Hebrew school dropout may have missed the bus but caught the ride of his life
Last summer at the MIYJCC summer camp, located at the Henry Kaufmann camp grounds, we held a special dedication for a new walking trail donated by my family. My wife and I are both alumni of our camp and met at camp. My Father worked at camp many years ago and now the third generation of Moskowitz's are attending as campers – all of our children go! This gift was donated in memory of a loving Aunt Natasha, who recently passed away. Our deep rooted family ties to the JCC, for three generations, has moved us to honor and support this most wonderful pillar of our community.
We grew up in Brooklyn - our Bubbe & Zadie lived in the Bronx in the original Apt that my Mom grew up in so besides going to Bubbes every Sunday for a visit and always dinner we would go of course for Holidays such as Passover. My sister and I are 17 mos apart my Mom was an only child. When we got to Bubbe & Zadie Apartment, on Passover you could literally smell the delicious cooking as soon as you got off of the elevator. Our Zadie ran each Seder by the book and it seemed like an eternity before they ended and we could finally eat Bubbes delicious food especially Matzoh Ball soup was our favorite-- so if my sister & I "aka the "kinder" got overly bored and antsy through the Seder our beautiful sweet Bubbe would quietly take us into the hot kitchen where there were tons of pots cooking, and would with the biggest Bubbe smile give my sister and I our very own matzoh ball soup ! Very special days - today we keep Passover tradition with my Bubbe's dishes and smiles in our hearts.
What I love most about New York City is the history on very block, every building, every corner. This weekend I visited Ellis Island, where my paternal grandfather entered New York from Poland. It's amazing to walk in our ancestors footsteps every day.
I will always remember Passover at Grandma and Grandpa's apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. We went there for both nights. Grandma had such a small refrigerator in her small kitchen, and yet she managed to turn out the best homemade gefilte fish and horseradish (which was kept in a jar outside on the fire escape); matzo ball soup, chicken and the most perfectly cubed carrots. The youngest child, my sister Ruth, would do the four questions. Grandpa conducted the service 99% in Hebrew. My aunt and uncle and their two children were there, and we were there, my Mom, my Dad, me and my sister. As I type this I can visualize their apartment and see the table beautifully dressed for Passover. It was my job to open the door for Elijah, and I always felt just the whisper of a breeze.
I was adopted -- my biological family is Jewish and I started embracing it long before I met my biological relatives. I always wondered where they were. I was able to find a cousin who told me I have more cousins in the city where I live. Now I have plans to celebrate the first night of Pesach with them this year. Last year I was with them for the second night. I hope that the tradition continues. It feels like a very awkward Pesach dream come true for me(awkward because we're family yet still strangers). It means so much to be with family for at least this one Jewish holiday! Their grandmother Sara was my grandfather Louis' sister. I never got to know either of them, but now I can know them through my family, their ancestors. Baruch Hashem and Chag Pesach Sameach.
My favorite Passover tradition growing up was reading from our coloring book Haggadahs, which we dutifully colored in the day before. The whole family gathered at our grandparents' house for the Seder and would take turns reading. After "the festive meal," my sisters, cousins and I would search for the Afikomen, which my grandpa had hidden earlier. We always had so much fun and this has always been my favorite holiday for that reason.
My mother hosted Passover to 40 people for 42 years until she passed away. She anchored everyone together. My grandfather and then Uncle led the sedar, adjusting it based on the number of young children/babies present. It was a wonderful tradition.
My Aunt Margot Eisner (nickname, ladybug lady because she collects anything with ladybugs) is a wonderful storyteller. When I was visiting her, she told me the story about my grandmother, Paula Kalman, returning from vacation in Europe to NYC on a big ship (the Holland Line) in 1959. She had a big bundle of dill from Cologne, Germany, which is the best in the world. The inspector didn't want her to bring the "illegal" substance into the country because he thought it could be "pot." She explained she needed the dill to make pickles for her family! Then he sees my brother, my cousin, and me (ages 4, 5, and 3, respectively) at the waiting dock with our family, all crying, "We want pickles!" It worked, and we were no longer sourpusses.
I was raised in a Jewish home with my parents and my two brothers. My father spent many years working in a JCC so I grew up attending programs. I spent summers at the JCC day camps and later became counselor and then Director. I left the JCC for about 18 months and was drawn back in when I jokingly called my former boss about a job opening. I happily went back and 30 years later with the same organization worked my way up to Assoc. Executive Director. I was the VP of my Temple and was looking forward to becoming President when I accepted a new job. I was only willing to leave my job after 30 years for the opportunity to become the CEO of the JCC in my hometown, the Mid-Island YJCC. There was a time in my career when I thought I could be happy managing any organization, but I soon realized that it was the draw of strengthening, growing and caring for the Jewish community that really keeps my interest and love for my job going.
This exhibit evokes memories of my Mother Sarah Mizrahi making phone calls to collect money and organize luncheons for UJA Federation.She worked with great energy and dedication in the 70's and 80's as Chairwoman of the Sephardic Women's Division of Brooklyn,NY. May the wonderful work of UJA-Federation continue!
My grandfather, Abe, opened Weiss Hardware at 169 Bowery in 1920. He was joined in the business by his brothers, Sam and Joe Weiss. Abe gave employment to all his relatives - those who were immigrating to this country, as well as teenagers and young adults who needed a job. The brothers' mother Hannah kept an eye on everyone from her perch at the cash register. Later, Abe opened a hardware manufacturing facility in Bush Terminal Brooklyn and his son Bert (my father) ran the factory. The store on the Bowery closed in 1995, but continued to operate through the factory in Brooklyn. Ken Weiss (my brother) took over the factory in 2000. After a long and distinguished run, the factory closed in 2014. Almost 100 years in business!
I wake up every morning and I look forward to going to the Mid-Island Y JCC. I work out every day here. The exercise keeps me healthy and my mind alert. The camaraderie with the people I have met over the years is incredible. The social aspect is amazing. We have a group and go to lunch on a weekly basis. The "Y" has become my second home. I commend the "Y" for being a central provider of services to the community with some recent closings and cutbacks of other Jewish organizations. I admire the work being done in the new food pantry, which is a good example of this. There is nothing like this Agency. If we didn't have the "Y" in our neighborhood, what would everybody do? Harvey Cohen, MIYJCC Member
I have been very fortunate to have come across music written by Leo Spellman, a Holocaust survivor. In 1945, he was released from Aushwitz, placed in a DP Camp, and it was there that he wrote one of the most powerful pieces of music written during the war. You can find out more infomation here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/113946503/an-amazing-story-of-the-holocaust-told-without-wor?ref=user_menu . I am conducting the Concert Band World Premiere during Jewish Music Week in Toronto, May 28, 3:00. For more infomation visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/113946503/an-amazing-story-of-the-holocaust-told-without-wor?ref=user_menu
My Jewish New York started at Stern College for Woman and Chabad on the Bowery. I moved here from Chicago for College and fell in love with the city right away. My great grandparents came to Ellis Island after surviving the Holocaust. Celebrating one's Jewish Identity is essential to ensure the surviving and thriving of the Jewish people.