Sunday, December 27, 2009

Crying for people you do not know

Well, this is all my grandmother had left of her uncles and aunt and her own grandparents.....

This photo was taken around 1900.   Hard to tell what was going on there.   So if they had converted, I checked into it, you were Jewish to the Nazi's unless the conversion occurred before 1875ish.   I think of that little girl, Elizabeth Klein in the middle and know what part of Hungary they were from and know that most of them got taken directly from their village to Auschwitz.  
I lay down next to my persian cat now at night and think, she never would be laying in a comfortable bed in a warm room with her cat.  She would have been early middle age and if they let her live it would have been in a labor camp.

I know the names of these people, because I asked my grandmother when I was maybe 12 years old.  I had labeled every picture and placed them in an album.  When I asked her who they were she said they were my great-grandfather's family that never came to America.  Later when my grandmother got sick while I was about 17 or 18 with Alzheimer's disease (though they called it senile back then), we found the 1940 something paper about the Nuremberg trials she had saved and the names of a few Nazi war criminals circled.  My mother (her daughter-in-law) said she didn't understand why she saved it.  Someone got rid of it quick. 
My grandmother was not one to save papers, she only saved one other paper it was about my eldest uncle who was mentioned in Stars and Stripes during WWII.  I still have that paper.  My family was one that liked to tidy up bad information anyway.   There were other skeleton's in the closet that we all just went around pretending didn't happen.
Well, Elizabeth this one is for you as well as for me.  I will work hard to make sure I get to that mikvah.  I can only hope that something else happened to you and the rest of your family and not Auschwitz.  I don't know if I will ever know the truth, although I think I do.  I so wish there was someone to ask like my father, but he is no longer with us, so I can't.
I can only surmise someone thinking we "Why do we need to know this information?"  No one knows for sure what happened to them.  We are Christians now-especially my one uncle, so therefore we need to leave these people in the past.
I can't save them, but I can contribute something to our lost past, that is probably all I can do.

10th of Tevet, 5770 / י׳ בטבת תש״ע

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Why should the grand-kids find out, it has nothing to do with them?

I think this is what my grandmother and her family must have been thinking, no one will ever know, but I can only surmise.
I have many free flowing thoughts with the discovery that my great-grandpa lost his family to the Holocaust and starting Helen Epstein's book "Children of the Holocaust, Conversations with Sons and Daughter's of Survivors"
I want to know the details, but I don’t want to know-it scares the _____out of me.

  • You feel like you are betraying the secrecy on your family, by bringing back the Judaism.
  • Will we outlive our life of peace in the US or will someone decide to persecute Jews to such an extent again and then I am coming out of the cave of protection that my own grandparents set up for me?
  • Feeling like I am playing a game of well, you may think I am a just Jewish convert, but how Jewish am I now?  I really don't want to be Jewish this way.
  • Not understanding why my grandparents changed their names and got baptized several generations ago…but at the same time realizing they were out to save their own selves.  At the same time I have the feeling they may have betrayed their own.  Not understanding why my grandmother was supposed to be Lutheran (at least that is what I grew up thinking), but I never saw her enter a church in her life…now I guess I understand her secular feelings.
  • Feeling like I lost my Jewish upbringing, because my grandparents didn’t want this for me.  However at the same time I want it back.  Feeling like I had something taken from me.

9th of Tevet, 5770 / ט׳ בטבת תש״ע

Friday, December 25, 2009

A discovery and the bomb that was dropped on my heart....

