Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Ten Posts!

This is my last post of 2012. I thought it would be most appropriate to revisit my top ten most popular posts, especially since on January 1, 2013, Past-Present-Future, is celebrating it's one year anniversary!

#1. Holocaust Memorial Day: Learning from the Past, A Vigil Against Hate
#2. A Photo Worth A Thousand Words
#3. My Mitochondria
#4. Springfield Vermont, Home of the Simpsons and the Bloomfields
#5. Are You on the Fence? Top Ten Reasons to Jump Into Family History!
#6. Brick Wall Comes Down!
#7. Writing Prompt: First Driving Lesson
#8. Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?
#9. Part I: One Ancestor and Celebrating Israel's Independence
#10. Three Tips for Genealogy Road Trips!

Somewhat to my surprise the number one most read post was the Holocaust post I wrote on Holocaust Memorial Day, which recently surpassed one of my earliest and most personal posts, A Photo worth a thousand words. My Mitochondria took a strong third, which was no surprise as it was picked up by many on-line newspapers for months after it came out. Another surprising result was Brick Wall Comes Down, posted only two weeks ago, and already at number six! The Bloomfield Series of Posts made the Top Ten list three times (#4, #8 and #10) making it my most popular series! I was glad to see a variety of post such as family stories and genealogy advice.

Thanks everyone for all the support! Most of all, thanks for reading and for giving me such positive feedback. Thanks for sharing forward on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and all the other possible ways to share!

I look forward hearing from you all next year! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Should Genealogist Spill Family Secrets?

One of two photos Max Crane (far left).
One of my most mysterious ancestors is Max Hyman Crane.  His story has been difficult for me to tell. It's a "secret" family tale, full of taboos. Almost ninety years have passed since Max died, and though I struggle with making it public, I think it's a story that needs to be told. It's the kind of story you don't expect to encounter when you dig into your own family history, yet every family has stories like this. We can all learn something from them. I learned a lot from Max. I learned that like today, my ancestors struggled between their responsibilities and their passions, sacrifice and love. Most of all they were human.

Max was my great-grandmother Minnie's older brother. In Stored Treasures, Minnie credits Max with bringing his siblings to America. Here is how she describes her beloved Max. 
1903 was ".........the summer my brother Max came back from living in Pinsk.
Max was the second brother (the family’s third child). Max or Chaim Mordechai, as he was called in Hebrew, was a very sensitive boy. At a very young age, he was sent to study at the Yeshiva in Pinsk with my mother’s brother Hillel (Yarmovsky). Max went to continue his studies, help his uncle with the younger students, who were rich, spoiled kids, and sort of look after them. Max’s job was to wait on the kids, bring their lunches, run errands, and so forth. Somewhere in the process of study, he became indoctrinated with the ideas of socialism through some young revolutionaries. Uncle Hillel had a small printing press for his school. Max and his radical friends secretly printed propaganda leaflets on the school printing machines. Unfortunately, they were found out.
Pressure was put on Uncle. “Either you send Max away, or we tell the police.” He packed Max off home without any ceremony. 
Max found our small hometown to be intolerable. There was no one his age in Belitsa with whom he could exchange ideas. He left for America. Max was seventeen when he came to the United States. From America, he wrote his interesting letter telling us of his adventurous journey. Max’s ship, was not permitted to land at the first port of arrival because there was an outbreak of cholera at the port. 
 It took Max eleven months to finally land on United States soil.

Max arrived in New York. Mother’s brother, Harry Yarmove (changed from Yarmovsky), was there to greet him, but Max did not like New York. Instead, he headed to New Britain, Connecticut, where father’s youngest brother, Oscar Kranowitz (also known as Aaron) had settled. Uncle Oscar had five young children, two daughters and three sons, all of whom were nice to Max. They treated him like one of their own boys. He found work in a large food market. He went to night school and worked days as a clerk and delivery boy for the large market. Max was a young boy of seventeen or so, attractive with blond, baby soft, curly hair, blue eyes, fair skin, and a mischievous nature. The women customers liked to have Max take their grocery order and deliver it to them. Yes, in the pre-supermarket days, groceries were delivered. Max’s popularity with the ladies made a nice profit for the owner. Max could always get another job if the one he held did not suit him. Max made a nice living and saved his money. When he had saved enough, he sent for Brother Will (Vevel) and then for the rest of us."
She sprinkled only a few more Max tidbits later in the book. Max moved out of the family apartment to marry Freda Levit, a woman ten years his elder, whom Minnie didn't seem to like very much. She describes her as shy, and sickly. Minnie suggested Freda's often faned illness. They had a prodigy son, named Milton. What captured my attention was, that in her writings, Minnie failed to mention that Max committed suicide in 1925. He was thirty-six years old. She never explains the circumstances of his death.

A couple of years ago, at our Kranowitz/Crane family reunion, I learned a bit more about this tragic story. The Crane elders reported that Max was rumored to have had an affair, with his uncle Harry Yarmove's young wife. This is the very same uncle who received Max when he arrived from Russia and later offered work to the Crane brothers in Atlantic City. The lovers were about the same age, and almost a decade younger than their respective spouses. The wealthy, young aunt, was about to leave her husband, when he fell ill. Devastated, Max took his own life. No one was quite sure how (drowning, gas oven?). Freda, Max's wife was so angry, she threw away every photo she found of Max. Only two family photos were rescued from her rampage. He left behind a devastated wife, a young son (seven years old) and a torn apart family. I can only imagine the pain he was feeling and the stigma, shame and pain of those who loved him. My great-grandmother's choice not to share this story, reflects here generation. While today, memoirs are filled with traumatic events (or else it wouldn't sell), she chose to protect her family from such sorrow.
Uncle Harry Yarmove and his wife Annie (Back)
with their nephews Bernard and William Crane
at Bernard's graduation from Medical School
(University of Michigan) 1921

In his memoir,  Tales of A Clam Digger, Sidney Crane (Max's nephew), alludes to the affair. Referring to his great-uncle Harry Yarmove, Sidney wrote:
"Despite an early hectic family life, he treated his wife, Aunt Anne and children, as though they were the royalty he had once placed on thrones of gold."
According to Sidney, uncle Yarmove was a kindly mand and played an important role as patriarch. It was comforting for me to learn that the Yarmove family found a way to heal after such an ord.

