Children of Dolhinov: Our Ancestors and Ourselves » Chapter 10-Everyone Dies; No One Need Be Forgotten
Everyone Dies; No One Need Be Forgotten
“There were so many good people at that time. I can’t now name everyone. I’ve forgotten.
Our writers should write about such people. Unfortunately our writers keep silence.”
–Colonel Ivan Timchuk, Partisan Commander, Memoirs, 1946
When the time came that Joshua Sprayregen decided to leave Dolhinov, he went to see the Hasidic rabbi whom he considered the “wisest man in town.” He feared—given the many stories he’d heard–that if he went to America he would cease to be a Jew. “Do not fear,” said the rabbi, “you will go to America and you will remain a Jew.”
It was a question many were asking from the 1880s on. Few Dolhinov Jews moved to nearer cities, either those of Russia, closed to them by the Czarist regime, or of Poland, which seemed about as remote as the “golden land” across the sea.
The departures of immigrants to America—and later Canada, South Africa, or the land of Israel itself before 1939–were attended with ceremony. On Shabbat, those departing were given the honor of reading from the Torah. As Shlomo Bar Tzvi Milikovsky put it brilliantly in his memoir about growing up in the nearby town of Ivenets:
“All the worshippers watched them with great pity and compassion. Everyone tried to imagine what he would feel like if he were in their shoes, having to leave his beloved wife and children, and go on such a long journey…arriving at a strange land….In the homes people spoke about it the entire day. The women commiserated with the wives of the immigrants, and some broke into tears….
“On Sundays they would get up early, and after prayers and a meager breakfast, they would take their tefilin bag and put it in their satchel, along with a loaf of dark bread…and they left. After some three months the first letter arrived….He…became a presser, for which he earns 8-10 dollars a week, and he hopes to make more.”
“The family rejoiced with the letter, and particularly with the 25 dollars…inside the envelope. A few weeks later a second letter arrived, this time with 40 dollars, with a picture of the tailor dressed in a new suit and wearing an elegant hat, his beard trimmed, and his posture upright. As a result, his wife’s status in the town grew higher, and the butcher became more attentive to her, whereas before he used to scold her when she asked for a bone, to give the soup some flavor, since the lungs she bought from him had no flavor. Now he gives her a choice cut, and says a pleasant goodbye when she leaves.”
Ultimately, tickets arrive for the rest of the family to follow. As the descendant of a family that left in the 1930s wrote, describing things that would have been precisely the same a half-century earlier:
“There was one Shabbos left until she would leave home. Would she ever come back again? Everyone tried to be cheerful….Rachel looked around the table wanting to retain it as an indelible picture. The thought of leaving each one brought with it a painful, choking lump in her throat and a burning, tight feeling in her stomach,
“Rachel’s large green trunk was packed and repacked many times….It wasn’t easy to say goodbye and she hugged each one in turn and all promised to write. Her mother took her in her arms and with tears said, `I did not know what a treasure I had.’ Her father gently took her to the waiting cart and horse and they made their way to Minsk.
“They arrived at the station as the train was chugging in, the steam blowing with the cold wind….It was one of the most difficult leave-takings of her life. No words would come as they clung to each other. The whistle blew and Rachel jumped onto the train ran into her compartment and pressed her face against the cold windowpane. She looked at her father’s dear face, remembering his words. She gave him a tearful smile. Would she ever see him again?”
She didn’t. In fact, he died not long after she left and, though inaccurate n the strictest medical terms, it is easy to diagnose the cause of death as a broken heart. Almost no one who left ever saw again those left behind. And when that distance was permanently sealed by the wartime massacres the guilt became too painful to speak again of the Old Country. So that I was told—and many have said the same to me—that I had no relatives who died in the Shoah. My lack of aunts and uncles and cousins could only be assumed to reflect, making an analogy from the much later society around me, the very small numbers of children families had.
“Unfortunately,” but typically, writes a descendant of Dolhinov immigrants, Diane Frankel, “I don’t have any stories to share of their lives in the `old country.’ My Dad died at 60 in 1968. My grandparents spoke hardly any English, only Yiddish….I was a child so I didn’t know enough to ask questions. I have vivid memories of them and the very lengthy Seders and Shabbat dinners.”
Those dinners were lengthy enough for them to have told her a great deal. And at those Seders how could they read about the Jews leaving another land of bondage and even the passage about how one must answer the questions of children who knew not enough to ask without speaking?
True, they tried to keep to the customs and life they had left, but large parts of that effort quickly dissipated. The necessities of survival and the attractions of their new lives were too powerful. Keeping kosher was hard; shops had to be opened and garments sewn on Shabbat. For them, it was assimilate or starve. In many cases, their children were at least a bit ashamed of their accents or lack of education or awkwardness in negotiating the land of the parents’ migration and the children’s birth. More often than not, the thread was broken, or at least what survived of their identity, history, and religion were altered and adapted.
The courage of the emigrants did not end with their decision to leave and sail into the unknown. Simon Fine, a Dolhinov immigrant to Canada, finished his yeshiva studies in Minsk, served in the Russian army in World War One, was captured, and badly treated. Arriving after the war in Toronto, he attended one year of high school to learn English, passed his pre-medical exams the following year, and became a doctor. Later, he was the medical director of the city’s Jewish hospital, which hired Jewish doctors who would not be employed elsewhere.
Of course, there were those who faced hard times, others who failed to earn a living or simply didn’t take to a strange place and returned home. Those who stayed searched out others from Dolhinov. In New York, they founded a synagogue and burial society on the Lower East Side’s Ludlow Street, Congregation Beth Abraham Anshei Dolhinow. About 400 were buried together when the time came.
The other main center was Washington DC. There, Dolhinov immigrants, mainly small store owners, joined Ohev Sholom congregation. From 1892 for three decades, their cantor was Moshe Yoelson whose son, as Al Jolson, would become famous as one of America’s most famous entertainers in the 1920s and 1930s. He starred in the first fully talking film, “The Jazz Singer,” about the contending pulls of assimilation and community. While Yoelson’s family wasn’t from Dolhinov, the film’s true background and ethos was. So in a sense Dolhinov made American cultural history.
In 1887, Leib Rubin was my immediate family’s first member to immigrate to America. Avoiding being forced into the Czarist army was clearly a motive—one of his brothers would be taken, the other, my great-grandfather, barely escaped. But his main goal must have been to secure better opportunities and a higher living standard.
