Category Archives: family
I grew up in a family where my father was — and still is — very connected to the Jewish community of Omaha.
While most kids had social connections from their places of worship and school activities that established community, me and my brother and sister had some of that, but it was fractured by the fact that we had a very 1970s, nomadic childhood.
We took the bus to and from Omaha from Lincoln — where we lived with our mom — to visit our dad in Omaha. We did this pretty much 10 years straight for every weekend of our childhood, from around 1970/1971 (when they got divorced) to 1981 (when we moved to Omaha). Continental Trailways on Saturday mornings and Greyhound on Sunday afternoons.
So that cut into a lot of time when I think we would have been a bit more connected to our community in Lincoln. And made us weirdly constant and familiar visitors to Omaha, but not necessarily tied and connected….
But also it put a very focused emphasis on our dad’s life in those intense two days every week that we spent with him. He would pick us up from the Continental Trailways bus station in Omaha and we would go to Bishop’s Cafeteria, 1414 Douglas, for breakfast. Then we’d spend the day with him at his office. And back to Lincoln on Sunday after the 3:00pm movie I always seemed to watch. Hopalong Cassidy was a consistent favorite.
I always knew we were Jewish, but in Lincoln especially it wasn’t something we talked about a lot. Like having divorced parents. It was the 1970s when this type of thing wasn’t as common. We weren’t observant but I definitely knew — especially when it came to our dad’s life in Omaha — that there was a bubble of Jewish community in Omaha that we were tangentially a part of.
One of the things I have always experienced with my dad was what we jokingly refer to as Jewish Geography — my dad would tell stories about some of the people in the Jewish community in Omaha that his parents knew and socialized with, or that he grew up and went to high school with, or knew from living in Omaha. Maybe it’s the fledging librarian and genealogist in me, but I was always very interested in hearing the stories about all the people, imagining the glamorous lives of my grandparents. My Grandpa Irv had these shiny suits in some of the pictures we had of him, which I thought were super cool.
There was just this constant influx of names and stories of people from the community. And going to Bishop’s we would meet a lot of these characters. During high school after we had moved to Omaha, I would get a ride from my dad every morning and continue the Bishop’s breakfast tradition, sitting with my dad and his friends who I remember told terrible jokes and didn’t seem to mind having a high school kid in their midst.
I ended up knowing the parents of some of the Jewish kids in Omaha — and not really the kids themselves. It was odd, but it was history and Omaha and our dad and just sort of how things were.
So in talking with my dad recently he told me that he had a great honor. I could hear in his voice how touched he was. He had been asked to be one of the pallbearers who carried Rabbi Kripke’s casket, for his funeral.
Rabbi Kripke conducted my dad’s bar mitzvah, and was the rabbi at the synagogue his family went to, Beth El, in Omaha. Over the years my dad would often refer to Rabbi Kripke as a huge influence in his life. And when my Grandma Pearl went into The Rose Blumkin Jewish Home, my dad would always point out Rabbi Kripke (as well as many other Jewish Geography folks who were there and who I had heard stories about) with reverence.
To spend more time with Grandma Pearl my dad volunteered at the Saturday services, assisting in conducting them. Sometimes Rabbi Kripke led but towards the end I just remember the Rabbi being there, enjoying the services. My dad still does this volunteering, and I know it means a lot to him — even though Grandma died.
So I have this weird reverence — and semi-skewed connection — to the Jewish community that is essentially my father’s (and grandparents). Names and some faces are very familiar to me, like Maury Katzman.
My dad would always talk of these people, after they passed, and say, “of blessed memory.” Like he would tell a great story about his father, and say, “my father, of blessed memory.” I always loved that, how there was a small moment of time where there was remembrance of this person within the conversation.
There was another article in addition to an official obituary about Rabbi Kripke in the New York Times recently that triggered me writing this post (and adding the cite to Wikipedia). I think the article on Rabbi Kripke was due to Warren Buffett’s annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting in Omaha that just happened. Rabbi Kripke died this year at age 100.
I have been editing Wikipedia now for a while. I do it to relax and really enjoy the quick publish factor — as well as connecting to my former profession as a word processor for 15 years. Very satisfying.
So in homage to Rabbi Kripke I created a Wikipedia article about him. In his blessed memory.
