My grandfather was born in Iasi (pronounced “Yash”), Romania. He came to the United States with his parents, Max and Sophie, and his older sister Natalie, as a little boy. Max and Sophie had two more American-born sons after their emigration.
In 1941 the Jewish community in Iasi lost many of its members to a terrible pogrom. Soon after that, the rest of the Jews of Iasi were sent to die in Nazi camps.* What had been a center of European Jewish learning and culture now has a tiny Jewish population and two synagogues.
This knowledge was a shadow over my childhood. My father never spoke of it, but it haunted him. He had been too young to fight in WWII as his brothers had. Oh, how he wanted to.
I will be visiting Romania in May on a pilgrimage tour with the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council. It just so happens that I will be flying into Bucharest with a few days to spare before being expected in Sighisoara to travel from there to my congregation’s partner church in Kadacs, Transylvania.
Iasi is a 7-8 hour train ride from Bucharest, but I have decided that I must go. Through an organization called Couch Surfing, I will be spending three nights in the guest room of a Romanian family.
What do I expect to see, to feel?
Nothing. I have no expectations. I am going simply to see what sites I can see related to my relatives’ existence and to pay my respects. I want to stand where they stood. I want to say to them, “I came to meet you, even if in spirit.” I want to read them the long list of names of their Weinstein kin who live today in the United States.
I want to read it twice, and to tell them that another little one is coming in June.
*This is apparently not true. The Romanians found their own solution to the “Jewish problem” independently of the Germans and murdered their Jewish citizens locally. I am grateful (?) to PB reader Bill Baar for referring me to Radu Ioanid’s chronicle of these horrors: The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies Under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944. http://www.amazon.com/Holocaust-Romania-Destruction-Antonescu-1940-1944/dp/1566632560.