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Family Jewish History Project

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hannah Wexler

on 5 November 2012

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Transcript of Family Jewish History Project

My Family Timeline Hannah Wexler 1905 1919-1920 1922 1931 1933 1955 1961 1976 1997 1983 Immigration
to America Albany, NY Nanni is
Born Glens
Falls My Mother
is Born Death of
Nana Gold Hungary Argentina Florida Maryland Nana Gold in Hungary My great grandmother Rose Hershkowitz was born in Szamosujvar, Hungary in 1905. She had one older sister, Miriam and a younger sister, Esther. My great grandmother's father was a wealthy man and was able to build a farm along with their large house in Hungary. Nana Gold, as we call her, was never able to finish school in Hungary, instead she was responsible for the housework in her family's home. Szamosujvar, Hungary was annexed into Romania after World War I. The Romanian name for Nana Gold's home town is Gherla. Nana Gold's Birth Certificate
in Hungarian in 1905 Nanna Gold's house in Szamosujvar, Hungary in the early 1900's Nana Gold's Birth Certificate in English in 1905 Nana Gold came to America with her family on January 4, 1922 from Argentina when she was 16 years old. Her entire family boarded the ship, Vessel Pan America, and arrived in Brooklyn, New York through the Port of Brooklyn. In December of 1924, Nana Gold declared her intention to become an American citizen. In New York, my great grandmother was matched up with her husband, Louis Gold by a Shitach (matchmaker). While learning about Nana Gold's journey to America, I found that one of the most important aspects of her life was her religion and observance of Judaism. While living in Hungary, my great grandmother and her family were considered Orthodox Jews. They always kept a kosher home and went to synogogue regularly. In fact, because they owned their own farm, Nana Gold's family had the priviledge of being able to shochet (ritually slaughter) the animals themselves. It is so important to remember Nana Gold's ways of observance because her traditions and customs were the foundation for her family's religious practices and then my family after that. Throughout her journey to America, it is also crucial to remember that in Hungary Nana Gold only spoke Hungarian and Yiddish and did not know English. Only Synagogue Standing in Szamosujvar Nana Gold in
NY about 1926
In 1931, Nana Gold moved to Albany, New York to accommodate her husband's wishes. My grandmother explained that her mother hated Albany and always wanted to stay in the busy and fashionable city of New York. My grandmother also told me stories about her mother. One memorable story is how Nana Gold would buy live ducks from the market and put them in her bathtub. She fed the ducks inside her home to make them fatter and more delicious to eat. While this custom may seem strange, it shows that even though Nana Gold changed the way she dressed to fit in with American society, she still kept some aspects and customs from her life on the farm back in Hungary. Nana Gold outside her house is Albany My mother's mother and my grandmother, Roslyn Gold, was born in 1933 in Albany, New York. She had one sister, Helen and two half siblings, Esther and Marvin. All of her seven grandchildren call her Nanni. Nanni at 12 years old in Albany, NY In 1955, my grandmother's name changed from Roslyn Gold to Roslyn Cohen when she married my mother's father and my grandfather, Lawrence Cohen. Also, in 1955, as a couple they decided to move from Albany to a small town an hour north of Albany called Glens Falls. In Glens Falls, my grandfather worked in his family's clothing business and Nanni became a high school teacher. Nana Gold at Nanni's Wedding in 1955 Nanni at her wedding in 1955 Nanni is Born Immigration to America in 1922 A main struggle that Nana Gold experienced was communicating with people in New York. When she first arrived, she knew very little English creating a barrier between her family and the Americans. However, she was still able to get a job in New York as a seamstress. My grandmother explained to me the major transition for her mother was first living in a rural society in Hungary, and then moving to the more developed and modern world of New York. As you can see in the picture of Nana Gold in 1926, her dress was very urban and chic. My grandmother explained that her mother loved the fashion and dress in New York and wanted to fit in and become modern, especially in her style. Even so, Nana Gold did not lose her entire Hungarian background. While living in America, Nana Gold and her family always remained kosher and observant to satisfy Nana Gold's husband. Also, she continued to cook and eat the same types of foods as she did in Hungary. Life in America At the age of 14, Nana Gold left Hungary for the Americas. From 1919-1920, Nana Gold and her family lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They lived in Argentina for two years because they could not immediately get into the United States. It is important to recognize that in Argentina, Nana Gold and her family did not speak any Spanish. However, they still had to find their way and a place to live. Even though Argentina was a strange country, my great grandmother's family kept their Jewish faith and observance. Argentina Albany, NY Life in Szamosujvar, Hungary Nana Gold