His nephew and my grandfather, Yakov Yeremayahu Rubin was born December 15, 1889. A metal worker, whose only education was the heder, making keys was the pinnacle of the craft. When he became an adult he somehow made his way to Bremen, Germany, took passage on the good ship Brandenburg, and arrived in Philadelphia on November 17, 1910. He described himself as being of dark complexion, 5’ 6” and 161 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. In photos, though, he appears as a man of slim build with a mournful, almost ascetic, look in his eye.
The family story is, and on such matters these are true more often than not, that he was following his sweetheart, Chaya Grosbein. Her father opposed the marriage. But he couldn’t have been too much of a tyrant since presumably he let two of his daughters go off to the New World. Or did they run away? Possible. Whether Chaya and Jacob agreed to marry before she left with her sister is one thing I will probably never know.
The sisters quickly changed their name to Brown, so thoroughly that I think her own children never knew her actual name. It is a myth that names were changed for immigrants at Ellis Island, a place none of my ancestors ever passed through. The immigrants did it themselves, advised by those who had gone before. But it was not family names that were so often changed but given names, from Yiddish—especially if they weren’t the best-known Biblical ones–to names that would be recognizable to English-speakers. Yakov merely became Jacob; Chaya, Anna.
At first, the two sisters went into the grocery store business and when Chaya married Jacob in 1912 the couple set up their own store, all of them just five minutes walk from the U.S. Capitol building There are only three things I inherited from my grandfather: his pocket watch, his ticket stub from the crossing of the Atlantic, and a Congressional pass from the 1920s when he got to sit in the balcony and watch the House of Representatives in action. Of his world view, hopes, and dreams, I know not a word.
Where did they get the capital from to get started so quickly? Certainly not from home. Jacob may have been helped by his uncle; Chaya by her uncle who had also become a grocer. There must have been word about this in Dolhinov as the thing to do. Go West, young man, and open a grocery. The Hebrew and Yiddish word for such an enterprise translates as a place where everything can be found.
A tiny store, a little outlay for stock, generous credit, and willingness to work long hours made this an ideal business for recent immigrants with few marketable skills but a readiness for hard, though not heavy, work and some entrepreneurial skill. That’s still true today, as Korean, Indian, and other immigrant show. When I told Albert my local grocer in Tel Aviv the story a century later he understood perfectly.
Twenty years later they moved the small store uptown to a much wealthier neighborhood. A new streetcar went up the road just past their door. Laboring from 7 am to midnight, they lived in a tiny apartment upstairs. But the neighborhood was prospering; they saved their money; and used it to buy property. They even made enough to build a beautiful new home.
Just when all seemed to be going well, though, just eight months after moving into the house, Jacob suddenly died of appendicitis in January 1933, on the precise day Hitler took power in Germany. In his will he left an amount to be paid monthly to his sister and mother. At least, after a quarter-century in America, the former metal-worker and grocer got to be called in his obituary: a “Real Estate Man.”
But remarrying Hyman Eckhaus several years later brought in more capital and they built stores on their property in the late 1930s, the work being managed by my father. As war was being fought in Europe, they set up their own company. In 1937, my father went himself to Europe though his itinerary, and whether he ever considered the idea of going to Dolhinov, a place he never set foot in, isn’t clear.
According to the family story, he was traumatized by what he saw in Europe on the verge of fascism and genocide—though I don’t know whether he went to Germany—and he certainly never had any desire to go back. He never said a word about that and all that remains is a photo of him on a bicycle, a skill he never mentioned possessing, in what looks to be Holland.
By the time I was born, it was too late by eight years. Jewish Dolhinov was all but gone, and behind the Iron Curtain to boot. The old family ties either faded in the 1930s or with the deaths of that immigrant generation, in my family at least though not in others. I didn’t know, for example, that the fat boy who bullied me mercilessly all through school was a cousin and no doubt he didn’t either. My life would probably have been easier otherwise.
Similarly, except for being told so vaguely, I didn’t know that the owner of the big store where we bought shoes or the richest Jewish businessman in Washington were also relatives who had once helped my family when both were of considerably lesser stature. Indeed, the only reason I was born was that one of them got my mother a job in a government agency in 1944, the thing that brought her to Washington in the first place. To have maintained those links would have made our lives richer even if those forgotten relatives hadn’t been.
Other Jewish immigrants from Dolhinov were also doing well. In fact, one of the most interesting events of twentieth century Western society and culture was the explosion of talent that would come out of places like that which would transform life and thought. Those talents had been there all along, in a society focused on learning, highly disciplined, extremely adaptive people who knew how to cross class and national lines along with long-stifled ambitions.
Even the rabbis did well. Yakov Kamenetsky, the “Dolhinov Genius” who in 1902 had left to study in Minsk, went to America in 1937. During the next half-century, he taught many who themselves would become great rabbinical scholars. His son heads the yeshiva in Philadelphia and four of his grandsons—two in that area; two in Israel—are also respected rabbis and teachers.
His cousin and fellow student at the Dolhinov yeshiva, Yakov Halevi Ruderman, made the journey to America in 1930, become head of the yeshiva in Cleveland for 54 years. Ruderman even taught some of Kamenetsky’s grandsons, while Ruderman’s own grandson, David, became professor of modern Jewish history at the University of Pennsylvania and established Judaic studies programs at Yale and the University of Maryland.
This Jewish factor has long been discussed and analyzed, but one original point I might add is this: a lot of these skills must been the re-emergence of abilities from earlier centuries which had gone into hibernation as eastern Europe declined.
It strikes me as partly distasteful to list those of greater celebrity or achievement since that does not show proper respect to people who worked hard, lived honest lives, took care of their families yet did not engage in pursuits conducive to celebration or snobbishness. Out of Dolhinov came pre-World War Two immigrant families whose descendants were distinguished doctors, professors, winners of Grammy awards, the first female commercial airline pilot, and enough professors to staff the faculty of a small university. That applies to those who went to the United States, Canada, and one family to South Africa.
As to those who went to the Land of Israel, they—mainly as farmers, small businesspeople, and when necessary as soldiers– just built up a country, the one their ancestors had dreamed of for two millennia. That is an impressive enough accomplishment in itself. And a number of descendants of those who had emigrated from Dolhinov to other places in time also find their feet drawn to that land as well. Their pious ancestors—and all of them in Dolhinov were pious–would be pleased to know that.