Max himself remains as a puzzle and I decided to double check my document collection for clues. Years ago, before the internet, my cousin Minda spent long hours researching at +, YarEllis Island. Amazingly, she found four pertinent records and passed the information to me. According to Minda, Max arrived at Ellis Island on September 16th, 1905 aboard the Pretoria. The Pretoria departed from Hamburg. Here is the Ship Manifest I attached to Max, on the family tree:
Line 8 reads: Mottel Krainowitz, age 15, tailor, from Bilitz. He headed to Brooklyn NY with $15 dollars in his pocket. He paid for his own trip and was meeting an uncle, Joseph something (very hard to read, maybe Passisovsky?)
(Click to enlarge)

Since I've encountered this record three years ago, the following things have trouble me:
1. It is difficult to read. Many names are crossed out.
2. Kranowitz spelling is questionable. Ellis Island transcribed it as Kreinawitz while ancestry Krinsawitz. I can live with either. Misspelled Russian names are a dime a dozen in our line of work.
3. There is no other record indicating Max was a tailor. I can also live with this fact. Maybe he never worked as a tailor again. He was only fifteen. Perhaps he invented a profession because he was unskilled (a yeshiva student) and wanted to ensure his entry to the United States.
4. The Cranes had many uncles, none were named Joseph.  Illegible as Joseph's last name is on the manifest, it's neither Yarmovsky nor Kranowitz, the two known uncles in America.
5. Is Bilitz the same as Belitsa? I've never seen the shtetl's name spelled this way, but again, I could overlook this one.

Of all the many travel manifests I've found for my  numerous ancestors, this one is the least satisfying. Out of maybe fifteen facts, five are fishy. It was time to double check. I examined another record I had for Max, a US Naturalization Index Card. These cards frustrates me, because they don't provide much information. I can't afford to order so many records from the national archives. Instead, I wait for them to upload more documents while I save the index cards as a reference. I decided that, in Max's case, it was worth paying for the Naturalization Petition. These petitions, are rich with information, sometimes photos, and almost always provide information about how the immigrant arrived in the US. I bit the bullet, paid the ten dollars to our National Archives.

To my delight, they located Max's records quickly. On Monday, a thick envelope was waiting at my doorstep. Jackpot! Max's citizenship petition and records form 1908-1913. Low and behold, something jumped out at me from the page: Max was not aboard the SS Pretoria, from Hamburg. He departed from Liverpool, England on the Saxonia, arriving in Boston on October 5th, 1905!

One of three documents I received from the National Archives reporting Max Kranowitz, born 3/15/1889 in Belica,
Russia declared his  intention to become a citizen on Nov 8, 1908. He was 19 years old and a metal worker.
According to this document he arrived at the port of  Boston, Mass on the Saxonia, on 10/4/1905. 

Armed with this information, I was instantly able to located the Saxonia Passengers List:

Line 29, lists a Motel Kranowitz, 15 years old, a tailor, heading to Brooklyn New York. He paid for his won trip, carrying only $11 dollars and met his uncle with the last name of Yarmovsky, and if I'm not imagining it, the uncle's first name might say Hirsh (note: Uncle Harry Yarmov's Yiddish name was Hershel. 
(Click to enlarge)
Minda was very close! Her Motel, very much resembled our Motel. They were both fifteen and tailors! But this is our Motel-Max Kranowitz, who later (January 13, 1913) changed his name to Crane. Minda could not have known that Max enter the United States through Boston and not Ellis Island. (I will have to update the second edition of Stored Treasures with this information).

Here is my second favorite find of the week. It's from a new database recently released by the Connecticut, Military Census, of 1917.
Connecticut, Military Census, 1917 for Max Crane
Aside from the standard information, I learned some fascinating thing about my ellusive great-uncle Max. He was not only tailor, metal worker and shopping clerk, he was also a meat cutter! He knew how to ride a horse, handle a team of horses and drive a vehicle. He also considered himself to be a good swimmer!

The Crane siblings after William returned from WWI. Max is seated in the front,
 with his son Milton in his lap and wife Freda to his right.
The Crane/Kranowitz descendants, owe much to Max. He was the first to make the journey across the Atlantic. His experience not only shape his life, but encouraged his siblings to follow. His hard work was instrumental in bringing his family to America and helping them during their early years as new immigrants. He was the first to change his name to Crane. He was far from perfect, and sadly, his story met a tragic and premature end. As I am not from my great-grandmother's generation, I decided to share his story.

Now, I could use some help from my genealogy friends and of course family members who might have some information I don't. As always, the more I discover, the more questions arise. Here are a few:
1. I have not been able to corroborate Minnie's story of Max being stuck at sea for eleven months due to a cholera epidemic. Any ideas?
2. I would like to find a record of Max's death. I only know he died around 1925, but I don't know where. I would love to find his death certificate and his grave.

And here is another question for you all:
Do you think genealogist should "spill" these kinds of family secrets?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Brick Wall Comes Down! Running into brick walls, is what we do. Advancing in spurts, I vacillate between weeks  filled with a flourish of activity and frustratingly weeks full of dead ends. Nothing progresses and everywhere I turn, there are steep, thick, fortified brick walls. Clinging tightly to it's neighbor, cemented and stubborn, each brick obscures the treasure behind it. Daily, I chip away at this wall with my tiny chisel. What keeps me engaged in laborious work of unearthing the past is the hope of finding a tiny crack. Last week, I had one of those moments, a fissure which brought down a whole section of the wall. A river of information is now flowing through this widening crevice. I wanted to share this discovery with my readers, because there is much to be gained from reviewing the event and peaking through the crumbling bricks.

A few months ago, I connected with a fellow genealogy enthusiast on Howard is not quite a relative. We are barely related by several marriages, but he happened to be working on distant members of my family, and I happened to notice. Our trees crossed, and it sparked my interest. Full disclosure: my Geni tree has 236 matches at the moment, most of which I ignore. I ignore them, because:

  1.  I've tried to merge them in the past, but received no reply
  2. I've merged and it was a disaster because the other person didn't know what they were doing so I had to undo the merge
  3. I'm not sure it's a true match
  4. It's such a distant part of my tree (not blood relatives), that it doesn't seem to belong on my tree.
Passport  photo of
Chaim Bobrowsky
 (My second cousin thrice removed),
Posted by Howard

So why did Howard's profiles catch my attention? What attracted my attention was the fact that I did not know any living relatives from this particular branch of the tree, the Friedman branch. One thing I like to have, is a "living" contact from all my tree branches. Ideally, it's great if the contact is into genealogy, and become a collaborator. I identified Howard as such, and decided to contact him. He was adding old passport photos of distant relatives and I wanted to merge our trees, offer him information about ancestors he didn't have and learn from him about the descendants he was connected to.

