Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Gift that Keeps on Giving for Mother's Day

Four Generation of Mothers and Daughters
Top Row from left: Ethel Bogdanow (Bloomfield) my grandmother
 Minnie Bloomfield (Crane) my great-grandmother, Barbara Lavi (Bogdanow),
my mother. Bottom row from left: me and my sister Lee.
June 1976
Minnie Crane, my great-grandmother, was born on April 30th, 1896, exactly one hundred and sixteen years ago, today. The anniversary of her birth and a fast approaching Mother's Day, has made me think and gifts. Finding the perfect gift, is a difficult task. I've always believed in giving meaningful gifts. I tend to give presents when I see something special for a certain someone. For example, on my last trip to Mexico, I had a lay over at the Dallas Airport. Even though buying gifts at airports is really not my thing, but I bought my husband some Dallas Cowboys tattoos at the Cowboy Store. He's a huge Cowboys fan and the store was practically made for him. Football season is months away, but he loves his gift. Normally, I struggle, when I need to buy a timely gift. This only heightens my  respect for the gift my great-grandmother received on her 70th birthday. In 1966, her grandson Larry, gave her the perfect gift, a gift that keeps on giving. A blank notebook.

I doubt Larry thought about the perpetuity of this gift as he carefully wrapped the blank journal. Larry, famous for his elaborate gift-wrapping skills, could turn an old newspaper, into art. He would color parts of the paper and paste a mosaic of photographs or special memorabilia. He literally metamorphosed the giftwrap into a collage worth framing. Finally, he would top it off with a piece of old string which he would fastened into an mesmerizing bow. I can only imagine the magnificent wrapping he must of concocted for his grandmother's 70th birthday present.

When Moma, carefully uncovered her gift—she must have used extreme care with Larry's elaborate creation, folded it neatly and set it aside—she found the following dedication:
Dedication on the front
page of Moma's first Journal
signed by Larry and his wife Deborah
"To my dearest Moma,
They call this book a "manuscript" book. Well, you don't have to to write a manuscript, but I hope you will use it to write down what ever you want: daily events, remembrances, your stories.  
I am already looking forward to reading it. Have a good year.
I love you very much (and Deborah does too)
                                           Larry & Deborah
The scene is called Dawn because it's on the 1st page of something new." 
Like all proud grandmothers, she must have beamed with joy at his expressed interest in her life. Yet, unlike most grandmothers, she took this request quite seriously. I particularly love the post script of Larry's dedication where he explains the dawn scene he sketched for her at the top of the page. He compares the first page of writing a memoir to the dawn of something new. What a beautiful image, to think of reminiscing into ones past as the dawn of something new. For more than a decade, she diligently wrote down her memories. One journal, turned into two and then many more. Her grandchildren impressed with her commitment to writing, continued buying her more blank books and encouraged her to keep going. Sometimes they asked questions or suggested writing topics. In 1981, when she passed away, she bequeathed to them hundreds of pages of her unfinished manuscript.

At first, the notebook was a great gift to Moma. She found much gratification in the process of writing and in knowing that her life was important to others. Then she returned it as a gift to her grandchildren who cherished and learned from it. Subsequently, it landed in my hands, the hands of the next generation, and changed my life. Her story—like most people's story—is not only her individual story, but part of a rich family tale. Finding her writing was like hitting the jackpot for a genealogist. The hidden pearls and gemstones within it's lines answered numerous questions about my family history. Eventually I turned her manuscript into a book. Stored Treasures, A Memoir, brings together her remarkable story—the one her grandchildren knew full well was worth preserving—with a large collection of my genealogical detective work. Now that "the stored treasures" of Minnie's life are out in the world and available on-line, the gift of a blank journal continues giving to a much wider audience than Minnie or her grandson ever envisioned.

Here is the amazing thing. One fan of the book, bought two signed copies recently. She wanted to give a copy, for Mother's Day, to both her mother and godmother. She planned to add a blank journal to each gift. Her present—like Larry's original gift—is a request to her "two" mothers to record their own legacy. She chose Stored Treasures, the story of an ordinary woman who lead an extraordinary life, hoping to inspire and make them believe that they also can write a Memoir.

Minnie was not a writer, yet her story reads beautifully, both because she wrote it from the heart, and because she got some help—from me, and my editors. Many people do not believe in their ability to write a memoir because they lack faith in the strength of their story and/or their writing skills. Neither is true. It is the ordinary things in life, which are amazingly special. One does not have to be an award winning author to record one's story for prosperity. Writing one's memoir is first and foremost gift to oneself and one's family and maybe one day to the rest of the world. If Moma had not jotted down her stories they would have been long lost and forgotten. But she did. And now, her gift, not only preserved a very personal view of an incredible period in history, but is inspiring others to pick up the pen and write their own story.

