I was deep in the photos and conversation threads on Ancestry and JewishGen when the twelve o'clock hour rolled by. The number is a beautiful one, a rare one, but it's more than 12/12/12 to me today. It's the fifth night of Hanukkah.
Every year, the silver menorah of partly lit candles remind me that one-eighth of me is connected to thousands of years of stories about one group of people.
FYI: This is not a post about Israel and Palestine. Lucky you.
It is about my search to find my family. The man that connects me to all this, my biological grandfather, was not a part of my life, and his own life was complicated. I can't do anything in my life to reconcile that. I can't do anything to connect to him or to understand him, and I don't know that I would want to if I could. It's funny then that it's him that connects me to this story of the Jews, this story that I want so badly to know, to understand, to be a part of. As the fractions get ever smaller, I feel like I owe it to them to know their names. And, I suppose, I want to believe in every part of me.
My great great grandmother and grandfather boarded a boat in 1914 in Europe and disembarked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with their children, leaving behind Bessarabia, or what is now Moldova. Yeah, that weird former Soviet Union country I visited three years ago. I know their names, some of their experiences in America, more or less, and that they were Jewish. They spoke yiddish. They were pottery merchants in Susleni, Moldova before they moved to the capital city of Chisinau, and then to the Americas. They left just in time, because in the decades to come, Soviets would wipe out huge swaths of Jews in that territory. But there is so much left to know.
Less than a century after my ancestors left Moldova, I stood in the village of Susleni and looked at the foundation of a house, which the owner told me was the same foundation of the Synagogue before it was "bombed". I can't imagine what my ancestors would think of me going back to that place. Would they be touched, or horrified, or embarrassed, or hopeful?
|The only photo I have of the house built on the Synagogue's foundation|
When they arrived, they changed their last name from Abramovicz to Abrams. They changed their first names, too. I have no idea if my great great grandparents continued to practice Judaism, though they were buried in a Jewish Cemetery. My great grandmother became a Christian Rosicrucian, and that was the end of Judaism in my family.
I don't think I'm looking to convert from one complicated religion to another, but I am looking to save the few scraps of their memory that are left, and honor it the only way I know how: To light a few candles, search a few dusty documents, and show them that we haven't forgotten.
On this Gregorian calendar day of rhythmic numbers, I'm trying to put that synchronicity to work. I'm looking for the hidden messages, buried deep in the heart of the flame.