We successfully merged our trees and had several interesting exchanges in September, and then our correspondence died down as each of us got busy and distracted with other things. The main The Friedman Tree is fairly blank on my tree. I have mostly names but no dates or locations. A common name such as Friedman is difficult to research without details especially where they are from. I'm a descendant of Yaakov Friedman. He is my fourth great-grandfather. I know a little bit, about his daughter Tzvia Pomerantz (Friedman), my third great-grandmother. She died on May 7, 1926 at the age of seventy-six in Bialystok. I have a remarkable photo, not only of Tzvia, but also of her grave. She married, Isaac Pomerantz, and the Pomerantz family has done a remarkable job on their branch of the tree, so much of my research has focused there. Tzvia was my great-grandfather, William Bloomfield's grandmother. If you've been following my blog, you know that I am writing an ongoing series about the Bloomfields. What remains a mystery to me, is where the Bloomfields are actually from in Russia. The name of the actual village. Though we believe they lived in Malec at some point, we are unsure where were they born. Being Friedman descendants, learning more about the Friedmans may answer some of my questions about the Bloomfields.

Yad Vashem Testimony Sheet for Abraham Bobrowsky (1872-1942c),
submitted by his son Meyer Bobrowsky and found by Howard.
Last week, Howard requested I make public the profile status of some of the ancestors because he found Yad Vashem records pertaining to them, but had limited access to my family. When I told him that I spoke Hebrew, and wanted to see the original records, he gladly shared them with me. Howard, had done a remarkable job finding these records. He knew a piece of history about the Bobrowsky branch of Friedman descendants, which I didn't know. He knew, they lost many family members in the holocaust. Sadly, my tree has many barren branches due to World War II, but because I have hundreds of ancestors, I don't tend to specifically look for Yad Vashem records unless I suspect or know that they remained in Europe around the time of the war. These are very powerful records which provide a wealth of information about the victims. As I examined this set of records, I was struck by the large number of family members who perished, by the fact that two cousins submitted all the information and that there were pictures attached to some of the testimony sheets. Most importantly, I learned the name of their village.

A Necrology page from the
Kamenetz-Litovsk Yizkor
 book for 10 members of
the Bobrowsky family
 (8 of whom perished in the holocaust).
After spending time on the Yad Vashem site, I find it difficult to sleep. Armed with what I learned from these records, I decided to search the Yizkor book from the town Kamenetz-Litovsk.  Many survivors of Jewish communities obliterated by the Nazi's published memorial books called Yizkor books, in order to preserve and document the story of their lost communities and of the victims. These books are mostly in Hebrew or Yiddish with some sections in Hebrew. They are available on-line through the New York Public Library. JewishGen.Org has links to the available translations. I'm pretty skillful at looking at these Books, and my Hebrew allows me to study the index and locate family members in both the Hebrew and Yiddish sections. It took, very little time, to find what I was looking for. The Kamenetz community had several edition of a memorial book. As I suspected, the Bobrowsky family was very active in this project. The not only submitted information about the relatives they lost, but they wrote articles, provided pictures and were active members of the committee which put the book together. All the wall came tumbling down! 

Thanks to a wonderful collaboration with Howard, I can now share, the story our family members so diligently preserved of their past. Before I met Howard, I didn't know anything about Tzvia's siblings, except their names and the names of their descendants. I now know, not only their names, but also, where they are from, what they look like, what they did, and how they lived their lives. As I pull each brick from the rubble, I continue to process and translate much of what I found. I'm confident that it will lead to many more discoveries both about the rest of the Friedman clan, as well as the Pomerantzs and the Bloomfields.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing!

Blog Hop

This week, I've had the honor to be invited to a blog hop! The purpose of the blog hop is to introduce readers to books and authors, the may otherwise haven't heard about. Honestly, before last week, I never heard of Blog Hops, but my mom, who happens to be a social media wiz, invited me to join. My mom, Dr. Barbara Lavi, is the author of a self help book called The Wake Up and Dream Challenge. As a clinical psychologists, she developed a goal setting technique to help her clients transform their lives. Her book, applies this technique to help people achieve their dreams. It's a unique book since it not only changes people's life, but it helps support 21 non-profit organizations, all of whom share the common goal of transforming lives. The fun thing about this blog hop, is that I get to introduce my readers to books from different genreas, not just genealogy which is my focus. As you will see, at the bottom of this post, I will invite you to visit authors whom have inspired me.  First, I will answer ten questions about my book, and then recommend other authors, who will be writing about their books next week!

My book, Stored Treasures, A Memoir, was published last year and is the story of my great-grandmother Minnie Crane's life. It is a compilation of her journal writings, my grandmother's writings (her daughter) and genealogical research work I did.

What was the working title of your book?
The working title of the book was Stored Treasures of My life. It came from a sentence Minnie wrote about her ambitious undertaking of writing a memoir. I had been digging up clues about my family history for years, and when I came across her extensive writings, I truly felt they were a treasure. I was stuck by the insight she had, that the act of telling her story was equivalent to sharing a hidden treasure. Eventually, I decided to shorted the title to Stored Treasures, which added a touch of mystery. The shorter title also expands the definition of this work from the story of one life to something much bigger. Personal histories, shed light on society and culture as a whole. While standard history focuses on war and heros, there is much to learn from ordinary people's lives. Minnie lived through an incredible period in history, two world wars, pandemics, great migration and the great depression. Her story is personal as well as universal. The details preserved in her tale are true gems and the inspiration for the title of the book. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I never set out to write a book. As an avid genealogist, I was doing research for my family tree. As often happens, I ran into a brick wall. I had a lot of unanswered questions, and it seemed that my great-grandmother's journals might have some answers. Minnie, who passed away in 1981, had written journals for the last twenty or so years of her life. These handwritten books, were a family heirloom, tucked away in attics and long forgotten. I requested my own copy, with the hope of finding some clues into the past. When I finally got a hold of the manuscript, it was, as rumored, difficult to read, confusing and repetitive. To make heads or tales of the material, I decided to "clean it up." I transcribed it, organized it into a sensible chronology and omitted irrelevant details. Once I was done, I was shocked. Staring at me form my computer screen was an amazing story! I saw right away, that this was the beginning of a book.

What genre does your book fall under?  
The book falls under non-fiction, memoir. In addition, it's a wonderful tool for genealogy. Anyone who has spend time doing genealogical research and wondered what to do with piles of information they collected, should read Stored Treasures. Minnie's story, could not have become a book, without the photos, supplemental research and documents I unearthed over the years. It's an excellent example of how to bring a family story to life and make it relevant to a larger audience. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This is a great question. I've long thought that Stored Treasures would make a great film, and could easily be adapted into a screenplay. Casting would be difficult as it would require at least two or three actresses to play Minnie, one as a very young girl, one as a younger woman and the third, the narrator and older woman. I chose three actresses who stand out to me for their beauty, softness and kindness on screen. I think Jennifer Connelly would make a great young Minnie, Amy Irving from Crossing Delancey could play the middle aged Minnie, and Tova Feldush who played Golda Meir could play the narrator and older Minnie. I would cast Russel Crow as Minnie's husband, William Bloomfield. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A young woman's brave journey from girlhood to womanhood, from old Russia to America at the turn of the twentieth century.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Stored Treasures is self-published. Never having written a book before, I decided to self-publish. I  did not want my book to sit on an agency's desks for years, while I struggled to get recognition. It was more important to get it out there, especially now that the publishing industry is in such  a flux. I loved learning about publishing a book. Self publishing has become very user friendly. I received a lot of support from, and apart from paying a professional editor, I did the everything myself, including the cover design, the layout etc. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The very first draft took only a month, but it was only the very first part of the book, which was Minnie's actual writing. The complete first draft, which included all the sections took about nine months. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are two books in particular that come to mind. The first is ELSIE: ADVENTURES OF AN ARIZONA SCHOOLTEACHER 1913-1916 by Barbara Ann Waite. This is one of the books I'm highlighting in my blog hop. Like me, Barbara Ann Waite turned her grandmother's diary into a book. Both Elsie and Minnie provide an incredible glimpse into the life of young women in America during the turn of the century. One, a Jewish immigrant in the East Coast, and the other a pioneer in Arizona. The second book is Missing Lucile by Suzanne Berne. Missing Lucile is about a grandmother Suzanne Berne never met. What impressed me the most about this book, was Berne's ability to piece together her grandmother's story with so little to go by. 

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Minnie was my inspiration to write and publish the book. My great-grandmother died when I was thirteen years old and more than thirty years before I published her story. I was her oldest great-granddaughter and knew her well. Yet getting to know her again, as an adult through her writing, transformed my image of who she was. Her strength and determination continue to inspire me everyday.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Stored Treasures is an unusual book since it is a collaboration of four generation of women. It's full of pearls of wisdom, hidden treasures and surprises!

Now for blog hopping! I invite you to visit the following talented, diverse and inspiring group of women authors:


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

JFK and My Grandmother

Last week, marked the 49th anniversary of JFK's assassination. There were several events around Boston commemorating this sad day, including an opening of his Brookline childhood home, which is now a historic site but is usually closed to the public during the winter months. As I was listening to a report about our 35th president on NPR, I remembered a photograph sitting on my desk.

This old polaroid photograph is one of my most valuable stored treasures. I found it, amongst the hundreds of photographs I've inherited over the years. Deeply stowed beneath aging family portraits, was a remarkable black and white snapshop:

This faded print of John F. Kennedy and Jaqueline Kennedy waving at the crowd, in their convertible, has been sitting on my desk for more than a year. I keep it there for several reasons—the obvious being—it's an amazing shot, taken up-close, shortly before he died. The main reason this photo remains on my desk is to remind me, that it's part of my genealogy puzzle, a small piece of my family's history, a clue to an unsolved mystery. 

Like many of photos in my collections, this one is not labeled. Unavailing the story hidden behind this photo requires detective skills. My first educated guess is, that this polaroid was taken by my grandmother, Ethel Alzofon (Bloomfield). It's fairly safe to assume my grandmother, a huge fan of instant photos, a woman who practically singlehandedly maintained the polaroid company for many years, took this 1963 polaroid. Ever since I can remember, she was snapping away with the latest model polaroid camera. Usually, the subpar quality of these photos, far inferior to 35 mm photos, did not deter my grandmother.  She loved the idea of instantaneous results! I remember the excitement of having to wait only thirty seconds before pulling the polaroid tab. I aslo remember how frustrating it could be to have to retake a photo because it was blurry or overexposed. Oh, how she would have enjoyed a digital camera! From the look of this picture, it's jagged edges and the triangular tab, I can surmount that this was a pre-1963 polaroid roll film (later discontinued).

November 22nd,  Thanksgiving day, was the actual anniversary of JFK's assassination. It reminded me to ask my mother about the Kennedy photo. "It's from the day before he was assassinated", she told me, "He was in Houston that day". She doesn't remember why she didn't go see him, maybe she thought there would be other chances. To this day, my mother regrets not going to see him. Only her older brother Larry and her mother went that day. Since the polaroid cameras did not have a zoom feature, we can deduct that they were probably in the front row, and quite close to the motorcade. 

As we pondered how close my grandmother and Larry were to this moment in History, I remembered something else I found in my grandmother's boxes. A related mystery. An invitation to Kennedy's inauguration. 

It's a beautifully preserved, embossed invitation, with an official golden seal at the top. Inside there is a schedule of events. Unfortunately there is no envelope. I can only assume, that, this remarkable invitation, pasted into one of my grandmother's photo albums, was intended for her. I have no idea why my grandmother received this special honor. My mother does not recall her ever mentioning being invited. In 1961 she was divorced and a single parent of four young children. She hadn't attended law school as of yet. My mother ventured a guess: maybe my grandmother worked on the campaign? I've made a note to myself to research this tip. She was quite certain that her mother did not attend the historical inauguration. Why not? Why would she miss this once in a lifetime opportunity? Was she planning on going? Maybe it was too difficult to leave her children behind? Perhaps the impending snow storm in Washington which almost lead to the cancellation of the inauguration, derailed her trip? Maybe she just couldn't afford the travelling?

These two tiny clues from my grandmother's past, raise many more questions than answers answers about my grandmother's life from 1961-1963. One of the most fascinating aspects of studying genealogy is how personal history becomes when we can related it to our ancestors. I thank my grandmother Ethel for leaving me these clues, glimpses into the past. 

I'll leave you with JFK's famous quote from his inauguration speech continues to resonate today:
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.”

Do you have a story that links your family into history? Do share!

To read more about my grandmother, see my book: Stored Treasures, A Memoir. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Personal Price of the Mexican Drug War

Today I received terrible news from Cuernavaca, the city in Mexico where I lived with my family for thirteen years. A close friend and her daughter were robbed at gun point. This sadly has become a common occurrence in our once peaceful little town. What shook me the most was my friend reaction. After having a gun pointed at her head, she decided to speak out!  I am answering her call, and this time, I will not remain silent either! Most people are scared to speak out! I don't usually write about politics or current events in this blog, but my friend is correct, we all have a responsibility to stop this war and not remind silent on this issue. I titled my blog Past-Present-Future, precisely because our past is intricately linked with our present and future. We live only in the present moment. Instantaneously that moment becomes part of the past. The future is the place we can hope to improve our upcoming present. Cuernavaca needs a change! Change begins with awareness! At a risk of sounding a bit like our politicians, today I am dedicating my blog to building a better future for the City of the Eternal Spring, Cuernavaca, Mexico.