In doing geneology, I realized, duh, that my great-grandpa came over here without all of his family from Austria-Hungary.  In fact when he came, he left behind brothers Nicholas, Soloman and possibly Elizabeth Klein.  I don't know if/or they were baptized in 1902 or not.  They remained in what is now the Serbia-Croatia area and many were from small towns in the area.   So one day about 2-3 weeks ago, I started adding 2+2 and got 4.
My grandmother had and article found in her apartment after she died, it was the Nuremberg trials with names of Nazi war criminals circled, my dad actually went to visit one of the camps when he was stationed in Germany after the war and described some of it to me, and he would watch endless documentaries on the Holocaust,  my grandmother's brother went back to the village (it was Yugoslavia by then with the border changes) and found the cemetery of the village had been blown up by the in the war.  However, no one had ever volunteered the idea that anyone could have perished in the Holocaust. 
Strangely, I had a patient, named-Mr. Mensch (no I am not kidding that is his name) yesterday.  He mentioned reading "Children of the Holocaust" by Helen Epstein to me.  I have already ordered it.  He is a Jewish psychologist and child of a Holocaust survivor.  He said it is not unusual for families to cover it up in this way.  I feel horrified, a little bit crazy, and very, very sad that some of my relatives may have been victims.  Even if they weren't...we can only hope, all Holocaust victims of any culture should be remembered.
Part of me wants to keep searching, part of me wants to keep hoping it isn't true.  It certainly makes this sudden drive to be Jewish even more important.
I have enclosed today the Mourner's Kaddish:  I am aware you need a minyan for that, but it is the internet and I don't think we should have to wait until Shoa Remembrance day (It is held on the 27 Nisan (April/May). In other countries there are different commemorative days – see Holocaust Memorial Day:

May the world pray for peace on this Sabbath night,
8th of Tevet, 5770 / ח׳ בטבת תש״ע

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas?

So this is my first Christmas as a Jewish girl.  Yes, I know I haven't been dunked into the Mikvah yet, but I am living a Jewish life as my Rabbi has instructed.
I have to say it doesn't bother me that people mistakenly tell me Merry Christmas, but when they are insensitive louts like one of my co-workers today...I was speechless.  She asked me for my address the other day, as I recently bought a new place in August...then three days later I get this gigantic Christmas card in the mail with one of those newsletters about her personal life and how greatly successful it is.  A little backround on this:  She recently had a baby.  Unfortunately, I am unable to have children, however, I actually took time out to go to the hospital and visit her and the baby when she had it.  I personally was very proud of myself for getting beyond my feelings and being a good person.
It is common knowledge to most of my co-workers that I have decided to I go to classes during the week and have had to leave at a few weird hours, two I keep fairly Kosher (only one set of dishes thus far though) and three I happily talk about my Chanukah and other Jewish life experiences.  I will give this girl the benefit of the doubt, as she is so wrapped up in her own stuff, she may not have noticed.  However, part of me would like to send her a belated Chanukah card in Hebrew.  I know revenge is not a good thing in Judaism, so I will "can it" for now.
Thus far I haven't really missed that much of Christmas.  I definitely have not missed the religious part and the marketing madness/stress are something most of us can do without.    I decorated a little for Chanukah with some driedel lights and stuffed Chanukah animals as well as my menorah and that got me through the part I really missed...the decorating.  I wrapped my Chanukah presents beautifully as well, which made it more fun.
I have yet to figure out the best answer to the mistaken Merry Christmas dilemma.  I work with patients and I think most people say it automatically and mean well.  My only answer is Happy Holidays to you as well.  I really don't think it is necessary to put people like this on the spot.  However, I have to find the peaceful way of kindly telling others who may not mean well that it is simply not my holiday.

6th of Tevet, 5770 / ו׳ בטבת תש״ע

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Conversion for Spirituality or Aliyah to Israel?

 First of all thank you Dena for your question from before that brought to mind yet another burning issue... Orthodox conversion.
There are about as many facets to this as a Rubik's cube (picture yourself in the middle of this room).

