Tag Archives: Italy

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.




To read more about the family:





How I Learned That I Really Am 60 Years Old

9 Jul

I admit it; I am 60. It happened suddenly. One day I was 25 and getting married. And moments later I was 60, married for 35 years and had two adult children. How did it happen? I am not sure. But I will tell you that I do not feel 60. In my mind I am much younger. How old, I am not sure; but definitely NOT 60.

I walk between 2 – 5 miles daily. I exercise. I work. I volunteer. I do word puzzles. I write. I read. I crochet. I visit with friends. I shop. I keep moving. I am mildly obsessive and overly concerned at times. Most people I meet do not think I am 60, except perhaps for the grey hair. I do not get my haired dyed. And many times I am in a room with women my age and older, and I am the only one with grey hair. So I guess that might indicate my advancing age.

But recently, I realized that in fact I was 60. I realize that being 60 has made a few changes in my life and how others view me. Perhaps, it is just others who do not really know me.

It happened in Rome. My husband and I arrived on a Wednesday, arriving at our hotel about 11 am. Once we got into a room we decided to go exploring. Close to the hotel was the Castle of Saint Angelo, a lovely spot to investigate. We spent hours there going room to room, inside and out, lost in the corridors that date back centuries.


The Castle of Saint Angelo.

We finally found our way out and walked back to our hotel for a nap before a meeting and dinner. Imagine our surprise when our host arrived 45 minutes early. We were tired, but we got it together. He took us to tour the Basilica of San Paola and its cloister. Then to the Bambino Gesu Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Rome, for a short tour and where my husband presented a talk to the allergy section. From there it was out to dinner with 13 others for a five-course Roman meal….delicious. And then a two-mile walk to what we were told was the best gelato in all of Rome, the Gelateria Frigidarium. It was delicious. But we did not get back to our hotel till midnight.

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

Now after traveling for 20 hours, touring and a giant meal and gelato, I was tired. But with jet lag, I still did not sleep that well. And we had to be at the Jewish Quarter by ten in the morning for a three-hour tour organized by Jewish Roma. We did it. It was wonderful. We ate lunch in the Jewish Quarter then grabbed a taxi to get to the Vatican where we had another, 2:30 pm tour scheduled.

A portion of the ceiling in the extremely long reception hall, also known as the map room because of the frescos of different areas of Italy.

A portion of the ceiling in the extremely long reception hall, also known as the map room because of the frescos of different areas of Italy.

Also planned by Jewish Roma, we had a semi-private tour with one other couple. I would say they were in their late 30s and the tour guide, perhaps in her late 40s. This tour would take us through the Vatican Museum, not air-conditioned, to the Sistine Chapel. The museum winds it ways through room after room of art works. Long halls, galleries, so much to see. So much walking!! And finally, we are all herded into the Sistine Chapel where everyone stands and looks up ward at the magnificent art drawn by Michaelangelo. At least it had some air conditioning.

It was in this room that I realized I am 60,and other people noticed. We had moved to the back of the chapel to look around there before going out. Our lovely tour guide Sylvia, suddenly turned to my husband and I and said, “There are some seats that just came available. Why don’t you go sit there!”

Okay, we can. We walked over and my husband and I sat down. I looked over at him. He looked really tired. I must look tired as well, I thought. Then I looked up. The three younger adults were looking down at us. And I had a epiphany moment, I knew what they were thinking. They were thinking that we were worn out. They were worried about us. Would these seniors make it through the tour? Are they ok? Wow! I now know what my parents thought when I sat them down somewhere to rest. And you what? I needed that rest. It felt wonderful!

After a few minutes, perhaps ten, we said we were ready to go on. Really, we reassured the guide and the couple. And on we went. When the tour ended my husband and I went into St. Peter’s Basilica for a while. But after about 20 mintues, I was done. It was time to go back to the hotel. And I was not going to walk!!! Even though my husband assured me it was just about a mile. NO! I won.

We walked to the edge of St. Peter’s Square and got a cab.

Back to the hotel. It was about 5:30 pm. I took a quick shower and went to take a nap. My husband said he tried to wake me at 7 pm, for dinner. I did not move. I also did not move at 7:15 when he tried again. Finally at 7:30 pm, I did wake up and we went out for dinner.