View of the City of Cuernavaca
(When I google Drug War and Cuernavaca,
I can't tell you the horrible images that came up.
Though they describes the horror of what the
citizens of Cuernavaca are living with every day,
I decided not to post them here, since they are
 easily accessible to those who want to see.
It's a beautiful city, and I hope one day,
it can return to the peace felt in this photo
 rather than the terror in those other ones). 
Many of you are already well aware that Mexico is in the midst of a fierce war against drugs. Currently, violent drug lords rule the streets of most cities in Mexico while the government seems to be paralyzed. There was a very good New York Times Article about How the world’s most powerful drug traffickers run their billion-dollar business, which explains the situation much better than I can. What never makes the headlines, is how this war is affecting the everyday lives of Mexican people. Wikipedia has an impressive amount of information about the Mexican Drug War and it's effects, but nothing about the everyday folks. As a genealogists, I study history from a personal perspective, and I think this present crisis merits the same careful look.

The Mexican people are paying a huge personal price for this war. Our city of Cuernavaca is at the heart of the conflict. Before December 2009, most of us co-existed in Cuernavaca with drug dealers. Much like in America, we knew there were drug dealers, but they didn't bother us and we didn't do much about it. There was a relative calm, we didn't live in fear, and normal life was peaceful. Sounds familiar? Anyone reading my blog in the US is living in a much similar way. Tell me there are no drugs being sold in your city or town? Someone must be distributing them? Maybe you don't know the dealers, but you certainly know people who consume, don't you? Yet overall, it doesn't affect your life, so you read the Times or the Globe, and you think, "How sad for Mexico" and you go on with your day. We used to do that in Cuernavaca until, overnight, everything changed.

In December 2009, the Mexican Army invaded our town in an undercover attempt to catch an important drug lord. I recall watching CNN when they asked an expert, how big of a fish was Beltran Leyva? "He is one of the 50 whales in the ocean!" replied the homeland security expert. Naively, we thought: "Great, they caught him. Now things will return to normal." They did not. Instead, all bets were off. The vacuum in power this powerful drug lord left, resulted in an all out war which erupted in our streets. The gangs were fighting each other and the army. Within, six months, my husband and I decided we could no longer live in a city filled with flying bullets.  We relocated to the States. We were one of the lucky ones—we had choices, visas and job opportunities. Ever since, we have been working hard to rebuild our lives, reintegrate and reinvent ourselves. We try to focus on the positives. Everyday, we feel blessed with the opportunities America has given us: great schools, a beautiful home a wonderful community. Most of all we appreciate being safe! We count as daily blessings things our neighbors take for granted such the fact that our eleven year old can walk to his friends house alone, or that our boys can ride their bikes to the library or take the subway to Fenway park.

Only yesterday, my son commented on the numbers of people outdoors exercising. On our short ride back from school, we counted scores of young women jogging alone. He pointed out, that in Boston, people walk out their door, put on their head phones  and without a second thought begin jogging. "They don't even appreciate how safe they are!" he claimed. On the other hand, yesterday, in Cuernavaca,  my son's eleven year old friend, watched her mother as a gun with a gun pointed to her temple. How do you get over that? How can this be happening with such high frequency? The drug lords are so powerful, and crime is so rampant, that anyone can get away with just about anything these days, in Cuernavaca. Armed robbery, is considered petty crime, a minor offense. At the police station, her case went to very bottom of a pile of thousands of similar cases. Cases with very low priority (no one was killed), which will never be investigated or solved.

Everyday, more and more people, like me, are leaving Cuernavaca and abandoning ship. No one blames us for that choice. It's a difficult choice. Walking away from a life you've built, at the age of forty, with three children, is not easy. Many of our friends have done the same. School admissions were down thirty percent that year, all across town. Who left? Professionals, business owners, people who employ others. The brain drain is enormous and the economic as well as cultural consequences are difficult to quantify. My husband and I calculated that between us, our businesses andhome, we directly employed twenty-one people. Many of our employees were single parents who supported not only their children but elderly parents as well. They depended on our success and worked hard with us on many fronts. My husband had a thriving pediatric practice. Scores of patients relied on him for their healthcare. To this day, he gets e-mails and calls from patients hoping he will return or asking for advice. We may be safe, but we live with the guilt of having left our home, our city and our friends behind. As successful as the past two years have been, a move is always difficult and every member of our family is continuing to cope with what it means to have left Mexico possibly for good.

It might be upsetting for American's to hear, but in Mexico people are paying for the US's drug war. I strongly believe that as long as the market for drugs in this country continues to boom, Mexico has no chance to recover. If American's will not change their habits, change the laws and consider legalizing marijuana and restrict automatic weapons sales, Mexico has little hope. Mexico, obviously has it's share of responsibility as well. There is enormous corruption to be cleaned up and plenty of people who need to stop using drugs there as well. But the enormity of the market in the US is what is driving the flow of drugs north and the flow of weapons south. Americans have to take responsibility for that. There is an attitude in this country that Marijuana is almost like alcohol. It's not. It's still illegal. Every time someone lights a joint in this country, another Mexican family is paying some kind of price. Those of us paying the price, have to start talking about that, and asking who will pay us back for the price we paid?

Feigue Gerson (Bulaevsky) and Abraham Gerson
My husband's great-grandparents who brought the family to Mexico.
In the summer of 2010, Yahoo reported about 500,000 Mexicans leaving the country as a direct result of the drug crisis. I can't find the article, but I remember reading it and thinking: "They had not counted our family in those numbers since we had not officially moved (sold our house or hired a moving company yet. We came with two suite cases each." As we sat at the airport, waiting for our plane to take us to our new life, we sipped a Starbuck coffee and thought about our ancestors, who also left their country of origin because of insecurity or instability. In particular we thought about my husband's great-grandparents who left Vinitza, Ukraine in 1927. During sweeping arrests by Stalin, Abraham Gerson spent three weeks in jail. He was extremely lucky to get out alive. This event, drove him to the decision to relocate his family to America. He took his five sons, wife and mother in-law to Mexico City and waited to gain entry to the United States. Like my husband and I, they were looking for a safe place to raise their family. Mexico turned out to be that place. Mexico City in those years was a beautiful and safe place to live, with many opportunities for hard working people. Work hard they did. He and his son's founded and built the Temple and became very active in the Jewish Community. As their business success grew, they employed more and more people. Through leadership in the community, they became civically active in many aspects of Mexican society. Sadly, after five generations of the family living and contributing to Mexico, many of their descendants have chosen to leave. The Gersons boarded the transatlantic boat from Marcay to Veracruz, to face an unknown future. They had no money, spoke no Spanish or English and carried all their belongings on their backs. We left Mexico with a bit more savings, excellent language skills and a much more secure future, yet we did feel deeply connected to them, at that moment. In a way, history was repeating and we were re-living the story. That fateful day in December, my husband and I were caught in the cross fire of the bullets which killed Beltran Leyva. Like Abraham Gerson, we were lucky to get out alive. It may sound dramatic, but it's true. I had never been that close to bullets and grandes, and I hope I never will be again. Abraham and Feige's success ninety years ago, strengthens our resolve as well as increases our awareness of the price they paid. I don't often think of myself as a refugee, but that Yahoo article, compared the Mexican exodus to fleeing refugees from Afghanistan. Proportionally, more people left Mexico that year, than those who fled Afganistan at the hight of the war. Since 2010, many more people have left Mexico. I know, because everyday I hear about another family leaving Cuernavaca. I don't know if they are being counted, but ask anyone in Houston or San Antonio and they will tell you: "This flux of Mexican immigrants (most of them legal), is what is maintaining the economies of these cities and others like them."

