Tag Archives: memories

China Pieces Connect Two Grandmothers

22 Sep

It amazes me that two women living a 1000-miles apart, who never knew each other, could have such similar tastes.  Perhaps it was their age, the world they inhabited.

My maternal grandmother grew up in Poland and moved to the United States when she was 16 years old.  She was born about 1906. With my grandfather, she built a wonderful business and life. And she loved china tea cups and other items.

Among my maternal grandmother’s items was a lovely little Limoges leaf.    I always loved the gold edging and bright flowers decorations that adorned it.  When I was asked what I wanted, I chose this little dish, and added it to the collection in my breakfront.

I assumed it was a little candy dish. In later years, I looked on line at antique Limoges pieces, and found a similar shaped dish described a trinket pin dish.  Which makes it perfect.  I love trinkets!

Grandma also had an English china bouquet of flowers that seem to be sitting in a bowl or basket.  Handcrafted in England, this little piece also intrigued me.  And I chose to have it in my home as well.

Meanwhile in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, another woman was born about 1903.  This woman was the mother of my husband’s step mother.  I knew her for a few years before she died.  My daughter was a toddler, who loved to sit in Gretchen’s lap and visit with her.

When Gretchen died, my mother-in-law, asked me to choose something from the collection of items she inherited from her mother.  She felt that since we knew Gretchen, we should have some pieces.

In the basement were several boxes filled with pieces wrapped in newspaper. Imagine my surprise when I found a small Limoges Leaf that was an exact match to my grandmother’s leaf.  I chose it.  It seemed to me that I was meant to take it.

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Among the other wrapped items was an English china bouquet of flowers in a basket…handcrafted in England.  It called out to me as well.

I brought both pieces home and set them with to the items from my grandmother.

My mother in law told me she wanted someone to look at her mother’s pieces and remember her.  I try.  I close my eyes and I see my daughter sitting on Gretchen’s lap and petting her arm.  My daughter never knew my maternal grandmother.  I have no images of them together, but I have many memories of my grandmother.

My grandmother passed away in the early 1980s.   I met Gretchen a few years later.  Through these two pieces of china, I imagine that they would have been friends.  For me these four china pieces connect them forever.  May their memories continue as a blessing.

 

Working on An Ancestor Mystery

20 Jun

You would think that with my niece’s wedding in two days my sister (the mother of the bride) and I would focus on the wedding. But not us. After a day of running wedding related errands, my sister and niece were putting together a display about our family weddings, when my sister and I got into a mini dispute over a wedding date.

This lead to my sister logging into her ancestory account to check the date, which of course led us into a lengthy look into our family mystery: our paternal grandfather’s family.

Once again we started searching for his family on the census documents and in other areas. We know his birthdate and the names of some of his siblings. And we think we found his family. We knew of six siblings in his family. We are now up to eight in the 1905 census. But there is one brother not yet listed. And we cannot find another census with the family listed. So we honestly do not think this is our family. We need to investigate more.

But that is not our only mystery. Sometimes the documents have all but one child born in the USA. Others show all but one born in a Russia. Some say the father, our great grandfather came in 1880 or earlier. Others say 1890. We know he was born in 1859 and his wife in 1865 we know they married in 1883 and started having children in 1885. The biggest problem is their very common names. If only we could find documents with the original last name of Grau instead of looking for Rosenberg.

We know our great grandfather abandoned the family when our grandpa was about 13. It is now looking as if grandpa might have been a bit older.

The names are so common that we have to be careful we are staying with the right family when we search. And it is difficult and confusing.

In the midst of this research, while I was looking for a post relating to my paternal grandfather’s family, I found a post I put up a while ago of two young girls which was never translated. This lead us down another path and, thanks to a Tracing The Tribe member, connected us to a relative on my maternal grandmother’s family. I need to do a bit more research before I can write about this photo.

But we have found a photo of my grandmother and what looks to be this woman. We know my grandmother visited family in Breslau in 1931, where this woman lived. And we know her mother has the same name of our great grandfather’s sister. So we are pretty sure she, this women murdered in The Shoah, is grandma’s first cousin.

My sister and I love mysteries and searching for our family in Europe. Identifying our family who perished in the Shoah is important to us. We want their names to stay in our memories.

So at my niece’s wedding, I sat with my mother’s first cousin and showed her some of the information. Sometimes she remembers a name or knew someone that my siblings and I never met.

My grandmother left Poland when she was 16 in 1922, while my great aunt stayed until 1936, when she was 22. So she had stronger connections with the extended family in Poland right before the war.

However, with this family member, my cousin had no memory to share. In fact she did not seem to know about the cousins my grandmother visited in Breslau in 1931. However she reminded me that my grandma was 8 years older than her mother.

We have one last link. The Yad Vshem testimony was submitted in 1999. I have a contact name and address. I know the person who submitted it would probably be in her 80s now. But I plan to send her a letter with our information and copies of the three photos I have. Perhaps we can make a connection.

My Father’s Tallit Comes to Family Weddings

20 May
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Dad ready for his bar mitzvah.

My father was bar mitzvah in September 1941 in the Bronx.  A few months later, the world would change for the USA.  But on this day, my Dad celebrated with his family.  He stands here on the roof of his building, posing so that they had this photo of him.

He used to tell us stories about  studying for his bar mitzvah.  He and his best friend would meet with the Rabbi together.  Their bar mitzvahs were held just weeks apart.  They were not the best students and often got in trouble.  His favorite story was telling us about the time they were wrestling while they waited for the Rabbi.  They accidentally broke the leg of the table where they studied.  Quickly they fixed it as best they could. But the leg was just loosely holding up the table.

Their Rabbi had a habit of banging his hand hard on the table whenever my Dad or his buddy, Willie, would make a mistake. This day things went wrong.  While they were chanting the service, the Rabbi slammed his fist on the table in anger. On this day the table and all the books fell to the floor. The table was broken.  The Rabbi thought his angry slam caused the table to break. He apologized and sent them home.

Dad loved to tell this story.

The tallit he is wearing in this photo was in his night table drawer.  I found it after he died.  There was a second, larger tallit made of the same material in the drawer as well.  My siblings and I think he got the second one when he and Mom got married.  It is traditional to get a tallit at your wedding.  In fact, some men do not wear a tallit to synagogue, even after their bar mitzvah, unless they are married…or going up for an Aliyah.

Dad had a third tallit; the one my Mom purchased for him when he became president of his synagogue.  Dad had been using a shul tallit for years, as his two were worn and really not useable.  The new tallit was lovely. My Mom selected not only the tallit, but also a velvet bag and a lovely silver tallit clip with in the form of the word, Shaddai, on either side.  Dad wore this tallit every time he went to services.

When we planned his funeral, we brought all three tallisim to the funeral home for them to bury with him.  The consultant who was with us throughout this difficult time advised us to keep the newest tallit.  “Bury the older ones with him,” he said.  “But keep this one. It is so beautiful. Isn’t there someone who needs a tallit?  Or use it for his grandchildren’s weddings.”

We listened.  I do not think any of us really wanted to bury it, so we kept that tallit.  My siblings agreed that my son could have this tallit.  We also agreed that it would be used for all the grandchildren’s weddings.

The first wedding was my daughter’s two years ago.  During the ceremony the tallit sat under the huppah with them. That evening for the first night of Sheva Brachot, seven blessings, they wrapped the tallit around them while the rabbi chanted the blessings.

My father’s tallit is the huppah at my niece’s wedding.

It will be used again in June, when my niece marries.  She chose the date of my parent’s wedding anniversary for her wedding date. My parents got married on Father’s Day in 1951.  My niece will marry on Father’s Day 2018.  And my Dad’s tallit, purchase with love by Mom, will serve as their huppah.

My Grandpa’s Voice Can Still Be Heard

15 May

On November 7, 1981, my cousin made a cassette tape of my grandfather singing his favorite songs in Yiddish.   It sat in my house for all these years. I could never listen to it after he passed away.  Grandpa had a wonderful singing voice and used to sing to us all the time in Yiddish.

Two months ago, I took the cassette tape to a company that turned it into a CD.  I got it back on Friday.  On Mothers’ Day, I listened to my Grandpa sing in Yiddish and listened to him speak about his life in Europe and coming to the United States in 1920.

He passed away in 1989, so it has been a long time since I heard his voice.  It was just as I remembered it.

Listening to this tape was interesting in many ways.  Most of the stories he told, I have heard before.  I had spoken to my Grandpa about his life in Europe many times.  I just never recorded him.  I am extremely grateful that my cousin made this tape.

He sang six songs.  Tumbaliaka, Hativah in Yiddish, Ofin Primpinchick,  Yiddisha Mama and two others I had not heard before.  He left out some I remember him singing. But it doesn’t matter. Hearing him sing these favorites is a gift.

Grandpa left his home in 1918.  He was the oldest of five children who lived on a 16-acre farm, that they owned, in Austria.  He said if he had stayed in Austria, he would have eventually had two acres for him and a place to build a house.  (I wrote about Grandpa leaving Europe in an earlier blog, see link below.)

