Family lore has it that Grandpa Julius, my father’s father, was the only man in the shtetl of Skidel with a gun and that he was spirited out of town in a coffin because ”they” were after him. It’s hard to believe that this man of few words, whom I never heard raise his voice, might have had violence in this past.
Or Did Grandpa Sam, a small, quiet, white haired man with impeccable handwriting really know the Talmud so well that if you stuck a pin through a word, he would know the word on the other side of the page?
What do these family stories have to do with the High Holidays coming up?
At the heart of Judaism, I think, is family. Much of the Torah is the story of a family, its generations and their interactions.
We Jews have been conscious of family: we traditionally name our children after loved ones from past generations- at least Ashkenazi Jews do. Some families such as mine have seen the same Name appearing several times in one generation.
This Sunday, September 10 is Grandparents’ Day. I often think about my grandparents and what they left behind-thus the stories which unfortunately are few and far between and may or may not be true.
I’ll never know the “truth” but those stories do keep these men -and other family members- alive as do the grandchildren and great grandchildren who bear their names.
As you sit around the dining room table on Rosh Hashanah, share some family stories. There’s never a better time than now.
In celebration of Grandparents’ Day , here are some books available in the library. The picture books are perfect for sharing with a child; the longer ones may make you think of your own grandparents and what they contributed to your early life.
Books for adults:
Bubbe Meisehs by Sheyneh Maidelehs: an anthology of poetry by Jewish granddaughteers about our grandmothers
Gessen, Masha, Ester and Ruzya: how my grandmother’ survived Hitler’s war and Stalin’s peace
Isay, Jane, Unconditional Love. Contains practical suggestions for creating a good relationship between grandparent and grandchild.
Kalb, Bess, Nobody Will Tell You this but Me. A tribute to Kalb’s grandmother who gave the author love and loyalty.
Remen, Rachel, My Grandfather’s Blessings: stories of strength, refuge, and belonging
Books for kids:
Heller, Linda, The Castle on Hester Street. Julie’s grandparents have different stories and realities about America.
Karkowsky, Nancy, Grandma’s Soup. Grandma’s growing confusion from Alzheimer’s shows up in her chicken soup.
Larsen, Andrew, The Bagel King. Who will deliver bagels after Zaida has a fall?
Oberman, Sheldon, The Always Prayer Shawl. A tallit is handed down from generation to generation.
Pinson, Isabel, Bubbe’s Belated Bat Mitzvah. Her great-granddaughter encourages Bubbe to have a bat mitzvah.
Polacco, Patricia, Thunder Cake. When a thunderstorm terrifies her granddaughter, Grandma provides a delicious way to allay her fears..
Rosenberg, Madelyn, This is Just a Test. His bar mitzvah is coming up, but that’s the least of David Da-Wei Horowitz’s problems as he juggles friend problems and his always arguing grandmothers .
Sasso, Sandy, Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs. His grandmothers’ stories reveal a young boy’s unique Jewish heritage.
Steifel, Chana, The Tower of Life. The story of the permanent photo exhibit at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington.