L’Dor V’Dor. When my son married recently in Cleveland, incorporated into the ceremony were the usual memories and keepsakes of the family now departed. Our son Judd carries his name in memory of my father’s youngest brother Jerome. My Uncle Jerome, in turn, had been named for my grandmother’s father Yehudah Hersh. After three decades of researching my family history and finding all the living descendants of Yehuda Hersh’s bountiful family, I may never know much more about him. The little I know about my great-grandfather is that he was a tool sharpener in the Ukraine. To this genealogist’s delight, I have letters his son penned for him to send to my grandmother living in America. They were delivered between 1912, when my grandmother emigrated, and her father’s yahrzeit, disclosed in a letter from her brother, in 1916.
The evening after our son’s wedding, we joined our machatunim in the revelry when our son and newly welcomed daughter read the warm, heartfelt greetings (monetary gifts kept undisclosed), and opened their attractively wrapped presents. There were the usual smiles and tears, but none as thrilling as the gift from my cousin Shari. Having driven in from Rochester for the wedding, her thoughtful present to the bride and groom hit a homer. Among other things, she sent them two large white bowls and mugs. The significance was that they resembled the ones her father used to eat farfel out of and drink his coffee from on Passover. After telling our son what she bought him was because he was named for her father, she wrote about the dinnerware pieces on the wedding card, explaining again that they reminded her of his namesake. Now our children will have the written history of the bowls and cups to tell about, as well as the replicas to use, God willing, for generations to come. As close as Shari and I lived growing up, close enough for me to ride my bicycle to their house in Hillside, if it hadn’t been for my cousin’s well thought out gift, I would never have been able to pass down this Passover memory, which delighted us all as if it were a treasured jewel.
While Shari certainly won the prize for “best new gift,” cousin Georgie from my husband’s side came through with the number one re-gift. He cornered me for a moment at the reception, laughing as he apologized for leaving the wedding gift at home. Making sure that the couple would get the envelope, he asked if it would be okay to drop it off at my house back in New Jersey the following Sunday. The added excitement came when he said that he was planning to move and had found more memorabilia that he wanted to bring. He told me that his mother had loved me and had saved pictures and other things that I had sent to her, including a handwritten thank you note from my 1975 wedding.
His mother was one of my 10 favorite people ever. Born just months after my husband’s mother, while my mother-in-law was actually her aunt, they were the best of friends. In the stack of goodies, Georgie came across three afghan blankets my mother-in-law had crocheted for her niece/friend, probably around 50 years ago. Laughing again in typical Georgie style, he said he had asked his mother about them and she told him that her aunt had made them for her but she never used them. Happily, I thought, each of our three children will now have a treasure from their grandmother, whom they knew and still miss.
Being the family historian has its perks and they surely added up at my son’s wedding. Picture the newlyweds, he with a grandfather from Chudnov, Ukraine, and she with a great-great-grandfather born in the same little shtetl, snuggled in the warmth of a grandmother’s afghan, crocheted decades before they were born, as they eat farfel out of their big white bowls at Passover. What better way to go from generation to generation?
By Sharon Mark Cohen
Sharon Mark Cohen, MPA, is a seasoned genealogist and journalist. A contributing writer at The Jewish Link of New Jersey, Sharon is a people person and born storyteller who feels that everyone is entitled to a legacy. Sharon was acknowledged by two authors in their recently published books and is looking forward to the publication of her family history book.