1959 | Romania | Age: 5
I came here with my parents and sister from Romania in 1949 when I was 5 years old. This is a chunk from the silver that adorned the tallis worn by my grandfather’s grandfather. It’s been in my family for over 150 years and used to be a much bigger piece. We melt down a little bit of it when one of our children get married to make their wedding bands. I’ve given it to other parts of the family too - nieces, nephews, grandchildren. Thank God our family has grown, but now there’s not enough silver to give for an entire wedding band. So I give a little bit each time, because if (God willing) I live to 120, I want to make sure there is enough for everyone to have a little bit.
My great-great-grandfather was such a special rabbi in his time, and we do this to create mementos of him. He was considered… I don’t want to use the word ‘prophet’... but he could “see” things. They said he had "ruach hakodesh” (divine inspiration). People would come to him by the thousands. I come from a long line of rabbis. One of my cousins traced our lineage to the Second Temple - of rabbi after rabbi after rabbi. So that’s over 2,000 years of nothing but rabbis! We may have had blacksmiths too, who knows! Someone had to make money; rabbis don’t. But it’s the family profession and a family tradition, and it’s what we do best.
When King Karl was still alive, he used to come visit my father, who was the Jewish representative for all the Jewish troops in the Romanian army. My father spoke 9 languages, had a photographic memory, and knew the Talmud by heart at 18. When we left in ‘49 King Karl had already died, but my father’s political connections is what allowed us to leave the country. When we got to the airport, the officers looked at our passports and told us that our documents were no good, and they put us in jail. The next morning, that shift officer looked at the documents and said “Everything is fine. I see no reason you should have been detained.” So we got on the next plane and left. The plane we were originally supposed to get on - my sister and I, my mother and father - went down. And that’s a remarkable story insofar as the first group of officers may have acted out of antisemitism, I don’t know. But obviously the hand of God was there. Or else I wouldn’t be here today to give you the interview.