Saturday, October 3, 2009

Romania -- More on my genealogy travels

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I posted a lot on this already, but I want to point out that my current Ruthless Cosmopolitan column on JTA deals with my recent trip to Romania with my cousins, on which we dabbled in family history and, as the cliche goes, walked in the footsteps of our ancestors.

RADAUTI, Romania (JTA) -- It's the custom in Judaism to visit the graves of family members around the High Holidays.

This year I went a step further and walked in the footsteps of my ancestors.

My father's parents, who immigrated to the United States before World War I, were born near the market town of Radauti in the Bucovina region of northern Romania.

This is where I went a couple of weeks before Rosh Hashanah. It was my fourth trip to Radauti, which when my grandparents lived there was one of the easternmost towns in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

My first visit there was more than 30 years ago, in the freezing December of 1978. I was a correspondent for United Press International and was accompanying Romania's then-chief rabbi, Moses Rosen, on his annual Chanukah tour to far-flung remnant communities throughout the country.

I recall visiting 19 Jewish communities in six days. Elderly people in winter coats and astrakhan hats huddled together in unheated synagogues, and puffs of steam came from the mouths of the Jewish choir from Bucharest that came along with us to perform.

My brother Sam also was on that trip, and he and I took time in Radauti to visit the Jewish cemetery and pick our way through the stones to find the grave of our great-grandmother, Ettel Gruber, who died in 1946 and in whose honor I was given my middle name.

Discovering her grave did not trigger in me any further genealogical impulse, though what we experienced on our trip around Romania that week sowed the seeds of my interest in Jewish heritage.

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