I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I received from last week’s Family Legacy Planning email “I Am Ukrainian.” I told the story of my “Zaidy” Eliezer Weinstock who lost an eye in a Russian pogrom against Jews living in Polona, Ukraine. Miraculously, Zaidy escaped to America with his four youngest children, including my grandmother Pauline. Zaidy’s two oldest children, my Great Aunt Elke and my Great Uncle Enoch, remained in Ukraine and were murdered in the Holocaust.
It’s particularly gratifying to hear comments from those of you who were inspired by my story to share your own family heritage with your heirs. As an example, Bob Semple replied: “Your comments on knowing your family heritage are spot on. I am making sure my family knows our heritage.”
I cannot overstate the importance of preserving family history to pass down to future generations. Luther King’s response to me reinforces this message: “I could not agree with you more regarding the importance of preserving family heritage and building pride and respect around it. Families we have worked for that have stressed their heritage, as a general rule, hang together and have high self-esteem.” Passing down that history, especially stories of resilience, proves enormously strengthening to kids when facing obstacles of their own.
Many encouraged me to continue sharing my personal stories, so at your urging, I’ll do a bit more of that. My hope is to continue inspiring people to do the same. Every family has its own stories. I urge you talk to your relatives and uncover those stories, then write them down to preserve them for future heirs.
Soon after my Zaidy Eliezer arrived in the US, he spotted a young man at synagogue services, and invited him home to join the Weinstock family for Shabbat dinner. That man was Meyer Oberstein, a recent immigrant from the town of Tiktin in Czarist Russia (later Poland). It was love at first sight between Meyer Oberstein and Pauline Weinstock, and they soon married.
My grandfather Meyer Oberstein’s story is also miraculous. Meyer was nine years old when World War I broke out, and the Jewish towns and villages around Tiktin suffered great danger, dislocation, and starvation. As a young boy, Meyer was out one night after curfew trying to find work to earn money to help feed his family. He was caught by Russian soldiers who lined up a firing squad to shoot him. Then a miracle occurred. An old Russian commissar with a beard rode up on a donkey and asked why they were going to shoot the boy. The Russian soldiers responded that little Meyer was possibly a German spy. The old man told them to let Meyer go, that he was only a kid and not a spy. That is how close my grandfather came to death.
Hitler’s goal was to kill all Jews, and indeed he did kill one-third of the world’s Jews in the Holocaust. The best victory we can now have over Hitler is for more Jews to be born, perpetuating the Jewish people. We cannot bring back the lives lost, but with every new generation of Jews, we are resolving that Hitler did not win.
Fate brought Meyer from Poland and Pauline from Ukraine to Montgomery, Alabama, where they married and had four children, including my mother Elsie. Meyer and Pauline were Generation 1 for our family in America. My mother Elsie and her three siblings are Generation 2. My brother Irwin and I, along with our 16 first cousins, are Generation 3. My children Adam and Elizabeth, along with their cousins (numbering nearly 100), are Generation 4.
So where does my oldest grandchild Stella fit into this story? In the family tree that starts with Meyer and Pauline, the first member of Generation 5 is Stella Savetsky, born nine years ago to our daughter Elizabeth and her husband Ira. Generation 5 will eventually number in the hundreds, and Stella will always have the distinction of being the first member of that generation. Stella’s life has a purpose. Stella represents the continuation of the Jewish people and our resilience. We say in Hebrew, L’dor Vador, from Generation to Generation. Going all the way back to Moses and the children of Israel, Stella’s life is proof that the unbroken chain continues!
Marvin E. Blum
Starting a fifth post-Holocaust generation in the Blum family when Stella (in her father’s arms) and later Juliet (in her mother’s arms) became links in an unbroken chain to perpetuate the Jewish people. Pictured left to right: Adam Blum, Laurie Blum, Stella Savetsky, Ira Savetsky, Elizabeth Savetsky holding Juliet Savetsky, Marvin Blum, and proud great-grandmother Elsie Blum.