* First of all I am committed to being a Jew for spiritual reasons.  If I go to Israel, that would be great, but I will freely admit thus far I like my life in the Diaspora.
* Second of all there are kinds of rules and regs involved in moving to Israel, unless you can prove you are an Eastern European Jew from only one generation ago-this is my understanding.  Here is a link to Israel and Conversion .  They pretty much insist on Orthodox Conversion.
Interesting, I think Hitler went back 3 generations and if G-d forbid there ever is another Shoa, my gut says no one will ask me where my Jewishness came from (from my geneology or my heart).  This is probably why my Grandmother Klein would not think this conversion is a good idea even though I think she lived a life a faux Christianity, because of her father's conversion.  On the other hand, I think she would be fine with my love of Judaism.
*  Orthodoxy is great, but I am not a literalist in regard to Torah.  Yes, maybe it happened, but maybe these stories are meant to be studied and interpreted and not read like a history book.
This leads me to being more of a Conservative or Reform Jew.  I don't mind the laws a kashrut or having two sets of dishes.  I do think they need work on Women's rights.  Check out the movie "Kadosh" sometime.  You can rent it on Amazon sometime and watch it online:

It is radical, but I think there is some truth to it as well.  Incidentally Amazon is a good way to watch films on many different Jewish subjects, documentaries and Isreali film.  I am always looking for a good way to watch movies on Judaism and culture.  I utilize Shalom TV, too.  Sounds silly, but they do have some good info on there if you are fortunate enough to have a cable provider that offers it.
* Then I will back track and say I am a Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis fan and she is about as Orthodox as one can get, just don't sign me up for wearing of head covering outside of schul yet-he'd have to be one special Orthodox guy.
Back to the studies.....
3rd of Tevet, 5770 / ג׳ בטבת תש״ע

Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Night of Chanukah

I just lit my Chanukah candles way late, but unfortunately spent my middle Chanukah days sick with a sore throat and asthma.  I have been delinquent over the last few days of lighting my candles as I have been so sick I feared falling asleep and burning the house down.
They have menorah's of all shapes and sizes as you can see...this one less traditional.
I would call this one the Carrie Bradshaw Menorah, with cheap Chanukah candles:

Today I am better so I said my blessings using my Hebrew transliteration and then said them in English.  Word to the wise do not buy cheap Chanukah candles.  They go every which way and they burn out too quickly.  I prefer the traditional candelabra type.
I have a beautiful new menorah, but also a cheap one that I am using so that the candles do not make such a mess on it.  Moving the menorah is bad-something about the mitzvah I don't understand yet, but I will.
Good Shabbas,
1st of Tevet, 5770 / א׳ בטבת תש״ע

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jewish Names and Jewish Identity-a small rant...

My frustration on this subject is almost never ending.  I have had it shoved in my face by at least 2 people-one whose name was Randy(?) sorry I don't get this guy's point at all.
So folks, here it is, I sadly do not have a Jewish name yet.  My great grandfather Heinrich Klein (whose brother's were Jakob and Salmon) was still my great-grandfather.  I am immersing myself in a mikvah as soon as I can and I am studying like a maniac, but those people who think being Jewish is some sort of private country club have hassled me about this.  Wasn't it religious intolerance that killed 6 million in the first place?  Nice job guys...

All I can say is outside of Orthodoxy in the laws of Reform, if born to a Jewish father you are Jewish.  If I go through an Orthodox conversion it won't matter.  I am studying under 4 different Rabbi's:  Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist.  More about pro's and con's and what I think about that later.
If I choose a Jewish name it will be Esther, after a wonderful woman named Rebbitzin Esther Jungreis, who would probably love this blog as she calls assimilation the next Holocaust. 

(Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis (left) with US Ambassador to Hungary, April Foley)

My closest friend is named Jill, but I don't go around calling her Joheved (which is her Jewish name) unless we are doing it jokingly.
So if people choose to hassle me, because my name is mother was Italian for goodness sakes, give my parents a break. 

Okay, I am returning to my Hebrew study now, it is a lot more productive thing.
27th of Kislev, 5770 / כ״ז בכסלו תש״ע

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Recap of Chanukah Day 3

It's late at night.  We had a Chanukah party and I ate my first latkes ( potatoe pancakes).  

I received a very nice menorah as a present.  Our Chanukah celebration day corresponded with my birthday and I received a very nice statue of a Rabbi from my friend's grandmother.  It was really a wonderful day....

Important things to know when lighting the Chanukah candles are the blessings which are sung...