But I have to relate one specific story. Amidst my research, I start receiving phone calls from a television show, the American edition of a British program on genealogy, which I’ve enjoyed watching on television in Israel, called, “Who Do You Think You Are?” The theme is to take celebrities and help them discover their ancestry. The ancestors are far more interesting than the bland television personalities usually featured and it’s easy to imagine who you’d rather spend an evening with.
The producer have a secret project and won’t tell me who they are going to profile. But I, of course, know precisely who is the mysterious guest. Sensationalism almost always triumphs.
I can help them a lot because—as you will see–I know a lot about his family, the Friedmans. In fact, it would make great television and allow the guest star to preen and exploit his connections with military heroes. But while I have heard very nice things about his mother, he has to promote himself denounced and slandered his own people, something each Jew always has as an opportunity, an ultimate career move.
I’m disinclined to get involved, that and the way any contact with television leaves one feeling dirty. The last time I was in this position, I was called by producers interested in making a show using my book about Turkey and the Balkans during World War Two. Great, said I, and what sort of payment did they envision for their making a big profit off my work?
A couple of years later, after having given a talk in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a Turkish professor congratulates me on the show about my book he’d seen on television. What show, I asked in astonishment. He sends me a videotape. They had done it with enough care to avoid a law suit, but with no credit whatsoever.
So I talk with this new crowd feeling suspicion and the exchanges bear out all my negative feelings. Not only do they refuse to discuss any payment for my services—which is always amusing coming from people who make far more money than I do—they want me to sign an agreement not to discuss the subject until the program airs, which could be a couple of years in the future. Finally, they send me the contract, according to which I get nothing but have to pay $5 million if I reveal anything, including all the things I already know.
I say “no.” I’ll save the story for you. That most notoriously disreputable child of Dolhinov, Jerry Rivers, better known as Geraldo Rivera, will have to fend for himself.
It is 2009. I sit in the parlor of Sigalchik’s daughter, Carmella, the only one of his three children who remains alive. It is an elegant house, practically the nicest I’ve ever seen in Israel, which means it is like a wealthy suburban home in America. Carmela married a bank manager. They live on an old moshav agricultural holding, with three houses on the property. There’s even an orchard at the front on the backroad which looks like a street scene in Dolhinov. The one behind their home was lived in by her mother until she died at age 92 in 2007.
When I came in the house and met her for the first time, it was a shock. Carmella looks startlingly like my great-grandmother, dark slightly curly hair with the hairline a slight semi-circle, something I’ve only seen on my grandmother, her daughter, and a couple of cousins. Unlike her father, she is normal-sized.
We sit on the sofas, drink coffee, and eat pastry. All she knows is what she’s read in her father’s short memoir and she doesn’t remember all of that. So Leon and I fill in Carmella and her husband, who shows a keen interest in the story. His family comes from not far away. And they are about to go on their first trip to those places since she left a half-century earlier. We bicker amiably about details of her family’s post-war house and where she lived, claiming improbably—but possibly accurately—to know more than she does.
Then she mentions in passing the piano. The piano stands up against the wall, just inside the front door. It’s a simple one, obviously cheaply made and compact yet its light brown, highly polished wood is not unattractive for all that. On it is written “Belarus” in Cyrillic letters. On top are sculptures from distant Africa, a vase of artificial flowers. A banal scene of what some writer from decades past would call bourgeois domesticity if there ever was one.
But this instrument is a memorial to a very close and special friendship, forged in the most horrifying days of 1942 between two men whose survival at that moment was miraculous and whose future was apparently going to be short and dim.
Mindel, too, must have been a remarkable man to have survived as many as five Nazi massacres and his own scheduled execution. Sigalchik had gone back into the ghetto to save him once, and returned to Dolhinov to save him another time when he was wonded. But all salvation in this world is temporary. Mindel died in Minsk in the 1950s. His two sons came to Israel in the 1970s and, of course, looked up the Sigalchik family. Since their daughter was just the right age, the Sigalchiks bought the Mindel family piano which had come through the Iron Curtain and sailed all the way across the Mediterranean.
Stop reading a moment. That is, continue reading but pretend to stop reading. Think of the objects in the room around you. Raise your eyes and move them across in front of you, left-to-right, if you favor the Romance, Germanic, or Slavic languages; right-to-left for the Semitic ones or Yiddish. Examine the objects that meet your gaze. Each one has a history. I have a little Persian brass pot somewhere given to me by an Iranian school friend who died young. I have a pair of scissors that travelled with my grandmother twice across the continent.
What tales they have to tell. So sad we don’t care so much about the real stories, preferring to be entertained by the made-up ones. So sad we are not more obsessed to know the stories about ourselves, preferring to be entertained by those of others who not only we’ve never met but who often don’t exist at all.
Yet sometimes those stories are too terrible to recall. Sigalchik wasn’t able to save his mother or his sister, but he knows he could have done things slightly differently. A shift of five minutes or ten on the night he fled the ghetto and all would have turned out in some other way. Does the film run through his head continuously or does he fight it off? That is why some men resort to alcohol. Sigalchik had his own will power.
But he and his wife did not want to recall and they did not want to pass on those stories. Who transplants nightmares to loved ones? They hardly ever spoke of those years, said nothing. Not almost nothing; not just a few things. No, nothing at all, not a word.
For that generation the goal was to preserve their new lives intact, to exterminate the horror. Not to think about it; not to speak about it. The nightmare must die so what must sometimes have seemed like a daydream could live. So their children could be secure and happy. In a few days, Carmella will return to the places in Europe where her father walked, ran, hid, and fought, for the first time since leaving them almost a half-century earlier. One reason for the delay was that she’d been caring for her mother for a very long time, to whom sixty-five more years were granted, because Yigal was able to save her.
I ask to see the family photo book. This one is plastic-covered, small and relatively cheap compared to the many others I’ve seen, probably it had been the property of her mother. There are photos of both sides of the family, group shots of the 1920s and 1930s, her mother as a young woman looking very serious; of the two brothers as students in Vilna, one is wearing the small glasses that marked intellectuals in those days; there is a tiny photo of Yigal, probably from his Soviet identity card, and a couple with family before they left the USSR. Sigalchik is wearing a white shirt of stupendous size that floats down his side like ski slopes on a snow-covered mountain. Then more snapshots in Israel, at a certain point turning magically to color, adding in new generations.
