Letter to my great-grandmother Shimke

Dear great-grandmother,

Last week, our family met per Zoom. Twenty of us – spread all throughout the USA and in Germany.

All of us with successful and productive lives.

All thanks to you.

Thanks to your incredible ability to work and care for your family.

You bore and raised 11 children in your/our shtetl of Slutsk in what was then Russia.

While raising this huge family, you also earned the money. You were a successful businesswoman who had an interest in a mill and in a hotel.

While your husband – my great-grandfather Moses Reuben – did what every Jewish scholar should do – study the Torah in the shul.

And you did all this in an era of terror and uncertainty – while pogroms raged and Jews lived and died in fear of the Cossacks and other persecutors. Thank you for your courage – for not giving in to despair and depression.

And let me say “thank you” for your foresight. You had the prescience to successively send most of your children and then yourself to the United States.

Thanks to your foresight, neither you nor your children nor their offspring were killed in the Holocaust, unlike the some 70 members of our family who did not leave Slutsk in time. They were murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian accomplices on October 27, 1941.

Thanks to your hard work, your caring, your wise counsels and your foresight, your children made huge successes of their lives upon arrival in the United States.

And stayed a close and caring family while doing such. Each member received assistance whenever needed, no one was ever treated in a way but fair and trusting.

This closeness and caring awaited me when I was born. Your family – that of my mother – made my – otherwise difficult – childhood a time of huge, joyous, loud gatherings and security – the assurance of being loved and cared for.

Sadly, none of the 20 family members meeting last week ever had the opportunity to meet you. You died before each of us was born.

But you – your unflagging belief in family and fair and ethical lives – lives on in each of us.

Your admiring and adoring great-grandson