Happy Birthday Moma. Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers out there. And maybe, this Mother's Day, think about giving the the gift that will keep on giving! Ask a mother, or a grandmother to tell her story! Trust me, she will love embarking onto the dawn of something new.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Part II: One Ancestor and Celebrating Israel's Independence

Zigo with some of his friends in Poland. As apparent from their dress
in this photo, it is evident that they came were fairly well off families
and were not from very religious families.
Continued from: Part I: One Ancestor and Celebrating Israel's Independence

Let's pick up, the story of my handsome grandfather, Zigo, about where we left off yesterday. At the age of twenty-one Zigo was perusing his dream to establish and independent Jewish State. Motivated, inspired and idealistic, he left his home and family. The year was 1934 and Israel, the country was still 15 years away. Today Israel celebrates 64 years of independence. "Will You Still Need Me..... When I'm Sixty Four?" asks the Beatles song? It certainly needed young Jewish idealist in the 1930s. I say, it still needs them and their memory today.

Back in Poland, his good looks, intelligence and talents promised a bright future at the university or at the family fur business. Instead he chose farming. "Oy!" I can practically hear his mother say privately to her husband, their bright young son leaving everything for swamps, mosquitos and malaria?  But there was no stopping my grandfather. He believed in working the land and becoming self-sufficient as a people. My impression growing up was that my grandfather alway guilty for leaving his family behind. I will never know if his parents approved of his ideology or his decision to move to Israel. He never talked about it, so the best I can do, is use some deductive reasoning. Many pioneers of his generations, came from orthodox or traditional homes, where the Zionist doctrine was denounced. I believe my grandfather's family may have been a bit more open to his principles. My grandmother told me that unlike her, my grandfather spoke little to no Yiddish back in Poland. He acquired Yiddish later, in Israel, from my grandmother and friends. His lack of Yiddish, hints at the more secular nature of his upbringing, Yiddish being the dominant language, in more religious
Michael Jampel (1931-c1943)
July 1935
My grandfather's brother

households. It is conceivable therefore, that his family, business oriented and secular, supported his dream. The choice to leave Poland was a defining moment which saved my grandfather's life. In Israel, he fought the Arabs, deceived the British, battled disease and suffered from hunger but he managed to escaped the terrors of the Holocaust. While electing to peruse his dreams, defined him as a man, failing to persuade the family to join him, weighed heavy on his heart. The unprecedented dangers that loomed over Europe in the early nineteen thirties were inconceivable to most Jews who lived in relative comfort throughout the Diaspora for at least four-hundred years. If my grandfather’s parent understood his decision, they were unable or unwilling to follow him into the hardships of life in Palestine. They had a successful business to run as well as small child to raise. My grandfather's brother, was three years old in 1934.  Surely they felt blessed he had escaped the horrific years they must have endured before they perished, though I doubt this brought much comfort to my grandfather.

Zigo visited Poland three times before Germany invaded Poland in 1939.  He return to Lvov seeking treatment for eczema; a skin condition which plagued him throughout his life and which he passed on to me. Apparently there were no good dermatologist in Palestine at the time, while Lvov was a thriving metropolis with experts and specialist of all kinds. I take comfort in knowing that my grandfather had three opportunities to visit his parents and brother after he had originally left Poland. Turns out, that in addition to tending to his medical needs, these trips had a secret agenda. So secret, that he kept it from me, for many years.

During one of my trips to Israel as an adult, and after my grandmother passed away, I accompanied my grandfather on a house call. We drove north to some small town, to have tea and biscuits with a dear old friend of my grandfather's. A petite, wrinkled old woman, greeted us at door and welcomed us into her tiny yet tidy apartment. She knew perfectly well who I was, having met me many times when I was a young girl. I of course required a reintroduction: 
“This is my second wife...” my grandfather stated calmly. 