To have seen him fully enraged must have been terrifying and there are men who died because of that. But I sense his daughter has never viewed him in that mood, something else he had put behind him forever.
But at last, just before the candy-colored Kodachrome begins its somewhat acid assault on the eye, there it is. What I’ve been looking for. It is 1980, the last picture probably ever taken of him. Sigalchik holds his baby granddaughter, his wife and daughter stand in front of him, behind him is his cattle pen. He is on his own land, underneath his vine and fig tree, as the Bible puts it.
He is wearing work clothes. After arriving in Israel, Sigalchik was asked if he would like to open a small grocery store. He replied, “It is better to deal with cattle rather than customers.” Like many big men, Sigalchik knows how to be gentle, has trained himself in that art. The huge man has his strong hands protectively around the tiny baby’s legs, holding her firmly, as he had held his own little daughter—the baby’s aunt–40 years earlier after he took her down from the horse on which she’d been carried through the war-torn countryside. Did he think, too, of that moment?
Yet there were too many images on the other side inside his head: the death of his mother, his sister and her family, of so many friends, of so much revenge, of so much bloodshed. There was even the death of that very rescued little first daughter of pneumonia in 1948, only six years after she’d been swept up onto that fairy-tale horse to what passed for safety in 1942.
How could this country boy from Dolhinov, married only at age 30, owning almost no possessions and losing all of those, imagine that his grand-daughter would grow up to marry the son of Israel’s parliament speaker, work for the Foreign Ministry in Mauretania, and then be employed by the Tourism Office, trying to convince people to visit the country which was his first real and final home and refuge.
Nevertheless, in the picture, Yakov Sigalchik is smiling. There is one thing in particular that Carmella recalls her father saying repeatedly, a favorite phrase: “It’s enough what I have. I don’t want more.”
There remained for me, after all this, one more duty. Of all the children of Dolhinov after that victory parade in Minsk in July 1944, none remained unaccounted for. All had either been murdered by the Germans and their collaborators, or died fighting in the partisans, or had lived mostly to come to Israel.
Yet there was one remaining, a young man who I felt unaccountably close to, who had come from afar and been caught up in the tale of our town. His name was Joseph Blechman, or as I was to learn more fully Joseph Abraham ben David Blechman, the Estonchik.
Everyone had liked him; all respected him. Far from his own family and his own small town, which was no doubt suffering their own torments, he had helped so many others’ lives, including two of my cousins.
And to be honest, too, I wanted to test both my abilities and the resources we have today. Could a man who disappeared be traced after two-thirds of a century when virtually no one remembered his name at all? Did some trace remain of a man brave and upright?
Blechman, as I now know, was born in 1920 in Rakvere, Estonia. The family must have been poor. His uncle was a shoemaker. He had seven years of schooling and then went to work at the age of 16. At 20 he was drafted into the Soviet army, which had only recently annexed his home country. At 21 he fought in Poland against the invading Germans and was captured. At 22 he escaped and through a chain of circumstances I will tell about in my book, “Zosia of Estonia,” as he was nicknamed, participated in saving the lives of around 200 Jews, including two of my relatives and a number of people I have met who still live today.
As a partisan he survived a deadly ambush when Germans shot down almost 40 unarmed Jewish refugees he was trying to escort to safety, smuggled Jews out of ghettoes in several towns, fought with tremendous courage, and earned the admiration of all those around him. Promoted to sergeant in the Jewish platoon of the People’s Avengers, he participated in many battles. People who knew him described him as handsome, sweet, and innocent, naive despite all he’d been through, as kind as he was courageous.
Here is how Avraham Friedman, himself a man of tremendous bravery and intelligence said of him:
“The Estonchik was very famous among all the survivors in the area….He was a real brave guy and helped rescue many Jews from the ghettoes, from Kriviczi to Ilya to Kurenets, and also Dolhinov, Myadel, and Globocki. He was everywhere. He was always walking in the forest….He planned many transfers of Jews across the front. He somehow always knew how to escape from the Germans.”
In July 1944–almost exactly 65 years ago today–he participated in the liberation of Minsk, which effectively ended the war in Belarus. All the other partisans were mustered into regular units which went on to capture Berlin. But alone of them Joseph disappeared. No one knew what happened to him. Few remembered his name, though my cousin Leon Rubin discovered it.
I was determined to find him. Since there had never been more than 5,000 Jews in Estonia, the task seemed possible.
By an amazing coincidence, I had just that day received a new book by Efram Zuroff, the hunter of Nazi war criminals who lives in Jerusalem. There is a whole chapter on Estonia. He referred to his expert on that country, a man named Yakov Kaplan, who lives twenty minutes from me. Zuroff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful. When I mentioned Kaplan’s name, he laughed warmly. I was soon to discover why.
Kaplan seemed like the ultimate Yiddish altekokker, a wonderful type of whom few remain. He pounced on my question and wouldn’t let me go until he had gleaned every possible fact and then held forth, Ancient Mariner style, till I would have despaired of any escape if I hadn’t shared in the obsession.
Consulting his personal records, Kaplan quickly found the birth notice of a man named Abraham Joseph Blechman. He was precisely the right age. And this was a key to the mystery. In those days, Jews often had a double first name. Not a first and middle name but two names that might be used interchangeably. So to find Joseph Blechman, I had to look for Abraham Blechman.
But what precisely became of Abraham Joseph? Might he still live today. Might I fly thousands of miles or walk three blocks from home in Tel Aviv and shake his hand?
The trail had not gone cold despite this being a very cold case indeed. I found the answer within minutes. It wasn’t the one I preferred. Armed with his full name, Abraham Joseph Blechman, I went to the Yad ve-Shem registry of names of those killed in the Shoah. There are said to be three million names with more added every time. Blechman’s name is there, but it shouldn’t be. . After looking at thousands of entries this was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that. It was a one-in-a-million coincidence—or rather an error—made for me to find.
Abraham Joseph Blechman was killed at the Battle on Sonnemarra in October 1944. I had never heard of the place. But before I could look it up, an email arrived in response to one I had sent a week earlier to the Estonian Jewish community.
A kind Jew still living in Estonia, whose name I’ll leave out and will explain why later, helped me fill in all the details.