Rabbi’s wife, Dorothy, as an author of Jewish books, already had her own page, but as usual it needed citation and format cleanup. While creating the Rabbi’s page, I did that. But I hope to add more to her page at some point.
But really, Rabbi Kripke needed his own page, in honor of his accomplishments and years of service to the Jewish community in Omaha. I was so glad — and honored in my own way — to do that.
I have been meaning to mention I did this to my dad when we talk next. I think it continues the tradition “of blessed memory” — and hopefully commemorates a small part of the Omaha Jewish community that yeah I guess I sort of am a part of. At least a little bit.
Aaron’s beard is red, full, and magnificent.
So it’s the very end of October and during this extremely frustrating time — career and life-wise — I have been living like a church mouse, not spending money. Which means a lot of time spent Hovel Chez Moi. With the TV to keep me company. Which means it is a Wednesday night in October and I am watching baseball while trying to whittle away on my various passion projects semi-successfully.
Is it just me or has the television gone all hillbilly? I am just loving this — it’s like saying “add more banjo” to any good country song: “Add more beard!” And the woollier the better.
Omaha-Kansas City Royals
The TV experience — especially the audio of a baseball game being played — brings me back to my childhood, where one of the great things we used to do on Saturdays (after spending the day at my dad’s office) was go see the Omaha-Kansas City Royals play night games at Rosenblatt Stadium (RIP).
Even though they were an expansion team, I loved the Omaha-Kansas City Royals. The games were hypnotizing, the rhythm of the pitching, runs, strikes. And the snacks were great. The peanuts that left crunchy shells on the ground. And those frozen ice creams that came in the circular tub with a flat wood spoon-like thing.
I think we sat near third base in my dad’s partner’s box — we almost always had these great seats. Bless Bob Fromkin. I have fond memories because of his generosity.
Today the team has been renamed (a time or two) to the unrecognizable and sort of dumb — in my opinion — Storm Chasers and they play at some other stadium in Sarpy County. Rosenblatt Stadium is no longer.
Johnny Rosenblatt, Camelot
The stadium was named after former Omaha Mayor Johnny Rosenblatt, who was the first Jewish mayor of Omaha and was, per Wikipedia, responsible for bringing the Omaha-Kansas City Royals to Omaha (along with the College World Series).
The Jewish community in Omaha is (and was) small. And it is weird but when people are shocked that I grew up in Nebraska, I guess a good part of that time I grew up within the loose framework of that community, though we weren’t religious and weren’t only friends with other Jews.
I know I definitely felt like an outsider, maybe not just the Jewishness but my mom came from Brooklyn and we definitely didn’t have a conservative upbringing. At all.
Though these pictures sure tell a different story.
This Camelot like image didn’t last long, though I like the way it looked later, when I was a little girl.
This was supposedly at an Anti-Vietnam War Protest at Memorial Park — not far from the house on W. 53rd and Farnam where we lived during that time (yes, a couple of blocks away from where Warren Buffett lived/lives). But to me it looks more like a picnic (it’s probably mis-labeled).
We moved to Lincoln in 1970 or 1971 after my parents separated and got divorced. But we’d visit Omaha on the weekends and go to these great baseball games with our Da. It was a pretty great part of my childhood….
i read about the Valmadonna Trust Library a while ago. then this week have had a bit of a crazy — wonderful really — connection to the library.
found this cool video over at Sotheby’s, if you are interested in an overview of this truly inspiring collection.
JewishGen psychic family connections!
so anyway, i get contacted periodically via the awesome resource that is JewishGen Family Finder.
for those not familiar with it, the JewishGen Family Finder is a database of searchble surnames and towns (in my case, shtetls) that you can search to try and find your Jewish ancestors.
i have listed the surnames and shtetls in my immediate family on the JewishGen Family Finder. if someone is searching for or has a similar surname and town listed, the Family Finder is a great way to connect with fellow genealogists and try to share share information. in many ways the Jewish community is much smaller than you would ever think, especially genealogically.
so a wonderful woman named Pauline Malkiel is the librarian at the Valmadonna Trust Library. she also happens to be a Segall relation from Nasielsk, Poland!