I was dumbfounded, shocked and speechless. Lost in my thoughts, I failed to hear the rest of his introductions. I remember the moment so clearly, but for the life of me, I cannot recall the woman’s name. I was his oldest granddaughter. I knew him my whole life and yet, until that very moment, I never knew my grandfather had been married more than once. Not that I have anything against divorce, or ex-wives—my maternal grandmother had three of each. But why the secrecy I wondered? As I was recovering my ability to speak, I made some quick calculations. I was pretty confident that my grandfather did remarry after my grandmother passed away, so I asked the question, I knew he was expecting of me: “And my grandmother? Which wife was she?” 
     “My third” he replied, with a gigantic grin. He was basking in the pleasure of watching me looking wide-eyed and baffled as he prepared to tell me this rare bit of his own history, a small pearl from the past. His friend, or shall I call her, his second ex-wife, was clearly in on this plot. She was enjoying my grandfather's sense of humor and my bewilderment. They both proceeded to fill-in the details of their short lived marriage.  As I listened, I realized, he could have given me a heads-up in the long car ride, but he was saving the story to share the fun with his dear friend. 

My grandfather (top left) with a group of
friends in Magdiel (The Garin-seed settelment)
were they prepared for starting their own
Kibbutz. Maybe one or two of those women were
his x-wives?
As the Nazi party strengthened in Germany, between 1929 and 1939, the largest wave of Jewish immigration to date, the Fifth Aliya, was taking place. One hundred and seventy-four thousand, mostly educated German Jews and Eastern European youth, among them my grandfather arrived before 1936. This rapid growth of the Jewish population lead to Arab demands that the British Mandate controlling Palestine, halt both immigration and the increasing Jewish settlements. When their demands were not met, the Arabs were left with no choice but revolt. The great Arab Revolt, as it became known, began in April 1936 with a general strike. Jewish settlements, largely dependent on Arab labor as well as British institutions suffered from the strike. Quickly the revolt escalated into riots and increased violence throughout Palestine. The British finally succumbed to the Arab pressure and placed unilateral quotas, restricting Jewish immigration. As the restrictions were imposed, Aliya Beit, the second and illegal part of the Fifth Aliya commenced. The Mossad La’aliya, the immigration wing of the Jewish underground movements, the Haganah and the Irgun organized a large scale clandestine operation bringing one hundred and ten thousand Jews into Israel mostly by sea from Europe and few by land through  neighboring Arab countries. 

My grandmother Shashana Lavi
 (Ruja Celnik),
the love of my grandfather's life.
As tensions and conditions in Europe worsened, one way to get into Israel, was to obtain legal immigration papers.Visas were highly sought after and difficult to come-by. My activist grandfather needed to return to Poland. Though, he did not elaborate, I am sure he was approached by the Haganah, who enlisted him to get married while in Europe. Knowing how little money he had in those days, I'm pretty sure his trips were paid for by the underground movement, or maybe by the women he married (I wished I had asked him more about this back then). He married not once, but twice. On each consecutive trip, he wed a young women friend from the youth group, obtained immigration papers, and divorced when safely back in Palestine. These were known as convenience marriages. My grandfather’s humble nature, belittled the merits of this vital contribution. He saw it as just what one did in those days. Everyone helped the Zionist cause.  
“Your grandmother, her,  I married for love,” he proudly reassured me. This explained why he did not marry anyone on his third trip back to Poland. By then, he had met my grandmother, and was already married. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Part I: One Ancestor and Celebrating Israel's Independence

This week, in honor of Israel's 64th's Independence Day— and in continuation of my work of documenting my ancestors' legacy, One Ancestor at a Time—I thought I would focus on my grandfather, Baruch Lavi, and his small contribution to the State of Israel, as a founding member of Kibbutz Tel-Yitzchak. Some of you, may recall, an earlier post I wrote  about my beloved grandfather : Never Give Up and Good Things Will Come, where I talked of his diligent effort to record the lives of his family whom he lost in the holocaust. There, I contemplated how, like the state of Israel, he lived in the shadows of the holocaust. But today, in the first part of a several part series, I want to write about his humble heroism, which he shared with countless others of his generation, the generation that created the State of Israel.

