consider her family.

But these cousins in Israel are all family members that we remained in contact with over the years. We always knew who they were and were they lived. The cousins in Israel come from both sides of my family and my husband’s family. We knew we were family, cousins.

With the new contacts it is different. These new family members were unknown, but at the same time known. These are people I had contact with in many forums, people who have had some impact in my life, and I never knew that they were also my cousins. How strange is that? To me it seems extremely strange.

But it makes so much sense. The Internet has changed the world.   Before in the 1800s and early 1900s when people moved to the USA from Europe, they had no way to keep in contact, except through mail. And mail was not always easy. They were busy learning a new culture and a new language. It was difficult to keep in touch with relatives in New York or even in Europe. So the family ties were forgotten and lost.

With the Internet and the many ways to trace family history, these lost members are found. Through websites and Facebook groups, we can make contact. It was through the ‘Tracing the Tribe Group” that I made the first contact. But it was through Geni, that I keep seeing more and more connections! It is these Internet tools and their large outreach that enhances my ability to make these connection.

Those who know me, know that I love a good mystery. And searching for my family connections is the most personal mystery. Although I am glad I have found this family branch, it is more of the success of a hunt, of finding the answers to a mystery, the mystery of my family that excites me. How lucky am I that I can actually find new branches?

When I look at them now, I can see a resemblance in character. Every one of the four women I know are strong willed, determined and intelligent. They fit into my family, as my grandmother was a strong willed, determine and intelligent woman who worked until she was 77.

In fact, we take pride in my family that we are all strong women. And these four fit right in. Wow. If I could choose family members, I would choose women like them.

I plan to meet up with some of them next week for lunch. I learned they were my cousins several weeks ago. The other cousins, I just found out about this weekend when Geni sent me a match!

It is nice to know that I have connections here. I will look at them differently now knowing what I know about our large family. The connections keep widening and my family contacts keep growing!

Amazing Coincidences After Finding My Ancestors; We Are One People

1 Feb

It has been a crazy time since I found out the lineage of my two times great grandmother Esther (Etka Lew) Wolff. I have connected with distant family through the Tracing the Tribe Facebook page. I have been welcomed to see our very large family tree on Geni. And I have found out who my ancestors were back to 1720.

Amazing.

But the amazement does not seem to end. In one of the many emails my two distant cousins sent me I saw that a branch of the family, one of my three times great uncles descendants migrated to Kansas City. What! I live in the Kansas City metro area. I have lived here for 18 years with no family except my immediate family. For a while my husband had cousins here, but they moved away. Now I find out I have distant cousins here. Really?

And then I thought about it. Many years ago, when the Bialystok Home for the Aged still existed and they still did a newsletter, I would get the “Bialystoker Stimmer.” I was a supporter of the Home for the Aged because my great grandparents, my grandma and my parents were always supporters. So the tradition continued.

In any case, in one issue I read, there was an article by a man and his daughter from Kansas City. And I knew his daughter. I mentioned the article to her, and we would joke about it and call ourselves “Landsmen,” which we were. So when I heard that I had distant cousins here, I immediately thought of her.

I sent her an email.

“What was your maiden name? I just found out that a branch of my family, last name Lew/Lewin/Levin moved to the Kansas City area. (Originally from Bialystok region). Just curious.”

She wrote back. And it all fit. They were from the same small town, Ciechanowiec. Her dad’s last name was Lewin but he changed it to Levine in the USA. We were third cousins.

And I thought that was all.

But my contacts back east (EW and AB), who had been feeding me all this information, were not done. They had heard of my friend/cousin. But there were others as well. They sent me a diagram. And asked if I recognized any other names. I did. One was a boy the same age as my son, they had gone to school together through second grade and had played together. The family belonged to the same synagogue my family belonged to. We have been friendly acquaintances for 20 years. We are related through the father.

I sent them an email because I find it all so interesting. I would never have expected to find family in Kansas! I am still in a state of determined amazement. Jew from the small Polish village of Ciechanowiec settled in Kansas and Missouri!

When my children were little they went to the local Jewish day school. My daughter used to feel sad sometimes because everyone was related to everyone else, except for her. She had no cousins at the school. I wish I had known this when they were little, as they were in school together, although their children were younger and more my son’s age. We might not be family, but they would have been ‘cousins.’

My daughter lives in Israel now. Many of her cousins who she is in contact with are also third cousins. These are branches of my family and my husband’s family that we have been in contact with forever. She has many second cousins, as my husband’s first cousin moved to Israel 27 years ago. These cousins have all been welcoming and loving. It is strange that some lines of the family stay in contact, and we see these cousins even with the distance in relationship; we consider ourselves close family.

