Friday, May 27, 2016

Take a moment to say "Thank You"

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. As families all over start preparing for barbeques, parades and parties, I want to take a moment to say "Thank You". 

Those two little words are so over used and I hope their meaning is not lost on those that receive the accolades.  Thank you to the men and women that sacrifice themselves, sacrifice their families and allow us to enjoy all those hamburgers and hotdogs this weekend!  Thank you to the countless soldiers that fought wars in the past for our freedom and for the freedom of others. And Thank You to those soldiers that liberated my family and allowed them to survive, and ultimately allowed me to be born.

If it was not for the unselfishness of these brave souls, people like me, my sister, and my children would not be here today. Who knows how much longer my father would have been able to survive during the Holocaust. How much longer he would have been able to hide from the monsters that wanted to make sure his existence was wiped from the face of the earth. Thankfully, we will never have to find out.

So in simple terms - Thank you for your service

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


When my dad came to America, he was sponsored by my grandmother's family. She had three sisters and a brother that had immigrated to America way before World War II started.  She had not even met her oldest sister until she came to visit my dad for the first time!  I can't even imagine.  When the war was over, her siblings here in America wrote letters back to Brzostek, hoping to find a relative that survived.  That is how they reconnected.  My grandmother was the only one to survive from the entire family in Poland.

After the war ended, my grandmother, father and aunt stayed in Poland and lived there until 1957. At that time they emigrated to Israel. At the time they left Poland, my dad was enrolled and attending law school, and my aunt was going to dental school to become an orthodontist.  The news that they were leaving Poland was a shock and the entire exit happened very quickly. They were only given about a week notice.  Poland was becoming increasingly dangerous for Jewish families.

When they got to Israel there was not enough money to send my dad back to law school and my aunt back to medical school.  My father told his sister to pursue her career and he started to search for a "job".  He worked for a while in a factory that manufactured ammunition. The reality was that he was not happy, and my grandmother saw it. The opportunities in Israel to make a living were not great. She finally convinced and basically "pushed" my dad to get on a boat and go to America.

Coming here must have been frightening. He knew no one, had never met any of his relatives, did not speak English and had only $5 in his pocket.  When he got off the boat, he was greeted by one of his cousins, who recognized him from a photo my grandmother had sent. The problem was, he only spoke English. Somehow they got by, and when my dad got to his aunt and uncle's house, luckily they spoke Yiddush, so finally my dad could communicate with them.  He quickly enrolled in a class to learn English and he was on his way.

Our family here really took him in. He had a huge family, lots of first cousins and he quickly became close with them all.  I remember growing up always surrounded by my dad's cousins and their kids.  We are all very close, and even though we now live all over the country there is a special bond we all share. Most people are so close to their first cousins, but after that their more distant relatives are just that - distant. For me, my second cousins are as close as my first. My dad's first cousins became his adopted American siblings. But the fact is, most of them really did not know or understand what he went through during the war.

Writing this book is for them as much as it is for my children. This is their legacy, their family, their history. I have heard from so many of my cousins, heard how excited they are to read it, and after they read it, how touched and moved they were. I am very close with one of my cousins, and his mom, Phyllis is one of my dad's first cousins who lives close by. Tomorrow is my launch party and first book signing. She insisted that she must attend the event.  And then I got a call from one of my cousins, Amy.

Her dad, Billy, and my dad became very close, again another first cousin. Unfortunately, as happens, Billy is not doing well, Parkinson's is a horrible disease. They live in Altoona, PA, which is probably close to 5 hours away or more.  Billy wants to be here to support my dad, to see him again, and maybe for the last time, and to support me. I am blown away. They are making the long drive tomorrow to come out for the book signing. Words can not express how much this means to not only me, but my dad.

To go through what he did, to feel so alone in the world for so long. To think you are the only Jewish person left alive. These are feelings I can not even begin to imagine. But then, to find family, to  know they are here for you, and to know they genuinely share your joy and happiness and are happy themselves for you, is one of the most moving and important lessons.  Family is everything, Sala proved that in her determination to keep her family together. Our family has stayed together.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


It has been almost a week since I launched the book Together. Wow what a week! I am overwhelmed by the amount of support and emails I have been getting.  I have always known, and even wrote about the charisma and magnetism my father has. Going through this journey has just reinforced how many people admire, respect and love him.

So what is the take away from this all?  I see it as quite simple. Here is a man, who experienced the worst kind of hatred, discrimination and terror, that most of us can not even imagine. Yet he is kind, giving and always has a smile on his face. I am not sure how he does it, to be honest. Growing up as a child of a holocaust survivor, it is almost like a badge that I wear, and I truly don't think many others can understand it, unless they too have experienced it. It is the little things that you start to notice. Like, why did we never have a dog growing up? My dad does not like dogs at all!  I realized in my adult years, this is probably because the Nazi's used dogs when hunting for people, and somewhere in his subconscious, he associates these two.  I really don't think he even realizes it himself!

But despite it all, he never rose his voice or yelled at us, he always treats people with respect and his honor and word are the most important things to him.  He is an inspiration and I hope we all can learn that we can overcome the obstacles and negativity in our lives to accomplish good and be good people.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Launch Day!

Launch day is here!  I can't believe it.  OK, so I admit, I have not slept much, the nerves are on end, but I am so excited to start having everyone read it!  What a journey this has been.  I never realized that when I decided to "write a book" it would take me down this path.

First, I have met some amazing people.  I have always had mentors in my life. People that have inspired me, driven me, and supported me.  It is such a blessing to have found a new mentor, and a new avenue.  As exhausting as this has been, the joy I have gotten from the look in my dad's eyes that this is finally happening, is something that is beyond words.

Over the last few days, I have been interviewed by a few local newspapers and publications.  A couple of common question are:
Why did you write this book now?
What was the hardest part for you?
What do you want people to take away from reading the book?

Why did I write it now?  Many of you have heard about my experience when I went back to Poland in 2009 for the re-consecration of the Jewish cemetery in Brzostek, my dad's hometown.  The goodness and kindness I saw in those villagers inspired me to get the story down, hence the beginning of my blog.

What was the hardest part?  We all have parents and grandparents, and many times, that is where we start and end in defining them as people.  One of the hardest parts was the realization that my grandmother was not just my joyful, mushy, cute Baba Sala. She was a woman. A woman that had to endure things that I probably will never really truly understand or fathom or quite honestly know. It was hard opening up my inner self to those feelings, and putting myself into her head. I could not truly do it.  And my dad.  Hey, he's my dad!  But to think that he was not just robbed of his childhood, but of his innocence, made me look at him and think, how is he such a great guy and not bitter? He amazes and astounds me everyday.

What do I want people to take away  from reading the book?  It is actually quite simple.

There are good people in this world, truly good people.  With all the ugliness around us:violence, hatred, blood - to know that goodness exists is powerful.  To understand that TOLERANCE is key. My dad once told us the following and I will leave it at this:

"I am a survivor of the holocaust however I am from a generation that is fading away. In a short period of time this generation will not be around anymore. However the message that we have has to survive future generations and it makes no difference who you are, a Jew, Christian, Muslim or any combination. It may happen to you, it depends who is in power at the moment. Don't allow it and be aware of what is happening in the world and don't turn a blind eye and think it can't happen here or again. "