Baruch Lavi was my grandfather's Hebrew name, but no one really called him that. Everyone fondly called him Zigo, short for Zigmond, his Polish name. I called him Saba which means grandfather, but that was only a grandchild’s privilege. Hebrewtizing his name was only one example how he embodied his beliefs into actions. The Hebraization of surnames began with the first waves of immigrants to Palestine, and continued after the establishment of the State. There was a wide spread feeling that having a Hebrew name provided a feeling of belonging to Israel. Jews who came to Israel, had a strong desire to distance themselves from the lost and dead past, as well as foreign imposed names. Ashkenazi Jews, adopted surnames names, fairly late. Until the emancipation of the Jews in the late 18th century, most Jews in Eastern Europe (with some few exceptions such as Jews of larger cities or those from Rabbinic dynasties) used the traditional system of patrimonial Hebrew surnames, David son of Moses, for example. The process of expanding the rights European Jews as equal citizens, and the formal granting of citizenship, occurred gradually and included the need to register citizens which required last names. The legal process differed in each country, but began in Austria-Hungary on the 23rd of July, 1787 with emperor Joseph the Second issuing a decree compelling the Jews to take on German surnames. What we think of as many common Jewish last names such as Klein, Schwart or Rosen are actually German names imposed on Jews according to this law. Together with other Jewish leaders, Ben Gurion—the first prime minister of Israel—set an example when he Hebrewtized his name from GrĂ¼n. With the excitement of the declaration of independence, many of those who had yet not changed their names, like my grandfather, decided to erase the past and embrace the future of their new state by joining the name changing movement. My grandfather, Zigmond Jampel (pronounced Yampel) became Baruch Lavi. Baruch means prayer and Lavi means Lion. He named himself Lavi, in memory of his father, Leon Jampel, who died in the holocaust.

Zigo, was born in the city of Lvov, Poland on February 16, 1913, on the eve of World War I, to fairly well to do parents who owned a fur factory. Lvov was the third largest city in Poland after Warsaw and Lodz. How the Great War, affected the Yampel family directly, I do not know, since my grandfather shared very little of his life in Poland with me. I learned about the factory from an aging a friend of my grandfather’s Fishko Kravitz. Fishko was the younger brother of one of my grandfather’s closest friends, Sanyo Aviyona (Note: Sanyo Hebrewtized his name from Kravitz to Aviyona. Yona, meaning dove, was his father's name. Aviyona, literally means "my father Yona"). Sanyo and Fishko were also from Lvov. While Sanyo, was also one of the founding members of my grandfather's Kibbutz, his younger brother Fishko was still in Poland when the Nazi’s invaded. He miraculously survived the holocaust with false Polish identity papers as a non Jew. Fishko lost his entire family during the war. He ended up in a concentration camp, as a Pole, and was eventually liberated. Fishko told me, on my last visit to Israel in the summer of 2010, that he remembers walking by the Jampel family fur store when he was a young boy in Lvov.

Jews have been dispersed in the Diaspora since the first century CE and the destruction of the second temple. There was a small continuous presence in Israel, which Jews considered their promised homeland since biblical time. Though the idea of a return to Zion had been present throughout the ages, it began to gain popularity during the nineteenth century, following Russian pogroms and increased antisemitism. Zionism became a leading Jewish political current as Theodor Herzl preached that Jews needed to determined their own fate, by removing themselves from the hostile antisemitic Europe, and creating a Jewish homeland. The aftermath of War I was being felt by Jewish youth throughout Europe. During the early twenties, two main radical ideologies were sweeping young people: fascist nationalism or revolutionary Marxism. It was a dangerous endeavor to belong to these groups and the tension between them, was polarizing the community. In 1926, a group of enlightened young Galician Zionist leaders, realized these hazards and envisioned an ulterior outlet for Jewish youth. They formed the youth movement, Hanoar Hatzioni, a peer lead Zionist youth organization. Jewish youth movements sprung up like mushrooms in the late twenties and early thirties. They competed in ideologies spanning the political spectrum.

Zigmond Jampel in school uniform
Lvuv, Poland
As photos of my grandfather from his teenage years attest, he was movie star handsome—a born leader, with striking green eyes and flowing auburn hair. He was charismatic and athletic—winning the school champion in the 800m dash. My grandfather, joined the Hanoar Hatzioni, as a young teen where he rapidly rose in it's ranks to head the local chapter of about a 150 members. I learned much about this club from Fishko's writing in the Kibbutz newsletter. Fishko portrays an extremely active youth group with diverse activities, such as group meetings, walks through the city, nature hikes, Hebrew lessons, folk singing and dancing. Most of the activities focused on survival skills needed for immigration to Israel (at the time, a fairly desolate place). The teens who wore scouts like uniforms, learned how to make knots or roll a blanket into a tight U shape for easy fit on top of a pack. It gave Jewish youth, a cause to strive for and a sense of belonging. The strength in numbers, enabled them to walk with confidence through non Jewish neighborhood.

