Friday, April 21, 2023

Skalat, Yavneh

Thursday I made the forty minute drive to Kevutzat Yavneh, not far from Ashdod, for the first-year memorial for Yocheved Sarid. She was ninety-five years old and a Holocaust survivor. Yocheved (born Weissman) lived on Yavneh since arriving in Israel seventy-five years earlier. She lived her early years in Skalat - the ancestral home of my Pikholz family. 

It was Yocheved who organized the annual Skalat memorial in the Holon Cemetery and her family (three sons and a daughter) played a major role every year. I have been attending most every year since I learned - twenty-odd years ago - that my grandfather's family had called it home during much of the 1800s.

The memorial was simple and dignified, as things on Yavneh tend to be. About forty-fifty people. Just the Psalms as tradition dictates. No speeches or anything. They gave me one of the sections of Psalm 119 to read.

After minha, we proceeded to one of the rooms in the kibbutz dining hall for some light refreshment followed by brief speeches by several people from Yavneh who had known Yocheved well. A handful of Skalat descendants were there including one who had actually lived there. But it was mostly Yavneh and the family.

I was in a category of one, different from everyone else. Aside from the family, you were either Yavneh or Skalat. I was both.

Fifty-five years ago, I participated in a post-high school work study program run by the Bnei Akiva Religious Zionist youth organization in which I was active. I spent that year on Yavneh, so whenever I am there it is a bit of a homecoming. My first Israeli address. 

I did not know Yocheved at the time - or her brother Motel. I was aware of her sons, who were about my age, but nothing more than that. Her husband Yitzhak gave us a presentation (too big a word for the occasion) about some of his experiences during the Holocaust, but I remembered little of it. Later I learned that Yitzhak was from my great-grandmother's town Zalosce. But at age twenty, I knew nothing of Zalosce or Skalat or anyplace else in Europe. 

I cannot blame my parents for that. After all, we had been in Pittsburgh since before the First World War and my father knew nothing either.

But now I know what I was missing then. Had I known, I could have talked to Yocheved about my family, not close but cousins nonetheless.  She could have referred me to other Pikholz descendants here in Israel. Yitzhak Kiwetz, Cyla Dlugach, Eliezer Haniel and others. People who could have helped me put together the genealogy puzzle that I have been working on these past twenty-five years.

There is a lesson here about passing on what you know, even if it is incomplete. You never know when someone will run into people who know things. If we only know to ask.

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