Special, Not Different

I knew I was an adopted child for as long as I can remember. I wore this as a badge of honor as my parents reinforced in me that I was special, not different. Being an adopted child in the 1970s was not nearly as common as it is today. For me, though, it was as natural as watching the sunset. I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island. I had an awesome childhood, which was filled with all the wonderful things that a child could wish for. I had two loving parents, lots of friends, attended the local public schools, played Little League baseball and, when I was eight years old, enrolled in Hebrew School at our local synagogue. Okay, so maybe my childhood wasn’t perfect. All kidding aside, Jud

Searching for Preis and Finding Prajs

My father, Zelig Preis, was a Holocaust survivor. He grew up in Działoszyce, Poland which was the town of his mother's family, the Wdowinskis. He knew that side of his family very well, however his father's family, the Preises, were from another town and he saw them very infrequently. The Nazis swept through in 1942 and liquidated all of the towns in the area. Jews were killed or sent to camps. None of my father's three (older) siblings survived the war and neither did his parents. After his liberation from Buchenwald in April 1945, he was able to find a couple of cousins on his mother's side who had survived but that was the extent of it. As far as relatives on his father's side of the fami

Sholom Aleichem Remembered

To the world, he is the celebrated Jewish writer and humorist. To me, my great-grandfather. Although I did not know him personally, he left a legacy of laughter which we continue to celebrate and learn from. My father’s mother, Marie Waife Goldberg, was the youngest daughter of Sholom Aleichem. She passed down to my generation and those that follow the life story of the greatest figure in Yiddish literature in her book, My Father, Sholom Aleichem. My grandmother told me she remembered her father standing up while he wrote at a pulpit he designed himself. It was tall enough for him to rest his elbows with a place for a candlestick on top. He would stand there for hours, never disturbed when t

My Family's Stories in Jewish Music & More

Stories can teach us so much, inspire us and shape us. I’ve always wanted to write down the stories of our family as a lasting legacy to cherish and learn from, perhaps even be inspired by. Everyone has a story, and everyone has parents, grandparents. Why do I think mine have so much to offer and teach? As a little girl, I was always fascinated by the stories of my grandparents. Many of the stories were held as secrets until I was older -- some tragic, some historic, some inspiring and some sources of huge pride. Every family has a story -- I feel mine has quite a few that are worth remembering and learning from. My four grandparents all had something special, some more special than others,

A Surprising Story about Pop

My mother's parents were married for 63 years; I was privileged to know them until I was over 30. After my grandfather died (less than a year after my grandmother), my mother casually told me: "You know Pop was married before he married Nana." (in 1917) I responded with wild exclamations of disbelief, amazement, and anxiety. But it was true. My grandfather arrived in the U.S. around 1909. His departure was hastened by his first marriage, resulting from his mother, at the death bed of her friend in Poland/Russia, promising that their children would marry. My grandfather was a good son; he dutifully married the young lady (I assume it was not a love match), and immediately left for America. I

Never Forget Where You Came From

I never knew my grandparents, Pinchas and Sarah, Avraham Tzvi and Tsiriel. I never knew my aunts and uncles Chaim, Dvoire, Eliyahu, Esther, Freindel, Frimit, Hershel, Libe, Mendel, Minka, Ne’chem’ye. Yisroel, Yokheved, or Zelig. Among the 20 aunts, uncles, grandparents and countless cousins I could have had, only 2 survived! The rest were all murdered in Treblinka. My parents, Sam and Sabina, were from Poland -- my mother from cosmopolitan Warsaw or Varshava (as they say in Polish) and my father from a rural town called Kozenitz or Kozenitza (also in Polish). Having purchased false documents indicating that my brother was born in Germany, they came to the United States in 1949. Being the fir

Coming to America

Here's a little history as told to me by my mother and her sister Dorothy. You may hear other versions from other relatives, but this is the story as I remember it: Rachel Klein came to America in 1901 when she was 16 years old to stay with her sister Jenny. Her intention was to remain in America, so in order to support herself, she bought a Singer sewing machine with hope of becoming a seamstress. However, she got word from her father, Harry, that her mother, Esther, was dying of cancer and she should come home as soon as possible. She took her bags and her new sewing machine and sailed back to Poland. The boat trip was too long and by the time Rachel arrived, her mother had already died. A

The Purim Chicken

When I was about seven years old, I was trying to think of a costume to wear for the Purim masquerade event at Congregation Rodeph Sholom. My mother, who grew up in Poland, was the daughter of a kosher butcher. She decided that I should go as a shochet, a ritual slaughterer. I wore a white coat and a hat with a sign that I was the shochet. In my right hand, I carried a plastic knife. Under my left arm, I carried a live chicken. I was not sure who was more terrified, me or the chicken. The congregation's rabbi, Rabbi Harry Nelson, fell off his chair when he saw me. Needless to say, I won the prize for the best costume that year. The next day, my mother brought the chicken back to the chicken

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