Friday, March 2, 2012


MORRIS PICKHOLTZ - Chaim Menahem ben Zvi and Itta Leah
My father's father was fifty-one when I was born and was in the hospital with a heart attack. It was serious enough that my parents thought I might be named for him and he had already been given the additional name "Chaim." As it turned out, he lived another nine years and died of something else, on the ninth day of First Adar 5717, fifty-five years ago.

My grandfather was born in Zalosce, in east Galicia. He was named for his mother's uncle Mendel Kwoczka who had died seven months earlier. When he was six, his father and second brother went to America, following the eldest brother and the first two sisters who had gone earlier. The next year, his mother took the three youngest on a ship from Liverpool to Montreal and from there to join the others in Pittsburgh via St. Albans Vermont.

At age twenty-four, he married his brother's sister-in-law and they had three children. My grandfather was in the wholesale grocery business on Miller Street with two of his three brothers and much of that time the business was sufficient to support the three families. When Uncle Joe turned sixty-five, they closed down Pickholtz Brothers (which I remember visiting a few times) and my grandfather worked his last years selling for a company called Tak-A-Toy, that placed small toys on racks near checkout counters in grocery stores and supermarkets.

All those years, he was an active member of the Poale Zedeck synagogue, serving a number of years as vice-president of the men's club, while my grandmother was president of the sisterhood.

I have a replica of this gene
 He went into the hospital on a Shabbat morning, soon after my ninth birthday. No one had to tell me that evening that he had died - I knew on my own. They didn't let me go to the funeral. I was mad about that for probably thirty years.

My grandparents lived in Squirrel Hill - first on Phillips Avenue and later on Northumberland Street, across from the police and fire stations, not two blocks from our house. So we saw them often, but I cannot say that I had much of a one-on-one relationship with him. My loss. I'd like to think that I talk to my own grandchildren more than my grandfather spoke to me. But I always sat on his right at the seder table. And he was the one who noticed that my toes pointed out when I walked.

There is a Sunday when I was seven-and-a-half that I will always remember and appreciate. My father and grandfather, together with Uncle Bob, took me to Forbes Field. It was my first game and the last of the season. We sat in the bleachers in left field. Going to a game was a really big deal, as we didn't have much baseball on television and certainly none in color, with real green grass. The Pirates lost 4-0. Johnny Podres started for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The next week he pitched in the World Series and won two games.

I learned how to keep a scorecard that day.

And I learned the word "generations."

Four Other Ancestors
Simon (Shimshon ben Shelomo?) Rosenzweig, born Rajec Slovakia 1787-1790, died Puchov Slovakia 3/4 Adar 5620, 26 February 1860. He was my father's mother's father's father's father.

Golde Buchalter died in Obertyn east Galicia 2 Second Adar (11 March 1881) at age sixty. She was my wife's father's mother's paternal grandmother.

Betsy (Beile Gittel bat Moshe Aharon) Diamond, died in London, 8 Adar 5697 (19 February 1937) at age ninety-three. She was my wife's father's mother's maternal grandmother.

Binyamin Yitzhak ben Mordecai Aharon Mostek (aka Lindenberg), born 1866 probably in Prznasnyz Poland, died 24 First Adar 5708 (5 March 1948) in New York. He was my wife's mother's maternal grandfather.

Uncle George
My mother's brother, Gershon ben Yerahmiel and Sarah Gordon, born 5 April 1920 in Vandergrift Pennsylvania, died 15 Second Adar 5760 (22 March 2000) in Pittsburgh.

Uncle George and Mother
Uncle George was the younger of Mother's two older brothers and they were particularly close. They lived not far from us while we were growing up, though he went back to Vandergrift every day to work in his father's furniture store, "R. Gordon & Son.". Eventually it became his.

He served as a lieutenant in the US Army during WWII and together with his wife raised three children. He was a good man and a fine uncle.

One more that I want to mention, who is not a family member
The fifteenth of Adar is the yahrzeit of Uri Megidish, may G-d avenge his blood. In fact, I think He did, in rather spectacular fashion.

When I served in a reserve artillery unit, one of the two communications sergeants in our battery was Uri Megidish. He had big bright teeth and smiled all the time. I knew him in another context, as he was vice-principal of the religious high school in Yeroham when I lived there.

Our paths diverged and Uri moved to Gan Or, a moshav in Gush Katif, where he became a farmer. He worked in his own greenhouse and he enabled a few local Arabs to make a living as well. Until the day that one of them stabbed him to death. It was the fifteenth of Adar 5753, nineteen years ago.  Uri was thirty-nine and he left a wife and four children. His first son had celebrated his bar mitzvah two months earlier.

The years went by and one fine day - oh what a fine day it was - eleven summers later, Uri's daughter had given birth to his first grandson. The day of the brit, an IDF helicopter took out a car carrying two terrorists in Gaza, killing them both. One of them was Uri's murderer.

Thirteen months later, Gan Or and the rest of the Gush Katif communities were destroyed and turned over to the Gazans. Uri's was not one of the bodies that had to be disinterred, as he had been buried in his parents' moshav, Segullah, near Kiryat Gat.

Uri and I were not close friends or anything, but you know how sometimes something silly revives a particular memory of a particular person? This will always be linked in my mind to Uri Megidish. That and the big Hines Ward smile.

1 comment:

  1. Susan from New York28 March, 2012 15:55

    Thanks, Israel, for these touching stories. They inspire me to reflect on grandparents and others I have lost, and confirm my belief that they have influenced my life -- mainly in good ways.

    Keep writing!