Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Soundtrack to Our Family History

Yesterday, I travelled back 100 years into my family history and accross the ocean to Belarus and Poland. Today, I'm not going back almost 90 years, and heading south into Mexico. This weekend I help my twelve year old son finalize a legacy project he is preparing for school. He made an impressive power point presentation about my husband's family, their journey to Mexico and their contribution to the Jewish community of Mexico City. In no time, he figure out how to add a soundtrack to the slides. As I helped him with the finishing touches, I remembered a treasure I had stored in my itunes library. A rare clip of Salomon Gerson, my son's great-grandfather, singing in Yiddish!

Abraham Gerson, Salomon's father and the patriarch of the Gerson family, left Vinitza, Russia (near Kiev and now part of Ukraine), in 1927. He had spent three weeks in jail, when he was arrested for no apparent reason by Stalin's henchmen. Worried about the future of the family he decided to leave Russia. Quite familiar with the terrible abuses of Jewish soldiers in the Russian army, he feared for his five sons, especially Samuel the oldest. The option of going to the United States was not available to them as the US had passed immigration reforms, imposing sticked quotas on Eastern European immigrants. Letters had arrived to Vinitza from fellow townspeople informing the community of the merits of Mexico. The weather was great, the Jewish community was small but growing and the country was welcoming. Samuel was sent to scout Mexico City and the rest of the family followed him shortly after.

They arrived in Mexico with little else but their personal belongings. The began peddling handkerchiefs door-to-door. Salomon used to joke that the handkerchiefs were so stiff, they made your nose bleed. Hard work and a strong belief in education lead the family out of poverty. Each of the five Gerson sons graduated from University with a degree in Engineering. Their shmate (rags in yiddish), blossomed into a thriving textile factory, thanks to their chemical engineering skills. Knowledge of structural engineering took the family into the construction business. Abraham built the first Ashkenazi synagogue, Nedji Israel, which after his death was renamed Nedji Israel al shem Abraham Gerson. He not only built the temple, but was also the Cantor. The five sons, followed their father's footsteps and were always present to sing backup at the temple.

Abraham and Fany Gerson with their sons, daughters in-law and grandchildren.
I've shared many family stories on this blog, and the Gerson story is certainly an impressive one. None, have a soundtrack. Pictures help put faces to the names of the ancestors on our tree, voices, are often lacking. Bellow, I've added a link to this rare recording of Salomon singing lullabies in Yiddish to his granddaughter Erika. Salomon was no longer in his prime, and may not sound like what he did when he accompanied his father the Cantor at the temple, but these sweet melodies are priceless. Mon, as his grandchildren lovely called him, loved singing to his grandchildren. Thanks to this recording, we can enjoy an auditory glimpse into the past. Salomon passed away four months before my wedding. In his honor, Erika sang one of these lullabies to the guest.

Salomon Gerson Singing Yiddish Lullabies

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What is a song worth?
Have you discovered records of your family's past and shared them with your family?
If you could create a soundtrack to your family tree, what would you like to include?

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