What must have happened is this: Worried about his family, when he got up to the NKVD desk at the big white building in Minsk, where partisans reported for reassignment, Joseph begged for transfer to a Soviet army unit further north, hoping to get back home and find them. The secret police, perhaps figuring it would be useful to have one more soldier who knew the territory, agreed. He was put into the 917 Rifles. In fact, he became a second lieutenant, commanding the first squadron’s third platoon
On October 5, 1944, he came ashore with the 2nd Battalion of the 917th Rifles, in the Red Army’s only amphibious attack of the war, on Saramaa, one of several small islands that control the entrance to Talinn harbor.
It must have been terribly cold. As night fell, they were advancing next to a dirt road deeply cratered by the Germans to prevent the Soviets from using it. The exhausted men’s boots crunched forward step by step through the unfamiliar terrain. In the confusion, a German unit, the 2nd Battalion of the 67th Potsdam Grenadier Regiment, more than twice the size of his battalion, fell in alongside. The Germans, looking for some way to break out of the Soviet encirclement, were marching just 200 yards away. The Soviet soldiers’ mistake was no doubt due partly to the fact that the Germans had with them a captured Red Army U.S.-built M3 Stuart light tank, a big red star on the turret.
Suddenly, the enemies realized their proximity. Flares lit up the night. Shots were fired in every direction. After having survived more than 40 months of constant combat, Blechman’s skill was of no use to him here. He fell dead; his unit was decimated.
But the Germans soon ran up against stronger Soviet defenses. There was desperate hand- to-hand combat with both sides suffering heavy losses. The Germans lost about 200 men; the Soviets took no prisoners. While the fighting continued for several weeks, the Germans retreated late on November 23, crossing the frozen waterway back to the mainland.
“Yes,” my Estonian Jewish correspondent informed me in his email. “On the island of Saaremaa is the tomb of a warrior named Blechman.”
He is still there near the causeway connecting Muhu and Saramaa islands, by the straits of Väike-Väinö, places I had never even heard of that morning. There’s a stone with his name on it among the 90 men buried there, one-third of his battalion lying side by side. I hope to stand there one day, lay some flowers on his grave, and say thanks.
Of course, Blechman is not a hero in Estonia itself. It is a Soviet war memorial, an island of Russia in an—understandably–unfriendly country. The Soviets are hated for what they did to the country. As a semi-official history of neighboring Latvia, where the same factors applied, put it, the brutal Soviet occupation of 1940-1941 had “created such ear and hatred in the populace that in a very short period the common view of the Germans as the Latvians’ primary enemies—developed over the centuries—as suddenly replaced by the view that the primary enemy was Russia and the Communists.”
The Soviets’ return in 1944 for another almost half-century of occupation had only intensified such feelings. While many Jews had been Estonian—and Latvian, Lithuanian, or Polish—patriots to some extent, the association of Jews with Communism and the USSR intensified antisemitism then and now. It was a major factor, too, promoting collaboration with the Nazis in genocide.
Matters remain very delicate today for Jews who still live in those countries. Indeed, Estonian Jews begged me not to refer to the Soviet presence as “occupation” in my writing, feeling it only added fuel to that fire.
In other words, I wasn’t going to persuade the Estonian government to put up a plaque or museum exhibit in Joseph Blechman’s honor.
On the other hand, though, Joseph Blechman knew who he was. And he’d no doubt be both pleased and appreciate the irony of the fact that when my research assistant, Katya Minakova, checked at the Soviet military archives in Moscow, she found his service record. Born and died in Estonia, kidnapped into the USSR, fought in Poland. And his nationality is listed as none of these but as Jewish.
But back to the Yad ve-Shem entry. There are basically two kinds of sources for those listed at Yad ve-Shem as being murdered in the Shoah. One is taken from lists—German records or immediate post-war documents—which simply provide a name and a date of someone who was deported or died. The others are forms filled out by relatives many years later. Blechman’s name, and that of his brother, Moshe, was put in by his niece, Riva Shubinsky, who had written it in Russian fifteen years earlier.
Since she was in Israel but writing in Russian, her own story was instantly clear to me. She had been caught inside the USSR at the end of the war and not gotten out until the early 1990s. Since her father was ten years older than Yoseph and himself had also died in 1944, there was a small chance she might remember her uncle.
But could she be found? She was not living at her old address and a search of phone directories found far too many Shubinsky’s to interrogate.
Then, drawing of a lifetime’s watching of television shows and films, the answer came to me: hire a private investigator. Licensed detectives have access to the national population registry and thus can find anyone unless they are really, really deliberately hiding. At that precise moment, the daughter of a lawyer friend was in the next room playing with my daughter. Dudu is just about the only lawyer I have ever met who is actually happy in his profession. Always good-natured, wiry and quick-moving, he’s an energetic guy who gets thing done.
Contrary to all clichés, his detective friend is precisely the same. Instead of the burly, tough-talking guy, the detective has a somewhat high-pitched voice, is balding, slight, and scrupulously polite—which in Israel is quite noticeable in any profession. He promises to find out the answer within 48 hours and he actually does so.
I nervously await the call. Is she alive? Will she speak to me? Does she know anything? She’s on a trip, says the detective, in fact she’s in Estonia at the moment. And any way, she only speaks Yiddish and Russian. But here’s her son’s phone number.
And so the next link in the chain. I instantly like the son, Boris, the names given people are so often such an indication of a point in history. If he were 20 years older, he’d have a Biblical/Yiddish first name; 10 years younger, a Hebrew one. He’s intelligent and articulate, his Hebrew unaccented and his English quite fluent also. Clearly, he has a job of some import, as his phone rings constantly in the background. Clearly the lineage, like mine, has come up a long way since the shoemaking days of 75 years ago.
Boris says he has heard something vaguely about an Uncle Joseph and promises to discuss it with his mother when she returns. I let five days go by and then telephone him. Yes, he says, I have the right Blechman, but there are no photos of the uncle and no direct memories either.
There’s only one thing she remembered, one tiny detail that I find profoundly comforting.
After the Red Army took the capital, Tallinn, and thus simultaneously liberated and re-enslaved Estonia his mother somehow made it back there. Her older son had already died in the Red Army’s ranks. Somehow, too, there was a reunion. Joseph, on leave, found his mother and they were able to be together one last time before he went off to fight and die a few days later. She talked about it for the rest of her life.
