Today is the 95th anniversary of my mother’s birth in New York’s Lower East Side. Sam and Ida Mandel named their fourth child and second daughter, Gussie, with the Yiddish parallel of Gitel. It’s a poignant birthday for me; first because I still miss
my mother z”l, who’s been gone over ten years, and also because I’m preparing for a trip to Russia next week. You can read about the trip at umjc.org, and I plan to post regular blogs as I go.
My daughter Sarah and I were talking about the trip and she said, “You’re going to your motherland.” It’s true that Russia is my familial motherland, even though I’ve never been there. Both of my grandfathers were born in Tsarist Russia, although I believe my mother’s father came from the region of Poland, which was still part of the Tsarist Empire in those days.
When Sarah mentioned the motherland, though, I thought about the other parts of my journey as well. I’m going first to New York City (via Dallas to attend a funeral), then to Moscow, and then to Israel, before I return home. So it’s really three motherlands that I’m visiting, and in exactly reverse order; first New York, scene of my family’s entry to the golden land of America, and site of the founding of my nuclear family when my parents were married there in 1941. Then Russia, the great empire that was home to my grandfathers and so many of the Jews currently living in America and Israel as well. And finally, skipping over some other destinations of our exile, back to the Land of Israel, where it all began.