When he first arrived in the USA, he lived with his uncle Morris and went to work as a butcher.  A farm boy, he knew about animals.  He worked for $4 a week.  He did not know English.  It was a job he did not like.  A month later, he switched to being a baker for $20 a week on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn.  (I never knew the address in Brooklyn. ) He was lucky. He had relatives who were both a butcher and a baker.  And they provided him with jobs.

Grandpa was brought up to follow the rules of Shabbat, although they were not extremely religious. He had no beard or payos.  But when he first started working at the bakery, he had to light a fire on Shabbat.  “I sat there and cried,” he said, “because my Mother always told me that if I light a fire on Shabbat I would die.”   He did not die, so the following week he lit the fire without crying.

Grandpa excelled at baking.  But he said he was very bashful.  People would say to him, “Do you want to meet a girl,” and he would say yes.  But they did not work out.  Then, by accident, he met our Grandma in Brooklyn.  He went to deliver a gift to someone, and there she was.

“Before Thelma, I did not look for someone. But when Thelma came it was different.  Something drew me to her,” he said.  “I was 25, she was 18 or 19.  To look at, she was nothing.  But it is the person she was. Someone made for you.”  (I disagree. I think my young Grandma was lovely.)

They got married in September 1925 and lived in Brooklyn, till my uncle was born. Then Grandpa opened his own business in the Bronx, where they lived for five years. And my Mom was born. In 1929, they moved to Linden, New Jersey.  My grandparents opened a new bakery.

But they had it for only about 18 months.

My grandmother was ill.  Grandpa said she had to go back to Europe to see a Dr. Lapenski in Krakow.  He could help her.  She was sick from the fumes from the gas in WW1.  I honestly had never heard that story before.  (I wrote about her time in Europe in earlier blogs, see links below.)

When Grandma came back, they moved to West New York, New Jersey, and opened the bakery they would have for almost 30 years.

“I wanted my children to have a better life,” Grandpa said.  “My Mom did not know that I had to learn to read.  I worked on a farm.  I had no education.  My parents said, you know how to work in the field that is enough.  My Mom thought I would stay in Europe.  She did not know that I would leave.”

My cousin asked if he was afraid to come to the USA by himself.  He started to laugh.  He was not afraid.  “It could not be worse than where I was,” he said.  “It had to be better.”

He told us a bit about his younger siblings and his parents. But the main discussion was the fact that none of them survived.  “I could not convince them to come,” he said.

As for his wife’s parents, my other great grandparents, Grandpa said, “From the day I got married I had to support her family.”  Which is true. Her mother had died during WW1.  And her father, was an educated man.  He studied.  “His wife made a living for him,” my Grandpa said.  When she died, there was not much income.

The tape was made just over three months after my grandmother died.   It was strange to hear Grandpa say her name.  He never said it when she was alive, to keep the evil eye from getting her.  He was still in deep mourning.  They had always thought he would die first as he was six years older.  But instead she died.

“You struggle and you pay for those things you did,” Grandpa said.  “Maybe I did something wrong.”  This was his explanation on why she died before him.  It made me so sad to hear him say this.  I remember how desolate he was without her.  (See Autumn Leaves blog link below.)

My cousin asks questions. Some Grandpa answers.  But he made his point.  He loves his family.  “I accomplished my mission.  I would have my own home.  And I did more than that,” he said.  He got to see four of his five grandchildren marry.  He saw the arrival of six of his eight great grandchildren.

Before he ended the tape, he sang one last song.  He sang of traveling the world, always  wishing he could go home and kiss the stones where he was born.  My cousin asked if he would want to go back to Austria.

His answer, Yes and No. (Grandpa told me that he never wanted to go back there.)

Hearing my Grandpa talk about his family; his children, and his grandchildren was bittersweet.  I made CDs for my siblings and cousins.  I think they need to have this experience as well.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/25/how-world-war-i-saved-my-family-or-my-grandpa-was-a-draft-dodger/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/02/23/the-melody-of-autumn-leaves-haunts-me/

https://zicharonot.com/2017/12/04/the-us-passport-a-matter-of-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

Jerusalem In My Heart

7 Dec

Yesterday I told my daughter not to go to Jerusalem. She and her husband live in Holon, about an hour from Jerusalem. I know that violence will explode as Hamas lashes out over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It makes me ill.

