I then entered the sanctuary and walked towards the bimah. I took about 5
steps and stopped - in shock. I had found my family !! On one of the reading
tables on the bimah, was the name of Copil SCHEIN, my great great grandfather
on the other, the name of Meier GHERSON, my great grandmother's brother.
Incredulous, I looked around and saw the name of my great grandfather, Israel
BERMAN, on the second chair to the left of the bimah. There were other GHERSON
family members, including that of Burach GHERSON, another of my great great
grandfathers. Next to his seat was that of Pascu GRUNFELD, the brother in law
of my grandfather. I was stunned at the enormity of what I had discovered. Yes,
the tears came. My family had waited for me.
Continuing my discovery in the Sinagoga Mare, I went back out to the anteroom
and looked through the cabinet with the prayer books. I was allowed to
take a couple of them. One was dated 1836 and it just had a couple of worm holes
in it. I paged through it, positive that members of my family had touched
that very book many years before. And I started to laugh because on one of
the blank pages of the book was the scribble of a young child - and I knew that
the kids of yesteryear were very much like us today.
We then drove to the "new" cemetery. At one time, it was on the outskirts
of the town but now it is next to a military base and some small manufacturing
warehouses. The access was between a couple of buildings and along a narrow
The first thing that I saw when I entered the cemetery was the skull of a
cow and then some other large animal bones. Looking further into the cemetery
I realized what happens over the years - no care, no maintenance. Trees coming
up through graves, long grass, brush, thorn bushes everywhere, gravestones
fallen or pushed over. There had not been a burial in more than 40 years and
likely no care in many many years.
I knew that my family was in that cemetery. I mentally sectioned off the
cemetery and went >from grave to grave where I could, looking for my family.
Many of the graves were blocked by brush or thorn bushes. I was almost like a
madman, needing to complete my discovery. I had worked my way through a third
of the cemetery when my guide, who had been asking me what names I was seeking,
called out that he had found one! Making my way over, I saw the grave of my
great-uncle, Pascu Grunfeld.
After my grandparents left Ramnicu Sarat, they never again saw their parents
or the siblings that had remained in Romania (some siblings had also gone to
Winnipeg). I had wanted to complete the circle. Prior to going to Romania,
I arranged with my cousin to send me a bag of stones >from Winnipeg. And it was
one of those stones that I placed on the grave of my great-uncle. I
continued my search and found the grave of my grandfather's sister, and
placed a stone on her grave.
Those were the only graves that I could find. But how incredibly special was
this discovery for I was named after my great aunt Rosa!!!
That day there were to be no further discoveries.
But a day later, my daughter Amanda arrived in Bucharest and there was to be
another adventure. After visiting Dracula's Castle in the town of Bran, we
were shopping in the tourist trap outside of the castle. My guide was looking
through a stack of old postcards and saw one of Ramnicu Sarat. He suggested
that I buy it. I looked at it and saw that it was postmarked in 1930. The
buildings looked interesting, and I thought they could be the same buildings
that my family had seen. So I did buy it. And when I looked at it later that night
in the hotel, I was stunned. On the postcard was the name of the street - it
was one of the streets on which my family had lived !!!
We drove to Ramnicu Sarat with my daughter and went to the Sinagoga Mare. We
walked in and I introduced my daughter to her family. I went around and
placed stones >from Winnipeg on the chairs and tables of every family member.
I explained to my daughter that there were six generations of our family
between the man whose name was on the bimah, Copil Shein, and her; that this
is where she is from. And I know that when she has children, she will know that
her child is the seventh generation in a family that she has touched.
I gathered stones >from Sinagoga Mare and upon my return to Los Angeles, I
sent them to my cousin in Winnipeg. And he placed those stones on the graves
of my grandparents and their siblings who had gone to Winnipeg in 1904. The
circle has been completed!!
Part 3 to follow