I hope you'll join me in supporting my friends in Cuernavaca who are bravely fighting this war, by taking a louder stand against drugs in this America. It's our obligation to change things on this side of the border, so Mexico and cities like Cuernavaca can go back to a normal and peaceful life. I hope Cuernavaca can once again become known as the City of the Eternal Spring and not the City of the Eternal Gang Wars.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Digging Into The Past Is Not Always Easy

On Sunday, I had arrived at my destination, parked my car, but remained glued to the seat. I was listening to NPR and did not want to miss the end of the report. Sounds familiar? Unfortunately, This American Life, is a one hours show. Twenty minutes into the tale of American's most famous kidnapping of 1912, I had to tear myself away and join the group of little league parents cheering their boys. The high scoring game, was great and thanks to the power of the internet, I was able to hear the rest of the show as well as share it with all of you. It's an the amazing story of Bobby Dunbar, told by his granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright. Like me, she embarked on a genealogical journey, which took her to places she never expected. In this radio clip, she describes how and what she learned, much better than I could do.    
I look forward to reading the book: A Case for Solomon:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hats Off To All Genealogy Volunteers!

Part VII: Roots Trip Series
Writing Friday's post, I realized that though I had found Max and Leah Blumenfeld's memorial on, there was no tombstone photo. I completed my post, and simultaneously submitted a request for a photo. I've done this before. It can take a few weeks, or a few months. Sometimes I never hear back. To my surprise, not even twenty-four hours had passed, my request had was fullfilled. Amazing!!!!

This made me reflect on the power of the internet, the greatness of Find-A-Grave, and our wonderful community of genealogists. I strongly believe that like many aspects of our lives, genealogy has grown in leaps and bounds in the internet age. I for-one, am grateful. Being a mother of three, it's difficult for me to get away on research trips, like the one I took to investigate my Bloomfield roots this summer. I do a lot of my research on-line. Yet today, I was reminded, that behind these amazing websites, there are thousands of volunteers making my work so much easier. There are people uploading data, scanning documents, catching transcription mistakes, translating documents and so much more. On Find-A-Grave, you can request a photo if you know where a grave is located. Your request goes out literally to hundreds of users who live near the cemetery and have volunteered to fill these requests. A perfect strangers, visited Mt. Hebron this Saturday and took a photo of my ancestors headstone! I salute you!
Photo submitted to Find-A-Grave by D.M.

I learned two remarkable things from this photo! First of all, it confirmed my educated theory, that Max and Leah Blumenfeld who are buried at Mt. Hebron Cemetery are indeed the great-great-aunt and uncle I was looking for (see yesterday's post: Which Ancestors to Research). How do I know this? I already knew from the plot numbers that they were next to each other, but seeing a shared headstone confirms they are married. Second, the Hebrew inscriptions says Max, son of Moshe (Hebrew for Moses), and Leah, daughter of Moshe. Our Max was the son of Moses Bloomfield and Leah, the daughter of a different Moses, Moshe Chaim Chinitz. In addition, the dates of birth, which were not on the Find-A-Grave memorial, do correspond to the dates I have on their respective death certificates. 

The other even more important lesson I learned from this photo is Max's Hebrew name. I did suspect that Max was most likely Mottel in Yiddish or Mordechai in Hebrew. But what I did not know, was that his name was actually Israel Mordechai. Why is this important you ask? Israel Mordechai Pomerantz is the forefather of the Bloomfields. He was Max's great-grandfather, my 4th-great-grandfather and the oldest known Pomerantz on our tree. Traditionally, Ashkenazi jews only named a child after an ancestor who had passed away. Therefore, I can now date Israel Mordechai Pomerantz's death to before 1882, which is the year Max was born.  This fact may help research Israel Mordechai Pomerantz. It's a clue to file away for future work.

I'm inspired by all the volunteers who help us piece our family histories together! Thank You!

More about the Bloomfields:
Roots Trips Series: Reports from a Vermont and New Hampshire road trip to research the Bloomfield family history:
Part I: Roots Trip Road-trip planning!
Part II: Three Tips for Genealogy Road Trips
Part III: Roots Trip Gem of the Day, Looking for Moses Bloomfield
Part IV: Why in the World New Hampshire
Part V: Springfield Vermont, Home of the Simpsons and the Bloomfields
Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?

Guest blog on How I Met The Bloomfields

Friday, September 7, 2012

Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?

Max Blumenfeld (bottom left) with my
great-grandfather William Bloomfield (bottom
right) and their cousin Morris Birenbaum (standing),
Claremont NH, 1905. (Note the nice shoes.
They were working at the shoe factory at the time).
My motto is Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time. And, I confess: Max Blumenfeld was never on the top of my Ancestor List! Yes, I admit to possessing such a list. It's my running list of predecessors whom I want to learn more about. When you are as addicted to family history as I am, and have as many ancestors as I do—forty nine direct ancestors—it's essential to prioritize. So how do you chose which ancestors to research? Max and Leah Blumenfeld, are not my direct ancestors. I never met them, they had no children and honestly, four years ago, I'd never even heard of them. The little I knew about Max and Leah, I've shared in earlier posts about the Bloomfield clan, but in the last few months, since the my New England roots trip, Max and Leah have taken center stage in my research. 

Springfield Vermont left me with some nagging questions about the Bloomfields. When I set out, I wanted to know, why the chose to settle rural New Hampshire and Vermont. The trip has helped get a better understanding, but left me with a series of new questions. More importantly, I still don't know where Moses Bloomfield, my second-great-grandfather, is buried, except that it's somewhere in New York (See Part III: Roots Trip Gem of the Day). Finding a grave in a Jewish Cemetery in New York from 1917 is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Let me already disclose that, no we haven't found Moses yet, though I have several ambitious young Bloomfield cousins on the trail. Jimmy, my cousin even tracked down the undertaker from the death-certificate, but his company is no longer in business and no one has the records.