History is both an attempt at truth and a form of respect. Or, at least, it should be. It gives us the opportunity to resurrect at least the memory of those who have done great deeds and earned great merit, though they gained nothing material from it. In a world obsessed with pop stars who drug themselves to death or screen stars who pretend heroics, we would do better by honoring those of no fame, no wealth, no power who really deserve our admiration and emulation.
People like Joseph Blechman, and Moshe Blechman, too, and many others who did what they had to do and did it both well and honorably. There can be no reward for them except how we feel and what we remember.
END HERE * *
Sigmund Freud’s most important insight was that he put into scientific terms the poet William Wordsworth’s common-sense observation that “the child is father of the man.” The experiences of childhood shape each person. But the wisest thing Karl Marx ever said, which stands despite the errors of practically all the rest of his philosophy, was that even the educator must be educated. What is taken for granted had to somehow come into being in the first place.
Childhood was not the only factor shaping each one of us from the beginning. What unseen influences—genetic, behavioral, blows struck, decisions made, status held, geography inhabited—did so as well? All of that which matters most centrally, most overwhelmingly, in shaping who you are, where you are, what you are? In short, what is your personal prehistory?
Imagine yourself afloat on a little bubble of history which began when you were born. You know some tales of your parents, a detail or two about your grandparents, and that’s about it. Of course, you know a certain amount of macro-history—of state, world, and society–learned in school but that’s detached from your own personal life. You are a little piece of a little place of a little time. I am, wrote Philip Roth, the American Jewish novelist, no man’s father and no man’s son. In this constipated context, as William Shakespeare put it, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
Given that isolation, that lack of inherent meaning, all that is left is some form—no matter how socially useful it may be—of hedonism. No wonder this is a time when reality is said to be arbitrary, society or history to be constructed, the individual capable of infinite malleability, since the dominant thought and behavior had wiped away everything that tended to demonstrate the contrary proposition. Or, in Bob Dylan’s words, it took the view: “Propaganda; all is phony.”
In Woody Allen’s joke which plays on the idea that there is nothing worth being passed on by those who have passed on, his character Zelig, in the film of the same name, recalls that his own father can only explain on his deathbed that “life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering, and the only advice he gives him is to save string.”
Now, however, the pendulum has swung too far, in effect throwing out the ancestors with the bath water. According to the dominant post-religious, post-national, post-modern, and quite possibly post civilizational ideology in the West is that any homogenous community, at least if that of Westerners, while once the foundation of civilization and the basis of progress and success, is now reduced, in the words of one wit, to the last refuge of bitter people clinging to guns, religion, “and antipathy to people who aren’t like them….” Sure enough, both religion and the homogenous community gave rise to abuses, to dislike or fear of those outside of it.
Is that all there is to be said? Is all of previous history such a farce and shame? Is there no legacy worth passing on, or inheritance worth receiving? For in the sense of solidarity, the ability to communicate so easily among the similarly-minded, the security of consensus, the comfort of continuity, the beauty of belief, arose most of what is good and stable and successful in today’s world.
Of course, such communities did not prosper most successfully as a completely closed and stagnant system. Variety and rebels were always a necessary spice, a catalyst for progress. But there was a balance maintained between inside and outside, mainstream and avant-garde. One takes a sledgehammer to this whole way of life only with the greatest peril.
Moreover, all sin is not on one side. If the eleventh century can be said to show the perils of overweening religion, the much more proximate twentieth century proved, with all its horrors, the opposite. “If God does not exist,” the Russian novelist Feodor Dostoevsky wrote prophetically on the verge of that abyss, “everything is permitted.”
Yes, a belief in religion, community, and nation has caused a great deal of bloodshed and conflict in the world, yet abandoning all these beliefs—as Communism, among other things, showed—can be equally harrowing. And if some continue in this path and others engage in unilateral disarmament, so to speak, jettisoning one’s historical treasures can lead to anarchy, tyranny, or other undesirable things as well.
The cost of destroying community and ridiculing homogeneity has not been just a Western problem either. In writing about why African states failed, Richard Dowden, the leading journalist specializing on the area, concludes the “chief cause” was “the lack of a common nationhood” in “concocted countries” created by forcing together “hundreds of different societies with their own laws and languages. They lack what we take for granted: a common conception of nationhood.”
Yet Dowden’s last point—the assumption that European societies remain whole while African ones disintegrate–is sadly anachronistic. Loss of faith in nation, people, and religion has been endemic, potentially suicidal, in much of Western Europe. When in 2005 the Norwegian journalist and human rights’ activist Hege Storhaug asked Lise Bergh, Swedish government representative of immigration policies, “Is Swedish culture worth keeping?” Bergh made a face and said, “What is Swedish culture?…I suppose I have answered the question.”
Six months earlier, speaking in a mosque and wearing a veil, that country’s former minister for integration Mona Sahlin said that many Swedes are envious of the immigrants because they, unlike the Swedes, have a culture, a history, something which ties them together. The Swedes, she concluded, only have some foolish anniversaries and such folly.
Many similar statements can be cited from Western Europeans. Ironically, though, shouldn’t those who are fervent believers in “multi-culturalism” believe that they themselves possess one of the cultures worth preserving? Yet in the Western elite’s war on its own past, the traditional idea of nation, people, and religion are in disrepute. Indeed, the idea of nation or community has often come to be defined as racist even when those being defined as outside that grouping (or in the pejorative newspeak, the “other”) are of the same race.
And, it might be added, the new antisemitism and often irrationally passionate hatred of Israel arise in large measure from the fact that the Jews, once reviled as supposed enemies of these concepts, are now derided as their embodiment.
Of course, we understand why the old order has broken down. Great things were achieved by intellectual, scientific, or political rebels who broke with traditional society. As people’s vision widened in time and space, they saw there was more than one way to think and live, and perhaps one’s own perspective was not the repository of all truth.
The Austrian philosopher of Jewish background, whose own family had converted to Christianity, Karl Popper, perhaps put it best:
“The breakdown of magic tribalism is closely connected with the realization that taboos are different in various tribes, that they are imposed and enforced by man, and that they may be broken without unpleasant repercussions if one can only escape the sanctions imposed by one’s fellow men.”
And on a more popular culture level—and serving almost like a manifesto for the anti-Jewish Jewish intellectual—is Woody Allen’s speech from his 1997 film, “Deconstructing Harry”:
“They force on you the concept of the `other` so you know clearly who you should hate….If a Jew gets massacred does that bother you more than if a Gentile gets hurt, or a black, or a Bosnian. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every group didn’t go around thinking it had a direct line to God.”
