This is an interview with my 89 year old mother, Ida Stern (maiden name Nissenbaum), and it also includes information from a video taped interview about family and their experience from the Holocaust. My mother resides in West Palm Beach, Florida and though she has Alzheimer's, due to the great care of my sister she remains in her own home with daily care and visits from her three children- Toby the eldest daughter from NY, Jack the middle son from Oregon, and me, the youngest daughter from NY. My mother is an artist, though it was not her profession, and though this story is filled with sorrow, I've interspersed it with my mother's beautiful watercolors and pastels.
Please tell me about your family, Mom:
How was the family affected by first World War:
What was your mother's name, where was she from?
What was your father's profession? Did your mother work?
What happened to your grandparents?
When were you first aware of the dangers from the second World War?
Where there other things that you remember about being Jewish?
What happened to the rest of the family?
What happened to you and your parents?
After you were reunited with your father, what happened?
Thank you for sharing your story with me mom. I love you !
It seems that were was no strong national identity afforded to my great grandparents and their children because of the anti-Semitic atmosphere of Europe and the severe effects of the wars and the Holocaust. Their frequent immigration suggests that no country could be legally and/or comfortably called home. None of the children remained religious, despite their stringent upbringing in the Jewish faith. The only exception was Gussie who immigrated to Israel. Out of the children that immigrated from Europe to both the U.S. and Israel the most children and grandchildren were produced who completed college educations and became professionals. The three brothers that immigrated to the U.S. all remained workers in the diamond industry and lived for the remainder of their lives in the New York metropolitan area and West Palm Beach, Florida. My Aunt Ida, who raised her sister's children is adult home in West Palm Beach too, and she has a boyfriend.
My personal note from this history is that I have a developed awareness of the ambiguities of organized religion and a strong passion against racism and crimes against humanity. How I consider my own identity culturally, ethnically, and religiously is mixed. Since I was not brought up within the Jewish faith and was raised in an almost all Protestant and Catholic suburban neighborhood on Long Island, I am not comfortable with the Jewish religion. I do feel a strong cultural affinity to those who are Jewish. To this day, when asked about my heritage, I unfailingly say that I’m Jewish. I grew up knowing more about Christianity than Judaism though. For a time when my children were young, I found a somewhat spiritual home within a Unitarian Universalism congregation. It represented the interfaith inclusiveness I desired and it was a way to find some family medium for me, my children and their father who is Catholic. Today, I find myself drawn to Buddhism. I unequivocally know that my beliefs have been formed in a powerful way from being the child of European Holocaust survivors and from growing up in New York Metropolitan United States among children and families whose Christian based traditions I was exposed.
I love Christmas and I appreciate the teachings of Christ, though nature is my higher power and I'm an American girl: it's only a real tree in my house for the holiday under which the presents are placed. But I am a Jew and I love the celebration of Passover, that of rejoicing the freedom of the slaves.
Thank you for reading. Peace out.