‘Why Is The Sky Blue, Daddy?”

If you were to meet me at a party, you would soon find that I don’t have all that much to say.  But just as you are about to abandon me in hopes of finding someone more interesting, I would probably offer, “Oh, I don’t think I mentioned to you–my grandparents were first cousins”.   Now, even I know that it’s an act of desperation to offer oneself as a product of inbreeding just so as to make oneself more colorful.  But you have to admit, this not-so-small factoid might well add to your interest in me. Unfortunately, I’ve recently discovered that this (not much of a) secret shared by me and my siblings just isn’t true.   Another case of, “all that glitters is not gold”  (Sam Stein, circa: 1956-60, 1962, 1965).

In the wake of my desk downsizing at Garfield Realty, I’ve needed to create some office space at home (I hope the IRS reads this) and in the shuffling of various papers I came across a monograph written by my father some thirty years ago entitled, “A Family History of The Descendants of Zachary and Moses Family Circle”.  As with many immigrant families who formed “cousins clubs”, my father’s family formed this organization about a hundred years ago; there were enough members living in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn to warrant buying a building in that neighborhood to be the locus for all things Zachary and Moses.  But as the years went by and families were living in far-flung environs, there was less ongoing contact within the family.  What developed were occasional (every decade or so) Zachary and Moses weekends at some resort, usually located in the Catskill Mountains.  It was for one of these gatherings that my father,  who was the repository of much of the oral history of my clan, wrote his treatise.

I started reading the manuscript but in short order got confused by a myriad of relatives that were introduced in the history.  By contrast, it makes Doctor Zhivago read like a novel having only two characters.  But somewhere early on I got the gist of the family tree.  It seems that my father’s great-grandmother and his grandfather  were a widow and widower living in a small town in Russia who met each other on Thatch(hut).com and married, thereby creating a “blended family” that included fifteen children.  If I can believe my father’s writing, his parents were two of those children.

Of course, this begs the question:  why did I (and by brother and sister) grow up under the impression that my father’s parents were cousins?  The answer may lie in something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older– my father sometimes made things up.  Not out of malice or duplicity but  because he was loath to say, “I don’t know”.  We, his children, of course believed everything he said which resulted in our winding up with some very kooky explanations for things.  One that has stayed with me is his response to my asking what the point was for the series of buttons attached to cuff of the sleeve of a jacket I was wearing.  Sam calmly explained they were put there so as discourage the wearer from wiping his runny nose on his sleeve.  This, I held to be true until sometime early last year.

There was a famous TV commercial in the fifties’ which showed a young boy asking his father, “Why is the sky blue? Why is the sky blue, Daddy?”  The ad was for an encyclopedia (Britannica, I think). I guess it was supposed to play on the notion that a good parent should have an answer for everything.  Maybe that was the culture of the times and my father  lacking an encyclopedia just made things up on the fly.  I don’t ever remember asking him why the sky was blue, but I’ll bet his answer wouldn’t have been found in any encyclopedia…Britannica or otherwise.

Even though I grew up mis-informed about the nature of my grandparent’s connection, I’m now prepared to accept the written version that I now have in my hands.  But there’s one sentence in that history that worries me.  My father writes that his parents were two of the fifteen children in that blended family.  He doesn’t specifically say that his parents were step siblings. Meaning that it’s possible they were brother and sister. OyVey!  I’ve read Middlesex.  I don’t think I want to be that colorful.

doctor-zhivago-1

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7 Responses to “‘Why Is The Sky Blue, Daddy?””

  1. Sharyn Migdol Says:

    I am one of those descendants who went to the meetings at the old house in borough park. I still remember many faces from those meetings and I have the book of family history. My grandmother’s picture is included in the book. If you can read this, please contact me so we can see how we are related.

    • Laurie Wolf Says:

      I came across this blog and reply when googleing the Zachary & Moses family circle. I am researching my husbands family history, and when speaking with my mother in law about her childhood in Boro Park, she mentioned the Zachary Moses family circle, recalling summers spent in Kerhonkson with the whole family. Her name is Freida Stein-Wolf, daughter of Irving Stein, granddaughter of Reuvan Stein. The family originally came from Bessarabia. Would love to know if she is part of your family and any family information you could provide! Please contact me at researchbr@comcast.net. Looking forward to hearing from you.
      Laurie Wolf

    • Sherrie Says:

      Hi Sharyn–I just did a search for Z&M. Not much info on Internet! My mother, Ruth Berman-Norvid and her parents, Harry and Ida Berman were descendants of the Z&M. Of course, I am too! Have often wanted to stay in touch with family, but once my mother died in 2005, that ended, sadly. There used to be a newsletter that my parents got and I enjoyed finding out about “what’s going on” with famly circle. But, as you know, that no longer exists.

      I knew many of my mother’s aunts. uncles, cousins over the years– I lived in NY until 1972 and many of them came to my Bat Mitzvah and wedding. Of course, my folks are buried at Beth David.

      After my mother passed away, all contact with cousins faded away, to say the least. My daughter, Rachel, did a special project on family genealogy in 1999–was fascinating to learn about my relatives. Here are some names:

      Lindau, Berman, Braverman, Nash, Sokol, Katz, Weiss (to name a few)

      Hope to hear from you, Sherrie Norvid (Ruth and Bernie Norvid, Mom-Berman)

      • Lois Weiss Herzbrun Says:

        Hi, My brother David Weiss, Dairy farmer in Swan Lake NY and I, Lois Weiss Herzbrun of Hurleyville NY remember the little blue book from the family circle. Our grandmother was Minnie Berman Weiss Weiner of Brooklyn NY and Swan Lake NY. My email address is country5419@live.com. I remember taking my mom to the annual meeting in Swan Lake at the Stevensville and one time to the Villa Roma in Callicoon NY.

      • Lois Weiss Herzbrun Says:

        P.S. My brother and I remember when Al and Bessie Nash used to come up to our farm when we were young. Lois Weiss Herzbrun

  2. Janet Zarowitz Says:

    I have a copy of the family history too! We were just at Beth David cemetery as my father passed away a year ago. Laurie mentioned Freida Stein. I’m wondering if that’s my great Aunt Frieda. I am Dorothy Bazerman’s daughter whose parents were Jack Bazerman and Sarah Ackerman. Please feel free to contact me at jzarowitz@verizon.net

  3. Brian Katz Says:

    Wow. I was just looking at my copy of the Z&M constitution circa 1969 which I inherited from my dad, Mark Katz,and decided to google the family circle to see what showed up,and I found this post.
    I would very much like to see a copy of the family history and any genealogical investigations.
    If anyone can help me please let me know

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