Nothing has really changed.  But those who work toward hatred use it as a cry to kill and destroy.  And the way the media and the politicians across the world reacts adds to the mob mentality of hatred.  If you show people rabble rousing then they will turn into hate filled mobs.  Why not use some common sense.  And just relax.  The US Congress recognized Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel decades ago. This is not news.

I love Jerusalem. It is in my heart. I spent my sophomore year of college in a Jerusalem attending Hebrew University, living in both Givat Ram and then Har Hasofim campuses. I traveled the roads and went throughout the area surrounding Jerusalem with ease. In 1974 and 1975 we could easily go anywhere in and about Jerusalem. There was no intifada. There were no walls and barricades. We all went where we wanted.

But still my family worried.  It was less than a year after the Yom Kippur War.  My Grandma Esther, who was born in the USA, would send me letters with newspaper clippings and write, “You could kill me in easier ways.”  My Grandma Thelma, who was born in Poland, would send me letters telling me to meet up with her family who had come to Israel after the Shoah.

My love of Jerusalem started before I even saw it,  when I was 11 years old.  The movie, “To Cast A Giant Shadow,” came out. I went to see it with my cousins and grandmas during the summer. I sat next to Grandma Rose, my cousins’ grandma. But we shared her. She had been a citizen of Jerusalem during the siege in 1948 when the Arab nations declared war on Israel after the UN declared the new country of Israel.  Jews in the Jewish Quarter of the old city were cut off without food or water as the siege started. They survived due to old hidden waters in the City.

Grandma Rose, Grandpa Asher and Uncle  Jack survived. But Grandma Rose told me she never forgot looking back to her city, to Jerusalem and wondering if she would ever see it again, when she was forced to leave. When all the Jews, families who had lived there for centuries, were taken out of the city by the Jordanian soldiers. She did not go back, but she never forgot. She died in the USA.

When I lived in Jerusalem, I was there when Uncle Jack returned for the first time, 26 years after he had been forced out as young man. My uncle and aunt came to Israel for their 25 wedding anniversary. And I got the benefit of being with them as my Uncle relived his childhood and told me about the siege and how they survived. He also never forget the last look back as he left his home.

I have been to Jerusalem many times. The heart of Israel. Where the Israeli government has its parliament, the Knesset; where the Israeli Supreme Court makes decisions that benefit those of all religions; where the holy sites of Jews, Christians and Moslems exist in close proximity.

It was in Jerusalem,  the city of peace, that I was taught to use an Uzi and an M-16 automatic rifle to survive.  It was soon after the Yom Kippur War and it was not always safe.  It was in Jerusalem that I became used to the bus drivers who would walk through the bus and ask about every package to find out who it belonged to , to make sure there were no bombs.  It was in Jerusalem that I felt the ground shake as the military detonated bombs it had found nearby in an empty field.  The terrorist groups have been attacking Jerusalem and Israel for decades.  Nothing seems to stop it.  There is always another reason they claim to try to kill or cause chaos. So this decision really changes nothing. The violence ebbs and flows like a tide.

I have been to the Temple Mount and visited the mosques; I have seen the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem; The tomb of Rachel on the road to Bethlehem; the tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Some of these places are difficult for Jews to access now.

Every time I go to Jerusalem now, I see signs of hatred rising. I love Jerusalem, like many others say they love it as well. But some times I wonder about their signs of love; they are are hard to decipher, to understand. Throwing stones, setting fires, stabbing, terrorists attacks. These are not signs of a people loving a city.  These are signs of destruction.

Recently I was at the Harry Truman Presidential Library.  I read about his recognizing the State of Israel and how so many American and international politicians were against this decision. But he did what he thought was right.  The world survived.

Instead of focusing on the one issue of Jerusalem, why is the world not focusing on the proxy war between the Shia and Sunni that is taking place in Syria?  Why not focus on the war occurring in Yemen?  Why not see the horrors that are happening in Turkey?  Why not Iran and Saudi Arabia?  Hundreds of thousands people have been killed.  Millions have been displaced.  Israel has nothing to do with any of it… so the Arab world stays silent.

Jerusalem is not the reason for all these conflicts.  There are much bigger conflicts within the Moslem Arab nations that is causing unrest in the Middle East.  I hope one day there will be a end of hostilities.  That both sides will decide to just live in peace.  That they will move forward and not ruminate on the past.  To be honest neither side can win, unless they let the past go free.

I Love Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

22 Nov

To me Thanksgiving always means staying in my pajamas and watching the Macy’s Day Parade. Yes the Macy’s Day Parade! That is what I called it as a child and that is what I still call it in my mind.