Genealogy, requires a lot of detective work and therefore, I collect clues. I tend to go over the facts many times, and sometimes, I'm blessed with one of those ah-ha moments! Before we arrived in Springfield, my cousin Jimmy had a feeling we would not find Max and Leah buried there. He had found a Max and Leah Blumenfeld who died on the same years (1951 and 1961 respectively) who are buried in New York, through the amazing website Find-A-Grave. Morbid as this may sound to the non-genealogist amongst my readers, Find-A-Grave is place where volunteers post photos of tombstones, slowly bringing much needed data form cemeteries across the US to the public. I doubted these are the same Max and Leah, because I had no idea why Max and Leah who spent their whole lives in Vermont, would be buried in New York. Blumenfeld is not an uncommon name and there could easily have been many Max Blumenfelds in NY. But as I mentioned before, the visit to Springfield taught me, that if you wanted to be buried in a Jewish Cemetery, you had to go pretty far. Not only that, from Moses' Death Certificate, I learned that he was buried in New York and this made it much more likely that the Find-A-Grave memorials do belong to our very own Max and Leah. One more clue came from Leah's mother death Certificate. Bessie Kenet, lived with Max and Leah for many years (At least from 1930, as it appears on the 1930 US Census). The same death certificate, states that Bessie Kenet is buried at Mt Hebrew Cemetery in, Brooklyn, NY! 

I found this photo recently in my
great-grandmother's album.
It was labeled: Leah and Max Blumenfeld,
Pittsburg, PA. I believe it was taken
around 1908 for various reasons.
In the 1907 Claremont directory, Max and William
had moved to Pittsburg. They were both single.
Max returned married. In the 1910 census it states
 they were married for two years.
Finally, according to my cousin Jimmy, his mother
used to say that this is the typical honeymoon pose.
"He is too tired to stand up and she is too sore to sit."
Upon my return, I found Max Blumenfeld's information from Find-A-Grave, and low and behold, he is buried at Mount Hebron cemetery in Brooklyn, and so are Leah Blumenfeld and Bessie Kenet. Mt Hebrew was a typo on the death certificate, it was actually Mt. Hebron and once again, Jimmy was correct! We both had hope that Moses and Freida might be in the family plot. Yet the question remained: Why are Freida and Moses not on Find-A-Grave? I didn't want to lose hope, and convinced myself that because Moses died in 1917 and Freida in 1928, it's very possible that even though they are in the same cemetery, those tireless volunteers of Find-A-Grave haven't gotten to their section yet. But before I sent scouts to survey this huge Brooklyn cemetery, I decided to dig a bit further. I googled and easily found Mt. Hebron Cemetery online. I located their exact burial plots, and one small fact jumped out at me. All three of the Vermonters have a plot in the Starobiner Society. 

What is the Starobiner Society, you might ask? Well, I had no idea, but by now, you know, that I am always attuned to clues, and this seemed like a good one. According to Wikipedia: 
 "A friendly society (sometimes called a mutual society, benevolent society, fraternal organization or ROSCA) is a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organization or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose. Before modern insurance, and the welfare state, friendly societies provided financial and social services to individuals, often according to their religious, political, or trade affiliations. "
Starobiner is a person from Starobin, a small shtetl in the in the region Slutsk, Minsk in what is now Belarus. This seemed to be an important discovery. Could the Bloomfields have been from Starobin or where the Kenets from there?  The closest we've gotten to pinpoint the town where the Bloomfields are from has been difficult. No one in the family seemed to know. From various family stories and records we knew they are from Grodno, but Grodno is a region and also a town. It's the Pale region of "White Russia" where all Jews were restricted to live in. It's like saying someone is from New York. But are they from New York State or New York City? Are they from Manhattan or the Bronx? Recently, Jimmy had a breakthrough and may have identified the actual town through Harry Bloomfield Birth Certificate. In this amazing document, we discovered that in 1892, an eight day old Gerszko Belous (Harry's Yiddish name) was brought into the Slawaticze temple, by his father Moses, a transient worker from Malech to be circumcised. This paper identifies Moses and his family as permanent residents of Malech, (a village in Pruzhany, Grodno, now in Belarus) in 1892. It remains to determine if they are from from Malech or just living there at the time? To decipher who was the Starobiner, Max or Leah, I needed do a little more research on Leah and back to the drawing board I went.

The 1910 Census was the earliest I found a mention of Leah Blumenfeld. There she is living with Max and has been married to him for two years. It states she had immigrated in 1906 from Russia. (Don't you wish the Census would ask people which town, not just which country they came from?). I also knew that Barney Kenet, Leah's brother was Max's lifelong business partner (See the Advertisement for their store I posted earlier). And then I found this amazing document:

Border Crossing US/Canada fro Leah Blumenfeld found on
Though the last known residence is illegible, I learned three important facts from this document. Leah's maiden name was Chinitz, not Kenet. She arrived at Ellis Island on 2/12/1906 and she was from Lenin, Minsk, Russia. The name Chinitz stood out to me, because it's fairly unusual, and I know a Chinitz family from Mexico. Kenet, was clearly the name her brother and mother took in America, Leah, may have never used Kenet. I have been unsuccessful to find her actual Ellis Island ship manifest, but I did look up Lenin, Starobin and Chinits.

What I learned was, the Chinitz family is quite a well known family from Starobin. They are descendants of the famous Rabbi, the Vilna Gaon. Being such a important Rabbi, his family history is quite well studied and there is a lot of information out there. This is a summary of what I found at the The Chinitz Family History : The story goes that the origin of the name Chinitz is Chana, known as Chine was the Gaon of Vilna's daughter who was born in 1746. Her sons were sent to establish residency in various towns, party to avoid the Tsar's decree that every Jewish man's son except for one, must register for the army. All the sons took the last name Chinitz to honor their mother renowned mother.  Moshe Chaim Chinitz went to Lenin, and Itzhak to Starobin. Many of the sons and grandsons of these families settled in Starobin, which would explain why Leah and Max were buried in the Starobiner Society section of the Mt. Hebron cemetery. This also, makes it very unlikely that Moses and Freida who died much earlier, would be buried near their son Max. Leah Blumenfeld (Chinitz), the 4th great-granddaughter of the Gaon of Vilna, is now the person on my tree whose family I can trace the furthest. Her family history dates back to the 1500s on one side and even further on other branches. 

