A Message to Mia, My New Granddaughter

I’ve been writing this weekly blog for 2 ½ years, and the best feedback I get comes when I share personal stories from my heart. That’s what I’m doing today, as I share with the world a message to my new granddaughter Mia, born one week ago today.

When it comes to legacy planning, the most powerful action is to pass down not just valuables, but (more importantly), our values. One way to do that is to write a legacy letter to your heirs sharing what’s in your heart. Sometimes also called an “ethical will,” these legacy letters convey messages not found in your formal estate planning documents. So, here goes.

Dear Mia,
I am your very proud and grateful Zaidy (that’s Yiddish for grandfather). Your birth created a new link in the chain of our family’s heritage, an unbroken chain that goes all the way back to Moses on Mount Sinai.

To understand the significance of that unbroken chain, I want to share the story of one of your ancestors who was also called Zaidy—my great grandfather Eliezer Weinstock. When the time came for me to select the name for you grandkids to call me, I chose the name “Zaidy” as a tribute to Zaidy Eliezer’s legacy.

Zaidy Eliezer and his wife Leah lived in a village in Eastern Europe called Polona in what is now Ukraine. To understand what their life was like, you should go see the show “Fiddler on the Roof.” They were observant Jews, deeply committed to faith and family. They had six kids: Elke, Enoch, Yosef (Joe), Rachel, Pauline (my grandmother), and Morris. Life was a very difficult struggle, as the czar would create periodic pogroms to rough up the Jews in their village. In one pogrom, they poked out one of Zaidy Eliezer’s eyes. It got so bad that their son Joe courageously immigrated to America, all alone as a young boy, seeking a better life.

When Uncle Joe arrived in America, his ship was diverted from Ellis Island to Galveston, Texas, as part of the “Galveston Movement” to alleviate overcrowding of Jewish immigrants in New York. The Jewish Welfare met Uncle Joe at the dock and placed him in Montgomery, Alabama, quite a culture shock for a religious Jewish boy who didn’t know a word of English and didn’t have a penny in his pocket.

Uncle Joe pushed a fruit cart door-to-door saving his pennies until he could bring over his family to America. While raising the funds, World War I broke out shutting down immigration. When the war ended, Uncle Joe was able to obtain a family visa for his parents and three younger siblings. His older siblings Elke and Enoch were married by that point and couldn’t be included on the same visa.

Eliezer, Leah, and three of their children made the journey to join their son Joe on the other side of the world. Elke and Enoch remained behind in Europe. Eliezer’s daughter Pauline married Meyer Oberstein and made a home for her parents and their four children, including my mother, Elsie. Elsie shared a bed with her grandmother Leah, who prayed every night that Elke and Enoch were still alive. Alas, that was not the case. Hitler captured them, and Elke and Enoch were murdered in the Holocaust.

Through all these trials and tribulations, Eliezer held on tightly to his Jewish faith. Against all odds, he remained a religious Orthodox Jew in Montgomery, Alabama. He even refused to eat meat in America, not trusting that it was properly kosher.

Eliezer studied Torah every day. Leaving behind all his possessions in Europe, he advocated learning and used to say: “What you put into your mind, no one can ever take away from you.” That became one of my mottos in life, as I’ve always put a high value on being a lifelong learner. I trust you will too.

Eliezer never learned English, speaking only Yiddish at home with his family. When my grandfather Meyer took Eliezer to court to become a U.S. citizen, the judge waived the requirement for him to pass a test in English, saying to him: “Rabbi Weinstock, with all you’ve been through, it’s my honor to declare you a U.S. citizen.”

Zaidy died soon after I was born, but he lived long enough to witness the birth of great-grandchildren. As another relative so powerfully said, seeing the birth of that fourth generation proved to Zaidy that “we beat Hitler.” The Nazi’s mission was to wipe out all the world’s Jews, but we’re still here, standing strong and proud of our Jewish identity.

We are once again living in turbulent times for Jews. As we read each Passover: “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.” Mia, your birth proves once again that we will prevail against the forces of evil who may try to destroy us, but we will survive and thrive. When adversity strikes, know that you come from ancestors like Zaidy Eliezer Weinstock who overcame great obstacles and were resilient. As we always say in our family, “You come from good stock—WEINSTOCK!”

Mia, my prayer for you is that you live a meaningful life, inspired by the precious legacy that Zaidy Eliezer passed down to us. And may you, like our ancestors before us, continue to pass down this heritage “l’dor vador, from generation to generation.”

Your loving Zaidy,
Marvin E. Blum

(1) “Zaidy” Marvin Blum welcomes granddaughter Mia to the world, just moments after her birth. (2) The original “Zaidy” in the family, Eliezer Weinstock, survived persecution in Ukraine, though one eye was poked out in a pogrom. Marvin Blum is grateful to now be “Zaidy” to six wonderful grandkids who will carry on the Weinstock family heritage.