But only a Jew would talk like that! Only a Jew would try to live up to such a high standard of universalism. And here is an unassailable paradox: If Jewish history produces people with such exquisitely Politically Correct worldviews, why abandon that fountainhead?
In a similar way, one of the main Jewish characteristics was a constant consciousness of time and space, a special intellectual and psychological connection with history and with different cultures and places. These were characteristics well into deficit in American culture, which often seems to live in a brief temporal bubble, rife with its presentism and parochialism.
The feel-good slogan that today is the first day of the rest of your life really does reflect this zeitgeist. In essence, it preaches the irrelevance of the past, a bogus freedom to make anything happen. Such attitudes certainly leach into American Jews, too. Yet here traditionally derived attitudes are also worth preserving, as society is far poorer without them.
Moreover, how was it that those so determined to desert one tribe entered another. Why had Popper’s family converted? Why did Allen Konigsberg become Woody Allen and Robert Zimmerman become Bob Dylan? Perhaps belonging to a “tribe” was not so easily dispensed with but that some “tribes” offered greater advantages. While Groucho (Julius) Marx, in a profoundly assimilationist Jewish statement, said he would not want to belong to any club that would have him, very few consistently follow that belief. Historic community is nominally abandoned on behalf of universalism and diversity. It’s actually being abandoned for conformity and benefits.
Indeed, the newly formed “tribes” of Marxists, or multiculturalists, or indeed those who follow any lifestyle and hold any strong belief exhibit just as much intolerance and group behavior as any ancient clan flourishing its spears at the “other.”
No one better than Jews should know, and nothing more than Jewish history should indicate, the pervasive nature of such choices.
Peretz Smolenskin, the Russian Jewish novelist and editor, records a personal experience from around the 1870s. A wealthy Russian Jew visited him to ask advice on what to do with his daughter, who’d joined the terrorist revolutionary movement. Smolenskin, responded that the real cause of such problems was a failure of parents, not children:
“How did you bring up your daughter? You had governesses and tutors, teaching her foreign languages. You sent her to high school, where she learned about other peoples. Did you teach her about our own people? Did you teach her our own language? Did you interest her in our own history? Did you want her to know about our own people and our own national aspirations? To whom, then, should you bring your complaints, if not to yourself?”
While modern Westerners, especially Jews, can boast of tremendous academic credentials, this has been accompanied by a serious growth of ignorance, at least on topics concerning their own society’s historical development, practical skills, relating abstract ideas to reality, and individual life philosophy.
Here’s a typical story of this phenomenon based on direct observation. The great-grandparents were pious Jews who knew Hebrew and Yiddish, loved study as the highest human activity, and were at home with their own tradition and community. The grandparents were secular, highly educated, banally leftist, and very ethnically Jewish. The father had no connection to Jewish life or interest in intellectual things, and intermarried.
The daughter is a graduate student, lost in life, indoctrinated with post-Marxist leftism, lacking any personal identity, and—despite academic degrees—without intellectual orientation. On attending a Friday night Kiddush, she asked sincerely if the wine being drunk there represented the blood of Christianity’s founder.
This kind of generational sequence is devolution, not the steady advance of progress. Knowledge—or at least its appearance in degrees, credentials, years of schooling—that departs too far from real life turns to ignorance. This is the gap between “smartness” and wisdom.
There is not merely a disengagement from both the historical and spiritual but an absolute loss of ability to do so at all. When Adin Steinsaltz, who many think is the world’s most brilliant contemporary rabbi and one especially adept at communicating with the secular, visited the United States during the late 1980s, the good Jewish burghers of Washington set up a lecture for him. To ensure a crowd they invited Ted Koppel, then at the height of his fame as anchorman of the “Nightline” television news show, to be host.
The auditorium was packed. At the end of Steinsaltz’s stunning talk, Koppel said, “Thank you for a most entertaining evening.”
Steinsaltz quickly but mildly replied, “It was not intended to be entertaining.” What Koppel thought merely a pleasantry revealed profoundly how religious knowledge and philosophy—determining one’s place in the universe—as central to one’s life had been reduced to the level of a television show, film, or sporting event.
Similarly, when after an author made a passionate presentation about making aliyah to Israel at the synagogue I attended as a youth, the young, hip rabbi said: “Thanks for an entertaining talk. And next week we’ll have another exciting program, on Broadway show tunes.”
Yet, of course, people still feel the need for more—roots, belief, community—even if they don’t totally understand or are even unaware of it. Having no sense of my own history, coming from a family which had tried to obliterate its own past, I became a historian.
The lack of history and prevalence of mystery in my own life gave me a passion for truth, for finding out, understanding, and explaining. Many people simply don’t comprehend that attitude. They think everyone choses a side then bend the facts to fit it. Or perhaps they have to lean over backward, always or often rule against their own backgrounds so as to “prove” their objectivity precisely by abandoning that virtue. This seems to be particularly a Jewish curse, as others are not expected to do so, and is becoming a more general American one as well.
One can see the American-approved solution in a 2008 comic film called ‘”Don’t mess with the Zohan.” It is the most Jewish film Hollywood is going to make in this era. The main character is a terrorism-fighting Israeli secret agent who verges on being a super-hero. Burn-out, he emigrates to America where he of course falls in love with a Palestinian woman and fights against the ultimate approved contemporary villains: a real estate developer, a pompous conservative politician, and a group of neo-Nazis, all white of course. So one can only be approved in Jewish or Israeli terms if one immediately assimilates them away.
Parallel to this was the 2005 serious film “Munich,” assigned to an outspoken anti-Israel script writer. Here the plot is about Israel secret agents chasing those who murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games. The agents and terrorists are viewed as equally moral, or immoral. And even the Israelis are filled with guilt at going after those who murdered their countrymen in cold blood. Here, too, everything must be precisely balanced to make clear that the filmmakers could not possibly think that those defending their own people—at least if representing the Jewish national idea—were any better than terrorists.
What the mostly Jewish filmmakers of these two projects had in common with their predecessors who Hecht had battled so many decades earlier was a particular cravenness. The old movie moguls hid their Jewishness by never mentioning it and extolling a small-town America of which they were not be a part; the contemporary ones hid theirs under a Political Correctness which distanced themselves from real Jewish feeling or Israel even as they paraded it.