To me, personal histories are fascinating, whether the person is a relative or not. This story in particular sheds light onto some of the many reasons why you should keep track and research in-laws and their families. Our family members spend time with the in-laws and friends, and so learning about those peoples lives, will shed lives into our own ancestors who are our main focus in the tree. In addition, I love paying tribute to family members by telling their untold stories, especially if they have no descendants of their own. Because this post has gone exceedingly long, I will continue with how I met one of Leah's nieces and what I learned from her, in my next post. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Part V: Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak

Part V: Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak
Continued from Part IPart IIPart III and Part IV

Last week, my son departed for a term in Israel with his high-school class. In honor of his trip I decided to complete the series about his great-grandfather,  my grandfather, Baruch Lavi, who started his journey to Israel in Magdiel, the same place where my son is now living and studying. In the last post in this series, I left my grandfather at Usha, a Tower and Stockade settlement in the northern Galilee. Because of ideological differences Usha began as two independent Kibbutzim, but  the conditions made it apparent, that there was not enough land or resources for two settlements. Luckily, the Jewish Fund, wanted more settlements, and my grandfather’s group, was to be relocated to a deserted hilltop near Natanya for their independent and permanent home for the Tel-Yitzchak group. Three and a half years after arriving in Palestine, my grandfather was finally about to fulfill his dream of building his own Kibbutz. This was a much smaller operation than Hanita (see Part IV)

David Manela (a founding kibbutz member)
 building the tower on ground breaking day
at Kibbutz Tel- Yitzchak
(Photo from Kibbut Tel Yitzchak Website)
At the break of dawn, July 25, 1938, three lonely tucks, overloaded with equipment, approached the abandoned hilltop. The long neglected, arid wasteland, surrounded by the Poleg River marshes, awaited them. In anticipation, the kibbutz members, spent the night next door at Even Yehuda. There they found shelter and collected the building supplies, tents, food, portable barricades and parts of the tower. Among the young men and women pioneers who piled onto these trucks, were my grandparents. They were twenty-five years old. That night, they embarked on what turned out to be, the rest of their lives. This smal group of Hanoar Hatzioni members from Galicia, won a moral victory for their political ideology and the Zionist youth movements in the diaspora. The hot summer sun beat down as they worked furiously to complete their task before nightfall, when the surrounding Arabs villagers were sure to attack. Together they unloaded supplies and erected the tower. They created a chain, passing buckets of gravel to line and fortify the large wooden wall, the main defense surrounding the fledgling settlement. They did this, without British approval and rendered the Kibbutz an existing settlement, overnight, safe from demolition. Rome was not built in a day, but to the Arabs dismay, another Kibbutz was. 

Hadasah Rosevald
The early days at Tel Yitzchak were extremely difficult. The hill was bare, and the sun brutal. The members lived in tents or makeshift boxes, turned homes. The first cement building on the Kibbutz was the cow shed. The mud was deep and vehicles struggled to make their way without sinking in it. They lived in constant danger of attack. As a young girl, I wondered how dangerous it really was on the Kibbutz in those early days. Attacks on the Kibbutz I knew, in the heartland of Israel, seemed unreal, but they did happen. In one such attack, on November 5, 1938, only four month after braking ground, two shots were aimed at the guards, from about eight meters away. The guards returned fire. After they heard the Arab attackers retreat they discovered one of their own, Hadasah Rosevald, had been shot. Hadasa, also from Lvov, joined the Kibbutz in September of 1938. During the day, she worked both as the head of communal projects, and as the nurse since she completed a first aid course. At night, she was in-charge of communications. She operated the spotlight at the top of the watchtower which signaled messages to nearby Jewish settlements. She loved sitting by the campfire with the guards and participating in political discussions. As a important leader in the  Hanoar Hatzioni movement, she was returning from a meeting at the Tel-Aviv central office that night. The movement needed her at the central office and wanted her to move to the city. She refused! She believed in doing the hands on work and was proud to hold such important positions, as a woman, on the Kibbutz. That fateful Shabbat, Hadasa headed towards the post, bringing with her food for the watchmen on call. Only nineteen, she was found dressed in her city clothes, bleeding to death from a bullet-wound to the head. The following morning, grieving kibbutz members buried her, very close to the site where she was found. 
My grandparents in their back yard
under one of the trees the proudly planted

How and when my grandparents met, I am not sure. I know my grandmother Rose Celnik (known as Ruja to all, and Shoshana in Hebrew), was among the founding members. She made Aliya from Tarnov, Poland with Hanoar Hatzioni around 1934, but when exactly she joined my grandfather’s group I am not sure. One of the things that impacted my grandmother the most, and that she loved to tell me about, were the malaria infected mosquitos which where endemic to the swamps in the area. As we walked through the green lawns of the kibbutz, she loved to point out, how when they first arrived, there was absolutely nothing there. On our monthly visit to the Kibbutz my grandparents would greet us as we parked under the tall eucalyptus trees. We could rely on them walking arm in arm receive us. The aged Eucalypti welcomed us with their unique aroma and my grandmother would recall nostalgically: “We planted these tree and many others to dry up the swamps. Back then there was mud, swamps and lots mosquitos” she would say, “and not much food.”

Basic food such as bread was in short supply on the Kibbutz early on. The orange grove was one of the first things they planted. Those oranges quenched their thirst and their satisfied their hunger when there was no bread to be found. At some point the Kibbutz built a bakery. They made enough bread to sell to neighboring villages. Benek (Baruch Sharoni), another founding member, rode the Kibbutz’s horse drawn wagon, on the dirt roads, selling fresh loaves of bread to near-by settlements. As he delivered the bread, he began exchanging books with the neighbors, and that is how the kibbutz's library was born. 

While war was raging in Europe and Israel was fighting for independence, all the kibbutz members were doing their part. My grandfather served as Muchtar, the contact person with the British. I find it funny to think of him communicating with the British, considering his English was very limited. Because of his official responsibilities with the British as a Muchtar, my grandfather was not among the Hagana members who worked in the underground munitions factory on the Kibbutz. Moshe Viser, now the Kibbutz's secretary still recalls Ben Gurion's visit to Tel Yitzchak pre-1948. Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister came to inspect the secret weapons factory. This clandestine factory eventually became part of the Israeli Army's Munitions Industry.

My father (bottom right) with his brother and parents
Around 1950
They lived every aspect of their lives according to their ideology. While they grieved the loss of their families in Europe they absorbed holocaust survivors who were arriving in Israel in droves, and they began having family of their own. My grandfather focus was the Hebrew language. He became a Hebrew expert, and an excellent Hebrew teacher. He taught Hebrew as well as geography at the local elementary school, where he eventually became the principal, educating children from various Kibbutzim and settlements in the area. His proficiency in the Hebrew tongue amazed me. He spoke better than most natives, without any detectable accent. He patiently corrected my Hebrew, constantly pointing out subtleties in the proper use of the language. There are many more stories I can share about my amazing grandfather, but this concludes the series of his early years in Israel, a part of his life which I've had to mostly gather on my own, since he was humble about sharing the details with us

My grandfather (Center) with a group of his students in 1977