WAVELENGTHS

All in the Family

By RABBI LAWRENCE S. ZIERLER
Posted 5/27/21

We have a neighbor who is originally from Pakistan and is a successful entrepreneur with businesses in the area run by him and members of his extended family. Every so often he picks up another house to add to a small personal portfolio to situate relatives who have settled here or might be visiting, to work in his stores.

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WAVELENGTHS

All in the Family

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We have a neighbor who is originally from Pakistan and is a successful entrepreneur with businesses in the area run by him and members of his extended family. Every so often, he picks up another house to add to a small personal portfolio to situate relatives who have settled here or might be visiting to work in his stores. Each time I ask him about his latest home purchase, he answers in his inimitable way, “The family is getting bigger.”

The typical Jewish response to such good news is a Hebrew/Yiddish expression, “K’ein ayin ha-ra,” namely, let no evil eye set its sights on such blessing.

As we add grandchildren to our family roster, we often invoke the same protective formula to guard over our blessed brood.

It is comforting and encouraging to observe how our families expand as our progeny step into their own parental roles, parallel to the unavoidable losses of loved ones who hopefully have been able to reach a fullness of days and years.

Our latest addition, a grandson, was born recently on my late mother’s birthday. The due date for the next grandchild, who we pray will be born at a good and propitious time, what is referred to as “b’sha-ah tovah u’mutzlachat,” has a due date that is my birthday. It calls to mind King Solomon’s observation, in his collection of biblical wisdom literature,  that of “dor holeich v’dor bah”: as one generation takes its earthly leave, another fills the void (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

So it is good, indeed, an enormous boon and blessing to observe the succession of generations “like olive shoots gathered round about your table” (Psalm 128:3). Thank God, “the family is getting bigger.”

But an increase in the bloodline can also happen rather serendipitously, with the unexpected discovery of long-lost relatives. And such has been the case for my wife and me, as we have discovered new/old relatives on both sides.

A few years back, I gained a wonderful more senior relative whose mother was a Zierler. He saw a posting about a talk I was giving and pursued me relentlessly. He unpacked a lot of family history for me. He has since passed away, but his wife remains very close to us. And of late, my wife has discovered a whole arm of her family issuing from the line of her paternal grandmother, who was one of four but remained a mystery to the offspring of her three siblings as she was destined to remain stateside while her siblings moved to Israel and, some later on, to South Africa. She seldom spoke of her siblings and what became of them. Meanwhile, at a family reunion some 15 years ago, renewed interest developed among their ranks in what became of Aunt Edith’s family. Someone, somehow connected with my wife, and she has filled in the blanks and composed a comprehensive account of her grandmother’s life and its trials and tribulations, which were some of the reasons her story was so hidden. These previously invisible relatives have spread out to places as diverse as Houston, Washington, New Jersey, California, Israel and Ecuador.

I have also discovered  Zierlers, not a common name, which in Yiddish means “jeweler,” in New Paltz, Baltimore, Chicago, Washington and North Carolina. One recent find is an academic who has the same name as my late father, David Zierler, and who has written a book on the effects of Agent Orange as part of his research. I also have a picture from the streets of Vilna, Lithuania where a big city bus and fleet of taxi cars are emblazoned with the name Zierler. And there is a small town in Austria by the name of Zierlerdorf where the signature local product is Zierler beer. It appears that we have possible relatives who are the Anheuser-Busch equivalent in Austria.

So of late, during the height of the pandemic, we have been writing emails, Zooming and WhatsApping to our long-lost cousins, filling in the blanks and making up for lost time. One curious feature of this newfound familial bounty is the reaction of other close relatives. We both have siblings who show little to no interest in connecting with these relatives. My late father, who was a raconteur and the repository of so much family history, was intrigued by these discoveries and took great interest in pursuing these connections; my mother was less than warm to the idea and even skeptical of there being any real familial link.

One of my siblings shares my curiosity and investment in promoting this growth in the ranks of relatives while other siblings are what we call “pareve,” or indifferent to and uninvested in this pursuit. My wife has encountered a similar silence from her siblings, who just are not interested in investing the requisite energies for developing new relationships at this stage in their lives. For some, it is too much work and interferes with an existing lineup of tried and tested intimates.

I question my enthusiasm for such and what drives it. In a very real sense, I believe the discovery of a once unknown family serves to secure our future and strengthen our ranks, especially as we age and enter into our more senior years and status. It is a welcome addition to our efforts at leaving our mark on those who will succeed us. It contributes to a greater sense of generativity. And the way in which these relatives have been discovered, willy nilly, provides comfort in the face of undeniable losses due to age and illness; reminding us that in fact “the family is getting bigger.” It illustrates the timeworn maxim that, in reality, we are separated by much less than the proverbial six degrees.

Exile and immigration over the years have reduced the assets of and associations in many families.

The internet and other means of mass communication have in turn diminished the divide and distance so that the family can get bigger.

I am taking these gains “with both hands” for “all in the family.” And while my life’s achievements are a measure of my own efforts, these newfound relatives are positive proof of the thrills and chills that result from discovering more people in this world who share in our history and are a source for more familial pride, personal pleasure, inspiration and the belief that as the family gets bigger, it gets even better.