As head of the Lvov summer camp, my grandfather was responsible for hundreds of enthusiastic campers, not much younger than himself. Organizing a summer camp was no small feat according to Fishko. At first, the head of the camp, had to located a Jewish farm on the outskirts of Lvov. There were not many Jewish owned farms in Poland (Land 
Hanoar Hatzioni summer camp in the outskirts of Lvuv around 1932
Zigo (Second from the left in the middle row). 
ownership for Jews was very restricted). Once such a farm was located, with suitable installations to host one hundred young people for a month, the farmer would have to be persuaded to rent the space at a minimal fee. Parents had to be convinced to part with their children, often for the first time. Then there were other expenses such as food and supplies. To keep costs down, prices were negotiated in bulk from Jewish vendors. Fundraisers such as bake-sales or cultural shows would be held, and the members would compete with members of other youth movements in selling tickets to the various events.

In 1933, while Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany, my grandfather, took part in the Hachshara (training) program for Kibbutz, in Stanislvuv, Poland. In December 1934 he made Aliya (immigrated to Israel) with a nuclear group from Hanoar Hatzioni. They headed to Magdiel where they prepared to eventually build their own kibbutz.
Hachshara (training camp for Kibbutz), Stanislvuv, Poland 1933
(Zigo is third from the right in the middle row).

To be continued...... Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Holocaust Memorial Day: Learning from the Past, A Vigil Against Hate

Second place winner in the
 Yad Vashem "Designing Memory"
poster competition.
Today is the internationally observed holocaust remembrance day. April 19, marks the anniversary of the beginning of Warsaw ghetto uprising, which was the largest single revolt by the Jews during the holocaust. This week, I've received many e-mails, and read posts commemorating this event. One that particularly stuck me was a poster which won second place in a "Designing Memory" competition, an ongoing initiative of Yad Vashem together with the Israel Ministry of Public Diplomacy. While the winning poster is very impressive, as a genealogist, I felt the second place poster, designed by three young artists, Liav Goldstein, Mati Liberman and Dana Bodansky, captures much of what I think about, when I struggle with the Holocaust as part of my family history. The poster, is a family tree whose members are symbolized through the Jewish Yellow star used in the holocaust by the Nazi's to mark Jews. This poster indicates how whole branches of families where wiped out because they were Jewish. Like so many Holocaust victims, their names, their photos, their stories are unknown.

Today I commemorate the Holocaust, by lighting a memorial candle. My temple, sent this small yellow candle, in memory of Dvur Kralove, from Czechoslovakia who perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau on October 6th, 1944. This simple but powerful act of lighting a candle today, allows me to commemorate Dvur Kralove, a man I never met, and whom may not have any surviving relatives to remember him. In addition, I light this candle, in memory of all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust as well as other genocides, just because they were different. It strengthens my resolve to learn from the past by holding vigil against hate that leads to such tragic loss and work towards creating an inclusive tolerant society in the future.

Despite years of research, my own family tree is full of gaps and voids, caused by this most tragic period of history. Large branches, stand bare, where no survivors were left. Others segments have managed to re-sprout despite all odds. As another small tocan of commemoration, I listed the twenty-two names of my immediate family who died in the Holocaust. I continue to kindle a small hope that someone might be able to recognize them, and share a little more of their story with me. My they rest in peace and never be forgotten.

From Lvuv Poland
Leon Speiser Jampel, Cyla Jampel (Reiter), Michael Jampel
From Tarnov- Poland:
Matias Celnik, Channa Celnik (Rosenblum), Ashzer Celnik, Helena Celnik, Sabina Celnik
From Belitsa, Russia (now Belarus):
Lazar Kranowitz, Leah Neimenshka, Vevel Kranowitz, Masha Kranowitz, Maishe Kranowitz
Braina Botschkowsky (Kranowitz) (1886-1943), Chaim Leib Botschkowsky(?-1942), Feigel Botschokowsky (1927-1943), Mashka Botschokowsky (1929-1943), Henye Botschkowsky, Malka Botschkowsky (?-1943)
Sara Esther Altman (Kranowitz), her husband and child.

"Each human being is an infinity. Today is about Six Million infinities".  Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz, Temple Emanuel

Michael Jampel (1931-1943)
July 1935, Lvuv Poland
My paternal great-uncle who died at the age of 12.
This is one of only two photos we have of Michael.
He was my grandfather's only brother. My grandfather
never knew how or where his parents or brother died.

Are you planning to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day? I would love to hear what you do.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Remembering the Titanic

One hundred years ago, the Titanic sank to the depths of the ocean. I found this wonderful info-graphic on commemorating the Titanic. If you want to learn more about other Titanic passengers? Check out the RMS Titanic project on Geni and join other users working hard to build the family trees of all the Titanic passengers and crew!

Create your family tree on Geni for free, and connect to the World Family Tree
to find out if you're related to any of the Titanic passengers.