Carol Rombro Rider recently wrote about the eagerness of many of our
Russian-immigrant cousins to locate their American relatives and the
genealogical treasures these new Americans often have. I can attest to her
points, and would add that treasures run both ways.
Earlier this year I undertook a search for individuals sharing the maiden
name of my wife's grandmother Malka. Malka had left behind two brothers,
and her mother both her sons, when they emigrated >from present-day Ukraine
to the U.S. in the 1920s. The families had exchanged letters and pictures
over the years, but contact was lost after 1946. In my search I quickly
zeroed in on a man named Aron -- a name in my wife's family -- who lived
in Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Brighton Beach, known to be an enclave of Russian-
Jewish immigrants. Working on these hunches, I sent him a "blind"
letter. Was he happy to hear >from me! His father was one of Malka's
brothers, and so he is my mother-in-law's first cousin. He had been
searching for us ever since he had arrived in the U.S. >from Odessa in
1989. Could we meet?
Aron was waiting outside his building last weekend as my wife and I drove
up. He bears a remarkable resemblance to my wife's mother. Inside his
family had spared no expense in preparing a lavish Seder table for us.
I showed him family pictures and letters which my wife's grandmother and
great-grandmother had saved. Among them was a prewar picture of his
father's brother -- a Shoah victim whom he had never met and whose picture,
until that day, he had never seen.
Next month Aron flies to Los Angeles to meet my mother-in-law's three
brothers -- one of whom looks enough like him to be his twin. This summer
he will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet his lone female cousin and to
set stones upon the graves of his aunt Malka and his grandmother.
Is it worthwhile to attempt to find immigrant cousins? Let's just say
that, as I write this, my heart is overflowing with joy.