But some lines of a family are lost over time. The movement from Europe. The aftermath of the Shoah; the younger generations moving away.   I had information from my Grandma and my Aunt mentioning these lines of the family, but we had no contact with them.

What an amazing coincidence to find some of these third and fourth cousins in Kansas. Of course we are distantly related. Third and fourth cousins are not so close. But it was surprising to find a connection where I was not expecting to find one.

But even more important, it shows that the Jewish people are really one. We are interconnected. My family, with its approximately 20,000 descendants is a perfect example of the inter-relations between all Jewish families. And even though a number of my family, from both my maternal and paternal sides perished in the Shoah, we remain.

That is the most amazing aspect of my continued search for my ancestors how we are truly one people.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/serendipity-wins-in-finding-a-family-connection/

Serendipity Wins In Finding a Family Connection!

27 Jan

Serendipity is when events happen by chance and cause success or benefit the person who the events occur around. Today, a few days after my birthday, my life was ruled by serendipity!

For about a year now I have belonged to a Facebook group entitled “Tracing the Tribe.” I joined it mainly to see if I could find anybody related to my maternal grandparents. And last summer I did make contact with a family member through this group.

Recently I began thinking about my paternal grandparents, and wondered if I could find anything out about them. A few days ago someone started a comment asking people to put up the names of the families they were searching for on to the site. I did not do this. But I was watching. They then put all the names into a spreadsheet.

GG Grandparents

So this morning, I checked. And there was a name I knew, Wolf or Wolff, or Wolfe. That was my great great grandparents last name. So I put up a post on the page addressed to the woman who had posted about the name Wolf. I just wrote, “ My gg grandparents were Victor and Esther Wolff. Does that match your search?” She was not related to me.

However, soon another man posted, EW. He had some interesting facts and names. Names that were familiar. We soon realized there was a connection. It was a distant one. But it seemed possible that his three times great grandfather was the brother of my two times great grandmother. If so, I would have much more information for my family tree.

And so we sent emails back and forth throughout the day. I sent him a photo of my great great grandparents. He sent me a photo of his great grandfather. And there were some similarities.

And through these emails and looking into my family information that I had gathered from my Grandma Esther in the 1970s, it was definite. We were related.

His three times great grandfather Israel Lew was the brother of my great great grandmother Esther Wolf.   And I now had the names of her parents, Jankiel and Mindel Lew/Lewin/Levin (who were cousins) from Ciechanowiec. I also now had the names of more of her siblings, including Israel Lew, there was Azriel Aharon Lew, Fedjda Perlowicz, Betzalel Lew, Abram Boruch Lew and three more!

WOW! I always knew that my Grandma Esther was named after her grandmother, but I now learned that my Great Aunt Minnie was named after her great grandmother Mindel. That was exciting.

Not only all this. But I found out that Victor’s Hebrew/Yiddish name was Awigdor/Avigdor, which I had not known before now. Although I knew he had to have a Hebrew name. And that Esther was also known as Etka, which was probably the European name.

EW also found the date that my great grandparents, Louis and Ray, married: January 28, 1894, almost exactly 121 years ago! What serendipity that I was finding this all out now. Right near their anniversary! I was a bit stunned. All by chance. By one little message on a Facebook group’s page!

There was so much information in the multiple emails my new relative sent me, I think I had an information melt down. As I read each email it made more and more sense, and I could see the lines making the connections.   It was like a mini revelation!

I cannot explain the glow and the excitement that went through me! One little posting and I learned so much!

I was so glad that I had sat with my grandmother 40 years ago to get this information so that I could now say with certainty, I can go back one more generation in my family’s lineage.

And perhaps more! My sister and I have been trying to find out where our great grandparents were buried. There in all the emails was information on Beth David Cemetary in Elmont, NY. If other relatives were buried there, I believe there is a good chance our great grandparents are also there.

Serendipity, Chance and little guts to put a post up on Facebook.   What a win!

 

 

Update.  Found out my great aunt and uncle are in Beth David Cemetery, but my great grandparents are in Washington Cemetary in Brooklyn.

Update 2:  Thanks to another distant ‘Lew’ relative, AB,  I have now seem my family tree of my great great grandmother Esther Lew Wolf and have seen my ancestor back to my seven times great grandparents…back to an ancestor born in 1720!  For a Jewish family that is quite amazing.  And I can do that in my maternal side as well!