Yet doing otherwise does have major career costs, even in contemporary America—or perhaps one should say far more in America today than a couple of decades ago. When I held my first job at a Washington think tank, at a time when I’d never undertaken any Jewish or Zionist involvement, I discovered that one of the top officials there was spreading the rumor that my mfother was a “Zionist leader.” In fact, in every sense of the word, my parents were among the most apolitical people I’ve ever met. A little later, when interviewing for a –university job, one of the professors started screaming at me—in a diatribe that could only have been based on my name—that I could “never teach fairly the Palestinian narrative.”
Yet Jewish tradition taught that neither the rich nor poor should be favored in court. That fairness and balance was vital, neither the class-based victory to the rich and powerful, nor a misplaced sense of social justice always leading to a ruling for the underdog. It is easy to be cynical about such a philosophy and hard to maintain it. Still, it was the very foundation of the Enlightenment, the basis for modern liberal, democratic civilization. Or, at least was until recently.
Why did Jewish immigrant families bury their backgrounds? The answers are not hard to find: native-born children’s shame for their parents’ accents and foreign ways; desire to avoid discrimination and reap the benefits of assimilation, to scale the social ladder. The son of Bert Lahr, the comedian best known for his role as the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz,” once heard his mother tell his father, “You aren’t Jewish, Bert, you’re a star!” Even in the living memory of baby boomers, America has had three secretaries of defense and a secretary of state whose parents had converted largely for social purposes to advance themselves.
There were also longer-term forces at work. The immigrants themselves felt guilty at abandoning loved ones who they would never see again, of failing to save them from the Shoah, of abandoning a passionately loved cultural and religious life style for convenience, profit, and conformity. Grandchildren felt totally alien from funny-looking, inconveniently pious or old-fashioned grandparents.
Then, also, to a greater extent than outsiders realize, Jews also internalized their sense of inferiority. Benjamin Disraeli, the child of converts who rose to become one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers once quipped in the late nineteenth century that his ancestors had been high priests in the Temple in Jerusalem when the forebears of the British had been significantly less elevated. Yet a few years later, far more Jews were trying to bury the fact that their far more recent relations had been poor tailors, ragged peddlers, and lowly small shopkeepers.
The power of such stereotypes is well-illustrated by the incomprehension of Ben Hecht. A remarkably successful Hollywood screenwriter in the 1930s an 1940s, combative champion for rescuing Jews from Nazi Europe when almost all American Jews were silent, and an outspoken supporter for creating the state of Israel, of all those of his generation, Hecht should have best understood his immigrant ancestors.
Yet he wrote of his own mother: “It was odd that this woman, born as a peasant on a farm in southern Russia and come of a long line of humiliated Jews should have acquired such a baggage of pride or faced a life of poverty with such a sense of security.”
Even Hecht thought of Eastern European Jews as demoralized outsiders. But if they were humiliated from without it did not penetrate into their inner beings, far less than it did for their far more privileged descendants who feared having everything might be taken away from them. Yet people like Hecht’s mother felt a sense of superiority in her people, religion, and history. Their security came from trust in God and a sense of identity and place. I don’t mean to romanticize what was so often a poor existence but only to stress that it was also a subjectively secure and psychologically rich one.
Trying to identify with the more powerful nation, privileged society, cultured culture, and fashionable religion were all among the reasons for the abandonment of identity or at least its transformation into something hitherto unrecognizable. Remembrance, one of Judaism’s most basic tenets was often restructured into deliberate, systematic amnesia. And when coupled with this clamber upwards, the addition of a patina of leftism and universalism allowed such Jews to have their snobbery while feeling virtuous at the same time.
There are reasons—especially for Jewish intellectuals—where such exploration can be dangerous territory for three reasons. For one can find secularism challenged by religion; universalism by peoplehood; and leftism by the reality of experience and the actual behavior of people and governments in the world.
The default position for Jewish intellectuals in Western Europe and North America is a leftist or liberal concept drawn from the experience of antisemitism–perceived as always coming from the political right–and assimilation–the historical antagonifst perceived as always being conservative, with the bright future of Communism or multiculturalism being compensation for abandoning one’s own religion and community. The highest formulation of this concept was by the soft-on-Stalin neo-Trotskyist, Isaac Deutscher, and the various philosophers of the Frankfurt School of Marxism which, ironically, reached the power of their influence—even rising to hegemonic levels—after the death and discrediting of Communism itself.
Rosa Luxemberg, radical heroine, was the thoroughly spoiled daughter of the richest Jewish family in Zamosc, Russian Poland. Outspoken in her rejection of anything Jewish, she equally denounced Polish nationalism in favor of the grand abstract of the international proletariat. Yet despite her desire to distance herself from the Jewish people as far as possible, her involvement in anti-nationalist activity in Poland fueled Polish antisemitism just as her revolutionary action in Germany helped stir up the fascist anti-Jewish reaction there. And this most un-Jewish, arguably anti-Jewish, revolutionary is overwhelmingly present on the Internet today on antisemitic websites as proof that all Jews are Bolshevik wreckers of Western civilization.
Not only did Jewish involvement with the radical left lead to bloody, ultimately failed revolutions but also seriously damaged the lives of other Jews who came to live under Communist regimes, through subverting the survival of the people whose interests they oppose, and also by fomenting hatred of Jews among those who hate their politics. Today, their spiritual descendants continue this tradition.
Yet there is nothing like talking to relatives who actually lived under Communism, suffered under its depredations, and saw its extraordinary hypocrisies to serve as an antidote to such abstract ideas. Nor is there something so useful as the dose of reality from those who were formed in unbroken communities in Europe and who have gone through Israel’s history.
When my highly educated and cultured in-laws were singing the praises of Stalin on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1930s, their relatives were starving and being threatened with concentration camps; and by the early 1950s, those in the USSR were directly experiencing the threat of a new antisemitism which might well have turned into an, admittedly far milder, version of what Germany had carried out during the preceding decade.
That is why real Jewish history and Israel are so feared and reviled by Jews–no matter how removed they are from any such identity–on the left, though this does not apply to mainstream liberals. It is a form of kryptonite to their delusions about the nature of the world, the behavior of people, the glories of nice-sounding ideologies, the realities of populist dictatorships, and the glories of rootlessness.