Blessing for lighting the candles 

Menorah (Hanukkah)

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר (של) חנוכה.‏
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‑olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner (shel) hanuka.
Translation: "Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light[s]."

 Blessing for the miracles of Hanukkah

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, שעשה נסים לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה.‏
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‑olam, she‑asa nisim la‑avoteinu ba‑yamim ha‑heim ba‑z'man ha‑ze.
Translation: "Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time..."

An added Chanukah blessing: potential Jewish boyfriend called and emailed :) today.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to talk to him much due to mass chaos of opening Chanukah presents going on in a room with people from ages 12 to 92.  It is great to be in a room with 4 generations of a Jewish family.  If you think about how Chanukah is yet another Jewish survival story...this is just another illustration of Chanukah miracles.
26th of Kislev, 5770 / כ״ו בכסלו תש״ע

The Dreidel-Atlantic City with religious permission

I thought I'd start with a dreidel review most of us know what it is, but few of us know what to do with it.

A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. It is used during Hanukkah to play a popular children's game that involves spinning the dreidel and betting on which Hebrew letter will be showing when the dreidel stops spinning. Children usually play for a pot of gelt, which are chocolate coins covered in gold colored tin foil, but they can also play for candy, nuts, raisins – anything really!
Dreidel is a Yiddish word that comes from the German word "drehen," which means “to turn.” In Hebrew the dreidel is called a "sevivon," which comes from the root "savov" and also means "to turn."


A game similar to the dreidel game was popular during the rule of Antiochus. During this period Jews were not free to openly practice their religion, so when they gathered to study Torah they would bring a top with them. If soldiers appeared, they would quickly hide what they were studying and pretend to be playing a gambling game with the top.

Meaning of the Hebrew Letters

A dreidel has one Hebrew letter on each side. Outside of Israel, those letters are: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and ש (Shin), which stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Sham." This phrase means "A great miracle happened there [in Israel]."
After the State of Israel was founded in 1948 the Hebrew letters were changed for dreidels used in Israel. They became: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and פ (Pey), which stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Po." This means "A great miracle happened here."
The miracle referred to in both versions of the Hebrew phrase is the miracle of the Hanukkah oil, which lasted for eight days instead of one.

How to Play the Dreidel Game

Any number of people can play the dreidel game. At the beginning of the game each player is given an equal number of gelt pieces or candy, usually 10-15.
At the beginning of each round, every player puts one piece into the center "pot." They then take turns spinning the dreidel, with the following meanings assigned to each of the Hebrew letters:
  • Nun means "nichts," which means "nothing" in Yiddish. If the dreidel lands with a nun facing up the spinner does nothing.
  • Gimmel means "ganz," which is Yiddish for "everything." If the dreidel lands with the gimmel facing up the spinner gets everything in the pot.
  • Hey means "halb," which means "half" in Yiddish. If the dreidel lands with a hey facing up the spinner gets half of the pot.
  • Shin means "shtel," which is Yiddish for "put in." Pey means "pay." If the dreidel lands with either a shin or a pey facing up the player adds a game piece to the pot.
If a player runs out of game pieces they are "out."
Happy Chanukah to all,
26th of Kislev, 5770 / כ״ו בכסלו תש״ע

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Project Unassimilation

Happy Chanukah!!!
It is the second day as those of you who are Jewish know already.  
So what is the purpose of this blog?
Well, for those of you who may be interested in converting and for those of you who have family that may have a Jewish heritage looming in the background..this is for you.
This started with an interest in Judaism, parents who gave clues to a Jewish heritage that they may have not identified with or felt ashamed of, a gradual dislike of the Catholicism in which I was raised, and a close Jewish friend whose family practically adopted me.
The project will include:
approximately 20 more Intro to Judaism classes
Torah class and attending many, many services
Holidays (includes Jewish family)

Jewish culture, history, and cooking
Learning Hebrew (at least enough to pray, if not more)

and Hopefully a trip to Israel someday....
Until next time,
Someday to have a Jewish name too.

25th of Kislev, 5770 / כ״ה בכסלו תש״ע