We went just a block from the hotel to a lovely restaurant; then on to a gelato shop for dessert.

It was a wonderful day. We walked another six miles. We saw so much and learned so much about Rome. But we also learned that we are 60 years old!

Taking Trips Sometimes Bring Back Memories of My Parents

6 Nov

When I was a child, we never really traveled anywhere, except the Catskills. When there were school vacations, we might go visit an aunt and uncle in New Brunswick, but going on a trip that included a plane ride or a long car journey was unheard of to my family.

Each May we would go up to the Catskills for the Memorial Day weekend and get our bungalow open, aired out and ready for the season.   But then it was back to school for a month until the end of June when we journeyed up 17 to exit 104 and our summer home. But that was it.

My father traveled for his business. He went to Europe and California several times a year. He usually went to Milan and Como, Italy on business. Milan was/is the center of the fashion industry, and my Dad was in the textile/fashion industry.

Once in a while my Mom would travel with him, but not very often. She was a teacher and could not leave her class. She also did not want to leave us. But she did go to California and Milan several times.

When my parents were stilled alive, I went to Milan with my husband and son. My husband was speaking at a medical meeting there. My Dad told me in advance that I had to go to Como. He said it was a jewel of a city.

When we were asked if there was anything I wanted to do while there, I mentioned Como and the silk trade. I just wanted to find out how to get there.


Next thing I knew, there was a private car with a driver/guide, as well as a translator, to take us to Como for a day and visit the Silk museum and school. This was the center of silk and textiles in Italy for many generations. I think they were amazed I knew about silk and Como. When most people mention Como they also mention George Clooney. But not me, for me it was all the textiles.

It was wonderful. The driver/guide had actually studied at the university there. Our interpreter really did not need to tell me what the guide was telling me. Once I got into the museum, I knew all about it from my Dad’s businesses, first his embroidery shop in New Jersey and then his textile firm where I had worked when I was in college.

The guide and I had a great time examining every machine and the display case. My son and husband walked around with the translator, while the guide and I bonded over textiles and jacquard embroidery machines.

That was many years after my father took his last trip to Italy. It had been years since his retirement and the closure of his business. I bought him a book about the museum. When I got back we spoke about Como, that jewel of a city. A day was not enough. I could spend a week or more there. It is lovely.

I remember my first plane journey. It was with my family. We used to get dressed up to fly in those days. No sweats and t-shirts! The winter break of my freshman year of college, my family went to Florida and stayed at the Fontainebleau in Miami. It was the vacation of a lifetime for us. We had never journeyed so far from home before. My sister, brother and I had a wonderful time just relaxing on the beach.

I do have one regret. My sister, who was a sophomore in high school, wanted to go to Disney World. There was a bus trip we could have taken. But I did not want to go, and my parents would not let my sister go alone. My sister and I finally did get to Disney World together and spent a day at Epcot. I felt like I had redeemed myself. I loved it! We had a wonderful time. I had been to Disney World many times with my husband and children. But going with my sister was special.

Forty years later I went back to the Fontainebleau with my husband. I stood at the pool and I told concierge that it had changed so much since I had last been there. He was so impressed with how much I remembered from the trip when I was 18 that he gave me a copy of a small book written about the hotel’s history as a gift. I was thankful. The photos in the book brought back so many memories of that earlier trip with my parents and siblings.

My parents’ biggest trip, without us, was when I was a senior in high school and they went to India for three weeks. They never forgot that trip. The highlight for them was going to the Taj Mahal, the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of a Shah/emperor.   I saw the photos and remember my Mom’s telling me it was the most beautiful building in the world.

My husband has seen the Taj. He told me that the Taj Mahal was the most breath taking building he has ever seen. That even when he was leaving, he kept turning around to look at it again because it was so beautiful and amazing. His descriptions matched those of my parents’ recollections. And my interest in the Taj Mahal became more intense.

I have never gone to India, even though my husband has been there twice. But I made him and myself a promise. If he ever had to go to India again, and he was going to Agra where the Taj Mahal was located, I would go with him.

Later this year I will follow in my parents’ footsteps once again. I will walk up the path to the white marble tomb and see the building that fascinated my parents and my husband. I am going to see the Taj Mahal.