Read more from Rabbi Lawrence  S. Zierler in his blog, “Wavelengths,” at www.riverreporter.com/wavelengths.

We have a neighbor who is originally from Pakistan and is a successful entrepreneur with businesses in the area run by him and members of his extended family. Every so often, he picks up another house to add to a small personal portfolio to situate relatives who have settled here or might be visiting to work in his stores. Each time I ask him about his latest home purchase, he answers in his inimitable way, “The family is getting bigger.”

The typical Jewish response to such good news is a Hebrew/Yiddish expression, “K’ein ayin ha-ra,” namely, let no evil eye set its sights on such blessing.

As we add grandchildren to our family roster, we often invoke the same protective formula to guard over our blessed brood.

It is comforting and encouraging to observe how our families expand as our progeny step into their own parental roles, parallel to the unavoidable losses of loved ones who hopefully have been able to reach a fullness of days and years.

Our latest addition, a grandson, was born recently on my late mother’s birthday. The due date for the next grandchild, who we pray will be born at a good and propitious time, what is referred to as “b’sha-ah tovah u’mutzlachat,” has a due date that is my birthday. It calls to mind King Solomon’s observation, in his collection of biblical wisdom literature,  that of “dor holeich v’dor bah”: as one generation takes its earthly leave, another fills the void (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

So it is good, indeed, an enormous boon and blessing to observe the succession of generations “like olive shoots gathered round about your table” (Psalm 128:3). Thank God, “the family is getting bigger.”

But an increase in the bloodline can also happen rather serendipitously, with the unexpected discovery of long-lost relatives. And such has been the case for my wife and me, as we have discovered new/old relatives on both sides.

A few years back, I gained a wonderful more senior relative whose mother was a Zierler. He saw a posting about a talk I was giving and pursued me relentlessly. He unpacked a lot of family history for me. He has since passed away, but his wife remains very close to us. And of late, my wife has discovered a whole arm of her family issuing from the line of her paternal grandmother, who was one of four but remained a mystery to the offspring of her three siblings as she was destined to remain stateside while her siblings moved to Israel and, some later on, to South Africa. She seldom spoke of her siblings and what became of them. Meanwhile, at a family reunion some 15 years ago, renewed interest developed among their ranks in what became of Aunt Edith’s family. Someone, somehow connected with my wife, and she has filled in the blanks and composed a comprehensive account of her grandmother’s life and its trials and tribulations, which were some of the reasons her story was so hidden. These previously invisible relatives have spread out to places as diverse as Houston, Washington, New Jersey, California, Israel and Ecuador.

I have also discovered  Zierlers, not a common name, which in Yiddish means “jeweler,” in New Paltz, Baltimore, Chicago, Washington and North Carolina. One recent find is an academic who has the same name as my late father, David Zierler, and who has written a book on the effects of Agent Orange as part of his research. I also have a picture from the streets of Vilna, Lithuania where a big city bus and fleet of taxi cars are emblazoned with the name Zierler. And there is a small town in Austria by the name of Zierlerdorf where the signature local product is Zierler beer. It appears that we have possible relatives who are the Anheuser-Busch equivalent in Austria.

So of late, during the height of the pandemic, we have been writing emails, Zooming and WhatsApping to our long-lost cousins, filling in the blanks and making up for lost time. One curious feature of this newfound familial bounty is the reaction of other close relatives. We both have siblings who show little to no interest in connecting with these relatives. My late father, who was a raconteur and the repository of so much family history, was intrigued by these discoveries and took great interest in pursuing these connections; my mother was less than warm to the idea and even skeptical of there being any real familial link.

One of my siblings shares my curiosity and investment in promoting this growth in the ranks of relatives while other siblings are what we call “pareve,” or indifferent to and uninvested in this pursuit. My wife has encountered a similar silence from her siblings, who just are not interested in investing the requisite energies for developing new relationships at this stage in their lives. For some, it is too much work and interferes with an existing lineup of tried and tested intimates.

I question my enthusiasm for such and what drives it. In a very real sense, I believe the discovery of a once unknown family serves to secure our future and strengthen our ranks, especially as we age and enter into our more senior years and status. It is a welcome addition to our efforts at leaving our mark on those who will succeed us. It contributes to a greater sense of generativity. And the way in which these relatives have been discovered, willy nilly, provides comfort in the face of undeniable losses due to age and illness; reminding us that in fact “the family is getting bigger.” It illustrates the timeworn maxim that, in reality, we are separated by much less than the proverbial six degrees.

Exile and immigration over the years have reduced the assets of and associations in many families.

The internet and other means of mass communication have in turn diminished the divide and distance so that the family can get bigger.

I am taking these gains “with both hands” for “all in the family.” And while my life’s achievements are a measure of my own efforts, these newfound relatives are positive proof of the thrills and chills that result from discovering more people in this world who share in our history and are a source for more familial pride, personal pleasure, inspiration and the belief that as the family gets bigger, it gets even better.

Read more from Rabbi Lawrence  S. Zierler in his blog, “Wavelengths,” at www.riverreporter.com/wavelengths.

Zierler, Wavelength,

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