Thursday, February 06, 2014



Since last May I've known that my daughter will be getting married in February. And about that time we were informed that my son and his wife would be expecting their first baby (my first grandchild) at approximately the same time. So you'd think that, after 7 months of anticipation, I wouldn't be as excited as I am. 


Son and D-in-L are at the hospital now, as far as I know (either that or they went home and are one's answering my texts and, since I remember what labor's like, I don't want to call them) and I'm on spilkes. The wedding is next Thursday night and daughter yochi is on her way home to spend her last week on the homestead. And here I am, blogging. Why? Because I'm too excited to actually do any work. 

So, in lieu repeating how excited I am, I'll share a story that occurred to us last week on Shabbat. 

I have a small guestroom that I rent out whenever my own offspring aren't home. When guests come during the week I usually don't have much time to interact with them but for guests who come on Shabbat, I'm often able to invite them to a Shabbat meal with some other neighbors and friends where we can get to know each other in a relaxing atmosphere of food (good food, I'm told...I'm not an inspired cook but I do manage to put edible eats on the table) and good company. I've had some wonderful experiences and met some incredibly amazing people. 

In general however, even if I can't invite them myself for a meal, I try to arrange for them to have at least one Shabbat meal with a family in the community. In particular, I do this for non-religious people since
a. they generally don't have the background to organize themselves Shabbat hospitality
b. it's an opportunity to provide them with a Shabbat experience
Everyone tells me that they have a good time, so in addition to the mitzva, I feel good (don't forget, I couldn't do this mitzva if it weren't for my amazing neighbors who share the mitzva by inviting these guests).

Anyway, last week my guests, a mother and daughter who had booked ahead of time, told me that they were coming from Sweden.  I was in contact with the daughter whose emails indicated a good background in Shabbat so I figured that they were Jewish. It's always a little awkward to know whether non-Jewish visitors will feel comfortable at a Shabbat table so I was fairly certain that this mother and daughter would be at ease.

When they came, it turned out that they were actually from Poland -- just the daughter is presently living in Sweden. And not Jewish. So I could only hope that they would feel comfortable at my neighbors' and my Shabbat tables. 

On Friday night I took them to one of Tzfat's Carlebach shuls where they obviously enjoyed the dancing, singing and lively atmosphere. I introduced them to their hosts and hoped for the best. 

On Saturday they arrived at my Shabbat lunch, enthusiastic about their Friday night meal. During the course of the meal, with a group of neighbors and friends, the daughter shared with us that, due to all sorts of "incidents" and "coincidences" that occurred during her life, her mother suspects that the family is, in fact, Jewish -- one of the thousands of Jewish families that hid during the Holocaust and then covered up their Jewish identity after the war in order to survive in the anti-semetic Polish society. 

I don't remember all of the signs -- some of them involved eating a matza-like cracker at certain times of the year, no religious observances....strange in the strongly Catholic Polish countryside where the mother grew up, and a vague memory of the mother, as a child, hearing some of the people in the Polish town where she grew up telling her grandmother that "if things get bad, we'll hide you here" -- this in 1968 when anti-semetic government actions in Poland were peaking.

I've always been fascinated by the stories of people who discover their Jewish roots late in life -- especially in Poland, where so many children were hidden by Righteous Gentiles but then they, or their own children, only discovered their real ancestry many years later. 

This story has a long way to go for these women to determine the truth but the possibilities are staggering. Our Jewish identity is something that none of us should take for granted. 


daughterofyah613 said...

Shalom Laurie
I remember your table,sweet Torah wonderful friends around enjoying your special kosher dishes....
Mazal Tov on grandchild!
I too know of my roots from Spain,Cuba,New Orleans and than Safed!
Wow,now still fighting here in bavel<as one who desires to be a now 39 years into Torah's wonderland of laws.
I will be back<
batya avraham
Servant to Hashem

TsfatMarm said...

My kids have Polish cousins who are by halacha still Jewish, though they are practicing Catholics. Their great-grand Aunt married a Pole, who hid her during the war. The Israel branch found them by an article in HaAretz written by a journalist who had finished an assignment and wanted to cover some human interest angle. He asked in the town he was in whether there were any Jews. Oh yes, over in Piatnitza. He crossed the river and asked where the Jews lived. He was directed to the cousins' home. Two generations of practicing as Catholics and intermarrying, and the Poles still pointed to them as "The Jews".