By Rachel Umansky-Castro
On weekends, I used our free time to get in touch with my Israeli family that lives around Tel Aviv. My grandmother, Ruth, was born in Gerden, Germany, but due to the escalation of discrimination against Jews caused by the Holocaust, her siblings and her luckily left the country. One of her sisters, Herta, left Germany to go to Palestine before Israel was a state. From that family tree line, Herta had Eli, who had two sons, Chaim and Adi.
I was very grateful to have been able to contact Chaim and Adi, my second cousins, as they invited me to their homes. Chaim’s family practices reform Judaism, so it felt very similar to how I was raised. Chaim has three daughters, all around my age, which was very fun since we were able to get along very quickly. His family and I learned about each other’s current lives and discussed our past family history as well over a homemade traditional Israeli Shabbat breakfast, which was absolutely so delicious!
Additionally, I had the opportunity to spend Shabbat dinner with Adi, the sister of Chaim. I never met him or his family before so it was fascinating to learn more about my father’s side of the family. Adi has two daughters who are also around my age, so I was really thrilled to know that I have so many close family members that I can reach out to. Unlike Chaim’s family, Adi practices Orthodox Judaism; however, it was interesting that they were also lax on some of the rules (like turning on lights and using cell phones). Adi’s daughter explained that they took on an Orthodox Jewish identity that fits the modern age. Eli’s wife, Michal, cooked us an amazing meal, which was the best dinner I’ve had in Israel so far.
I am so happy I was given the time to connect with my family members and learn more about my family’s past by sharing stories and old pictures!