we haven’t quite worked it out how we are related — i am embarrassed to say i have done very little research on my grandmother’s mother (Rachel Segall) and grandmother’s (Sarah Segall) specifics. i stopped doing my own genealogy to help out my friend Frank and haven’t been focused on the Segall branch’s information at all. i haven’t really been able to focus on Frank’s work much either due to grad school, working too much, grad school burnout, job tribulations, etc. no good excuse really. and the guilt is pretty bad but i don’t seem to be able to harness it towards good right now. i hope to get it together soon. oy vey….
back to the wonderful story though. Pauline contacted me. i am going to send her the information that i do have. she will hopefully share her information too. and i am just absolutely thrilled to learn more about the Segall branch of my family. i love my Segalls dearly.
i fear that it may be an unbalanced exchange of information — seeing as i think she has more information than me (she has gone through the truly awful — and expensive — process of procuring Polish and Cyrillic records from the Polish State Archives and it sounds like she has gotten some of them translated). but i hope to reciprocate in some way.
the fact that Pauline is also a librarian is just a stunner. so excited, really blown away about that. librarians are GREAT people. i kvell!
the value of the hobbyist / collector
which got me to thinking about the Valmadonna Trust Library some more.
the Valmadonna Trust Library is another instance of a hobbyist / collector taking the time and energy and expense to create something that is so rich and deep that it rivals the holdings in traditional libraries and archives. and because the hobbyist / collector owns the works, the issues of copyright and use and access tend to be much less complicated than in traditional institutions.
another example of this is the David Rumsey Map Collection.
i mean really. the image above is insanely cool. plus it is usable via Creative Commons licensing. the Rumsey Collection is amazing database with crazy deluxe metadata. in a word: sublime.
i hope the Valmadonna Trust can do something similar to this.
my friend Debra Jane Seltzer has created something similar to this via her website, Roadside Architecture. based on a passion and moral imperative for documenting disappearing architecture that she loves, Debra Jane has spent countless time and energy and money on taking pictures, researching, and documenting disappearing mid-Century roadside architecture.
i love her blog. have learned what makes a good blog from the effortless way she writes and displays images, creating such a interesting visual stories. and Debra Jane’s flickr photostream is pretty incredible. of course the main resource is her website linked above, but all of these components make an argument for user-generated content, beautifully curated, displayed and shared openly.
a tree grows in brooklyn
i remember this book from my childhood. pretty sure the one we had was this cover, but am not 100% positive.
the reason why i wish it was the exact one in my memory bank is because it was the most depressing book cover i remember seeing as a kid. powerfully evoking loneliness and sadness.
memories. memories from childhood. a lot of books on our shelves, a lot of reading. repeated trips to the library and bookstores, and books from school, workbooks, fiction from the school library.
books as entryways to other worlds. worlds like Brooklyn and beyond. pretty exotic after growing up in Lincoln — and especially Omaha — Nebraska.
my mom grew up in Brooklyn with her older brother and younger sister. she and her family lived in various duplexes in what i think was the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
Flatbush is such a weird word…. and it makes me think of Tina Turner, in my fuzzy mind i think, oh yeah, Flatbush City Limits. but it’s really Nutbush City Limits. Tina Turner is on fire!
so there is this super strong connection to Brooklyn for our family.
my mom’s family moved in with her grandfather, Jacob Chernin, for a while at 603 E. 4th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11218. they lived here during the time of the 1940 census.
according to his daughter, my Aunt Frieda, Jacob Chernin “[d]id ornamental iron works, pretty tables and lanterns. Stuff you don’t need in a depression. The Depression came. So he went to Pratt Institute. He learned to read blueprints and that’s when he went into structural ironwork. Structural is like fireescapes, doors. On Fifth Avenue, the fancy glass doors with the iron works. A lot of it was Jacob.”
“Chernin Iron Works was his company. However, it was not a steel company, but a firm that manufactured iron products like gates, railings, fences, etc. They made the iron railings that were in the front of my parent’s house.” — Aunt Frieda, his daughter
my mom’s family then moved to 3016 Avenue L, Brooklyn, NY 11210 (Avenue L and Nostrund Avenue).
and then moved to 1554 E. 29th Street (Avenue P and Kings Highway), Brooklyn, NY 11210. i remember visiting this last house.
my Grandpa Wertheimer was a tool and die maker, and had a company called Keystone Electronics in Manhattan.
i think this is the last picture of my mom and her brother and sister.
then much later…
Brooklyn this week
my awesome nieces give me hope for the “yout” of america.
i have a thing for trees.