is Born Argentina in the 1920's Glens Falls, New York When Nanni was asked whether she agrees with Herberg's theory about Jewish immigrants in America, she completely agreed. She said that when her mother came to America, she wanted her children to have a good education and be able to speak English. Nanni said that the second generation sought to be more American and less European. Nanni added that as she grew older and married my grandfather, she still kept some of her families traditions, such as cooking, but "Americanized" them. For example, her mother cooked the chicken skin, called Gribenes, and Nanni continues to do so. As I mentioned before, Nana Gold's religious practices set up the foundation for her children and their children. My grandmother further explained that when she married my grandfather she made minor religious changes, but always kept the essential traditions her mother practiced. Just like her mother, Nanni has always kept kosher inside her own home and every year goes to services on the high holidays. However, she also said that today, it is a lot easier to be an observant Jew than in the time of her mother. For example, today there are many more options for kosher foods, making it easier for those Jewish families who want to keep kosher inside their home. Nanni's American Experience My Mom is Born My mom, Laurie Cohen was born in Albany, New York in 1961. She has one older brother Mark and a younger sister Lisa. While talking about Herberg's theory, my mom said that she agrees and disagrees. She thinks that the second generation had a hard time acculturating because of the tension between keeping the religious practices of their parents and the demands of modern America. My mother says that the third generation has been more comfortable with acculturation however, some people do turn back and try to find out more about their ancestors, like herself. When asked how her American life is different than her parents, my mom says that she feels her parents had a sense of insecurity during their acculturation process. My mother is more confident to determine for herself whether to continue along the same path that her parents took of acculturation or embrace a more traditional lifestyle. It was very important for my mother to be able to learn about her grandparents and about her family's religious and Jewish traditions. My mom explained that her parents continued observing Judaism, however it was more "Americanized", which was very different than what Nanni's parents observed. My mom chose to observe Judaism on a more traditional level, like her grandparents. My mom further explained that similar to her mother, she was always very interested in Hungarian cooking. My mother, though, was also intent on learning about Nana Gold's experiences. This interest led to my mother organizing a trip for my family to visit Gherla, Romania and learn about Nana Gold's hometown. Lastly, my mother agrees that Nana Gold set the foundation for religious traditions and beliefs for the next two generations. In 1976, my mother and her family moved to Florida. In Florida, her family lived in many houses, but ended up in Boca Raton. In 1986, my mother married my dad, Robert Wexler and became Laurie Wexler. Florida My Mother's American Experience Nanni on her Honeymoon While learning about Nana Gold's journey to America, Nanni's life in America and then my mom's experience being a Jew in America, I have realized a lot about my own Jewish identity. I have grown up in a house where we are Shomer Shabbat, keep kosher and celebrate all the Jewish holidays. I feel that my life in America is very similar to my mother's, but very different than Nanni's and Nana Gold's. For me and my mother, it is very easy to observe Judaism in whichever way we want. As I am growing up in the 21st century, there are always different types of technology that are being invented which was not the case in the time of Nanni or her mother. These inventions sometimes make it challenging to observe Shabbat and all holidays, however, it is very important to me that I always keep the traditions of my mother and those who came before her. Along with my mom and Nanni, a large aspect of my life is the way my mother cooks. The different types of cooking of Nana Gold, Nanni and my mom are a very important tradition that I will keep. As my mom said, there is a very strong link between Nana Gold's traditions, Nanni's traditions and her own. I hope and strive to be able to continue these religious customs, beliefs and practices as I grow up and have my own family. My Experience as a Jew in America Nana Gold's Immigration Document I was born in Boca Raton, Florida in 1997. I have two siblings, an older sister Rachel who is now 23 and a brother, Zachary who is 19 years old. Also, in 1997 my family moved from Florida to Potomac, Maryland when my father was elected to Congress. I Am Born My great grandmother's strong observance of Judaism and customs formed in Hungary and carried with her to Argentina and then America are still alive and growing. Nana Gold would be pleased to know that her daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughter have kept and embraced many of her religious ways and traditions that have shaped my family's life as Jews in America. CONCLUSION
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