Growing up in the New York City metropolitan area meant that the Parade was an important part of our life. We lived close to Hoboken. And as ‘everyone’ knows the floats are built in Jersey, the giant balloons are stored in Jersey and the participants practice in Jersey.

As a child I remember my Dad driving us to Hoboken in order to drive up and down the streets of warehouses and peek in. You probably cannot do it anymore, but when I was a child it was possible.

I remember seeing the color guards and bands practicing in the street.

It was part of the annual build up to the great event itself! The parade.

I loved watching the parade on television. But most exciting was actually seeing the parade in person. My Grandma Esther was the executive secretary for shoe company’s whose headquarters were across the street from Macy’s!

The best year of my life was the time we all went into NYC to her office. We watched the parade in the warmth of her office through the giant windows overlooking the Avenue. It was tremendously exciting! I remember the balloons flying right past the windows. Wow. I had such joy. Did I say I love the giant ballooons. Many people make an annual trek just to see the balloons filled with helium!

I will admit getting there was a hassle and getting home was the worst. But seeing the parade in person was worth it. I still get a thrill just remembering.

Watching the parade on television November 23, 2017.

When my children were little, we would lie in bed together and watch the parade. To be honest, they were not excited as me. It did not matter. Thanksgiving morning the television stayed on the Parade channel.

Eventually my children moved out. But it does not matter to me. I need no excuses to watch the parade. When the Rockettes make their annual appearance I smile. When the bands play and the color guard twirl their flags I feel satisfaction. Each broadway show tune makes me want to see a play. And then their are my favorite floats like Sesamee Street!

When Thanksgiving morning arrives I will still stay in my pajamas. Get a mug of coffee. Cuddle with my cats. And spend three hours watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Thursday morning!

Are There The Ghosts At Holiday Celebrations?

21 Sep

Another holiday.  A festive meal. Visits with family and close friends. Celebrating. But as I entered the room for dinner, for a moment I saw my Dad the last time he celebrated a holiday at my friend’s home. And next to him was their mother.  Both passed away years ago. But I saw them smiling and talking. 

This is not the first time I saw a vision of a loved one who has passed at a holiday table or at a special event. I am sure some think it is just my imagination or a vivid memory.  Perhaps it is both. 

But I am not so sure. 

How can a vivid memory describe the moment at my daughter’s wedding when, for a brief moment, I saw my parents standing to the side smiling. Was it something I wanted to see so badly, that my brain produced the image for me? Perhaps. 

But what about those times when I can still hear my mother’s voice as I am preparing a holiday meal. I do not use recipes, I just listen to that inner voice telling me what to do next. But that voice is always my Mom or one of my Grandma’s.  So are they there?

Or when I went to purchase holiday challah. At first I thought I would just get one round raisen challah.  We really do not need two challah. But then there was My grandfather’s image pointing to the plain challah as well. Yes I purchased both. Grandpa was a baker, so I had to follow his advice. 

At our Catskills home I have the most vivid images.  One day this summer, as my sister stood at the kitchen sink, I saw two images next to her.  Both my Mom and Grandma stood there and each was superimposed on the kitchen that existed in their time.  It was just an instant, but for a moment I was in a time warp. My sister, my Mom and my Grandma all standing at the sink speaking to me. (They were probably all giving me instructions!)

We have spent over fifty years in the house in Kauneonga Lake, and the memories are so strong there.  We spent many Rosh Hashannah holidays eating a festive meal and preparing for the new year. But there are also so many summer memories infused in the being of the house.  It is not difficult to imagine a loved one walking in the rooms along side me. 

There are ghosts of people I knew in my synagogue as well. Since I go regularly, I am used to people sitting in certain seats. They are not assigned. But people seem to find a place that is comfortable and so sit there every week. I have my seat and from my vantage point I can close my eyes and envision the room filled with those who passed. 

Recently a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor passed.  When I turn quickly I still see him smiling as he sits in his seat, his walker close by. Other survivors who passed fill the seats as well. When I see their children and grandchildren still coming to synagogue, I feel their spirit of joy in the congregation. 

But the most poignant for me happened about two months ago. I noticed a young man come in to shul with his wife and newborn son. They walked directly to the seat where his grandfather always sat. He sat in his grandfather’s seat holding his son, whose name was a memory for his grandfather. I really thought I could see Sol smiling at his grandson and great grandson filling his seat. It is one of my new favorite memories.  

I believe when someone dies they do not totally disappear.  A bit of them, an essence, stays behind. A smell, a sound, a place can bring their memory and their spirit/presence  back to us. I hope I always see and sense the ghosts of the ones I love at my holiday and other celebrations.