18 August 2012

The Mishpucha

Now that I'm back in Berlin, I can write about the rest of my stay in Israel....

It was a really great trip, and the real highlights were getting the chance to see family members that I hadn't seen in as many as 22 years.

I was asked by several people how I had so much family in Israel in the first place.  Here is the very short version.

All four of my grandparents were Polish Jews.  3 of the 4 managed to get to the Soviet Union before things got really bad in Poland.  My mother's father (Zaida Boris), only 19 at the outbreak of the war, headed east with his older brother who had gotten back from the defeated Polish Army and rode out the war in Russian labour camps.  When he returned to Poland and reuinted with his brother, they learned that they were the only two survivors of what was a large family in Krakow before the war.  My grandfather married my grandmother and moved to Canada, where she already had family.  My great-uncle (Dod Henek) moved to Israel.

I saw Dod Henek's part of the family on Wednesday night (Dod Henek passed away about 15 years ago).  Dod Henek's son Aron and his wife Regina, Aron's two "kids" Doobie* and Chana (and her husband), and their kids.  Chana has two daughter's in their early 20s, and Doobie has 3 young kids, 2 of whom were there.

It's basically been 22 years since I've seen any of this family, the last time being during the summer my family spent there after my bar-mitzvah.  Chana's 2 daughters were just little kids at the time, and Chana told me how she remembered meeting me for the first time when I was about 3 or 4 on her visit to Canada.  I told her kids that I remembered them from when they were 3 and 1/2 years old (respectively).

I stayed with Yossi and Shoshi.  Shoshi's father was one of Zaida Boris's cousins who also survived the war.  With only one close family member surviving, my grandfather made every effort to stay close with all of the more distant relatives he could find, and Shoshi's father was one of them.**

On Tuesday night, Shoshi's brother, Menachem (a conductor and teacher at Israel's top high school for the arts) came over for dinner with his wife and son (a budding bass player).  It was another lovely evening with conversation about Israeli politics (as much as I could figure out because most of that conversation was in Hebrew), as well as great "shop talk" with Menachem!

Finally, on Friday night, we had dinner at a really cool restaurant by the sea on Tel Aviv's board walk with Shoshi and Yossi, and their kids (and their kids spouses).  Again, i probably hadn't seen their kids since around my sister's bat-mitzvah (when Shoshi and Yossi were living in Ann Arbor Michigan and drove up for the weekend).  It was great to reconnect with them and meet their significant others!

I also saw several friends while in Israel, including the Ramzailech*** boys, Gal and Amit.  They came down and picked me up on Thursday for an evening at a bar to catch up.  We had met up in Berlin in March, and Amit noticed that it was our 3rd meeting, each one on a different continent (first at Klezkanada in North America, second in Berlin -- Europe, and third in Israel -- Asia, technically).

As you can see, after I finished my article and submitted it, I still had a busy week.  Sometimes I was a little lazy during the day (mostly because I didn't want to venture out in the heat), other times i walked around Tel Aviv, but for the most part, the week in Tel Aviv was about visiting family.  I know my grandparents (especially Zaida Boris, who just passed away in November) would have wanted it that way.  For all of that generation, the idea of keeping your family close was the most important thing.  They lost so many of their nearest and dearest in the Holocaust and made every effort to stay in touch with everyone that they found.

* It doesn't mean the same thing in Hebrew.

** Our closeness with our cousins in New York is also due to the my grandfather made large efforts to stay close with any family members he could find.

*** www.ramzailech.com

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