As American Jews, we are thankfully a diverse group. But nearly all of us have at least one thing in common. We or our parents or grandparents were born in one city and have moved to another, often to many others.
My father’s father, for example, was born in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, moved to Knickerbocker Village on the Lower East Side, then moved to Coney Island. My father’s maternal grandfather was born in Hungary, became a pulpit rabbi first on the Lower East Side, then in Harlem and then in Brooklyn. My father’s mother was born in Hungary and then moved to Brooklyn. My father was born in Coney Island, moved briefly to Toledo and then moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where my parents met. My father’s parents eventually left the shrinking Orthodox community in Providence and moved to Passaic. That’s just on my father’s side.
Here is what I gather: In each of those places, my father’s family thought that they had found their place in the world. They asked around about the Jewish community, heard good things about the shuls and the schools, and moved, thinking that this was it. Continue reading →