26 February 2008

What's in the paper today?

While family history researchers understand that historic newspapers are excellent resources for revealing ancestral information, it's even better when today's paper reunites living families.

The Lower Hudson Journal News (New York) played a big part in recently reuniting two cousins after more than six decades.

Jakub Pomeranz had not looked back on his past after the day in 1944 day when German soldiers dragged his father away to Auschwitz, leaving the boy wandering the streets of the Polish town of Radom.

Moving from one orphanage to another across Europe, Jakub, then 8, lost touch with his known surviving relatives - two cousins and an aunt. His mother and sister had disappeared in 1939, and his three brothers were also were missing.

After the war, a prominent New York Jewish couple brought Jakub to the United States, adopted him and gave him their name - Gartenberg. If in the following six decades Jack Gartenberg wondered about his original family, he put it out of his mind.

The Journal News carried a late December 2007 story about a Monsey (NY) couple who were making aliyah to Jerusalem. Gartenberg's wife showed him the article about Radom native Jehoshua Pomeranz and his wife Miriam.

Gartenberg, 72, said, "How can there be two Pomeranzes from Radom and not be related?"

More amazing was that the two families had lived within two miles of each other for 34 years; the children had gone to the same school; the wives were on the same bowling league and had even worked together briefly. Even the men were acquainted.

Gartenberg's wife, Pinky had wondered if they were related because of the surname, and she had discussed it with Miriam, but dismissed it as Pomeranz was a kohen and Gartenberg wasn't.

Following the article, the women arranged to meet, although Pomeranz had already left for Jerusalem and his wife planned to follow soon.

They met for five hours and concluded the men were related.

"The realization that his only known surviving relative had lived within walking distance for decades, unbeknownst to him, was overwhelming, and tears streamed down his face."

"His father and my father were brothers," Gartenberg said. "How much closer can you get?"

More connections in the form of old memories, photographs and letters proved the relationship.

Gartenberg hid in a Polish basement with his cousins, one of whom was Miriam's mother-in-law, Sara Joseph, who remembered those times.

Both remembered Jack's father Pesach as being tall with blond hair, and working in the mattress business. Joseph has a photo of the two brothers with her mother in pre-war Poland. Jack now has his father's image.

In a French orphanage in 1946, Gartenberg had written a letter to his aunt and cousins at their last known address, asking of their whereabouts and about other relatives, signed with his name then, Kuba. Joseph had the original letter, found among her mother's papers after her death in 2000.

One of Gartenberg's few memories was of his father whispering to him - Don't forget you are a kohen - before they took him away.

Gartenberg's memories had kept him from searching for family, although the Pomeranzes had looked for "Kuba" for years. They would even look up the name Pomeranz in phone books and cold call the numbers, to no avail. Of course, they didn't know he had been adopted and used a different name.

"It was like the coming of the messiah," said Joseph, who now lives in Buffalo. "When you are a survivor, you've lost grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family members. You have very few who remain. You long to find someone you belong to. They are part of your past and your history."

Although Gartenberg, Joseph and Pomeranz haven't met yet, they are planning a future reunion.

Read more here.

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