Searching for Answers -- Why I Began

From childhood on, I wanted to know about my maternal grandmother Chana Fleischmann Reiter, (1851-1939). She died in a Jewish Orthodox Home for the Aged in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was five. Chana lived with our family in Toledo when I was about three or four, but my only remembrance of her is that of a dark, shadowy figure passing through the house.

Adolph's mother, Chaya Ruchel Zuker-Reinstein,(1860-1896), died when he was 7. Her husband, (my grandfather Nachman, 1856-1941), died in Europe. Lena's father, Fischel Reiter, died in Toledo, Ohio at the age of 80 in 1921.

At the beginning of World War II, in the early 1940s, I began asking my mother, Lena, about her life growing up in Europe and particularly what she remembered about the town where she was born. We had no photos, so I tried to see the town in my mind's eye --the people... who they were, what they looked like, what they thought about. And the town, too ...what did it look like compared to Toledo?

It's difficult to remember that just 60 years ago we relied on the newspaper (extra, extra immediate, urgent news) and radio. Telegrams were today's email; long-distant telephone calls were rarely made by the average American still recovering from the economics of the Great Depression. News reels at the movies (special feature) provided a visual picture of the news, especially the war.

Perhaps at this time, thinking back to her childhood was a welcome diversion for Lena. Remembering happy times (images nurturing to a child-- peace, safety, a large and loving family protecting you from the real world) were still vivid memories twenty-eight years later.

Lena and Adolph's tales piqued my curiosity to hear more about their youth. Soon, however, my thoughts shifted...drifting towards more personal interests; I was becoming a teenager. Over the years that Adolph and Lena lived, I forgot to ask them to continue their stories. As often happens when one is young, you're busy getting through life, and think your parents will always be there. Lena died at the age of 68; I had just turned 33.

Our first grandchild Abigail was born in 1984. Now I was the grandmother, loving this special moment in life. It brought back memories of my old dream ... wishing I had known Chana. Would we have been close, I always wondered? What would we have talked about and enjoyed together?

When Adolph died in 1978, I found a large box of pictures. I put them away, not thinking much about the people ... who they were or where the photos had been taken. This was years after the Holocaust, during the cold war with Russia. I was teaching, raising my family, and... it was "bc"....before the computer! Then, too, with all the destruction caused by the war, there was no reason to think Jewish-European records could be found.

In 1990, Ted brought home our first computer. I felt the time was right to find answers to childhood questions. I joined the Cleveland Jewish Genealogical Society, prepared to spend a limited time at this new adventure. Little did I know it would catapult me into an almost 12-year odyssey of infinite discovery.

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Compiled by Susana Leistner Bloch and Edward Rosenbaum.

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