Preface

When I was a young boy, during a much simpler time before the digital information age, I loved reading tales about the days of yore. Mystical kingdoms inhabited by noble kings, fair queens, and gallant lords and knights in armor captured my imagination. Their heraldic...

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A Tribute to Those Who Came Before Us

We in the Polonsky family have a remarkable heritage. We are descended from a long line of illustrious rabbis, rabbinical scholars, and community leaders, dating back to the legendary biblical commentator Rashi in eleventh century France. We are indeed blessed to have...

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Chapter 26 – Everything Must Change

     Everything must change Nothing stays the same Everyone must change No one stays the same The young become the old And mysteries do unfold Cause that’s the way of time Nothing and no one goes unchanged So go the lyrics to the opening chorus of a modern day jazz...

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Chapter 25 – The People of the Book

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were only about 6,000 Jews in America. The idea that there was freedom in America as long as you were not “too Jewish,” discouraged many Jews from immigrating. Since that time, the Jewish population of America has...

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Chapter 24 – Family Remembrances

Vital records and family trees are important tools in understanding the relationships between the members of a family. They can tell us how we are connected to one another, and from whom we descend. However, they tell us very little about who we are as human beings....

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Chapter 23 – Broken Bridges

Given how close the Polonsky family was for three generations in America, it is difficult to fathom how an entire generation has grown up having virtually no interaction with their second cousins. This chapter explores the dynamics of our family, to better understand...

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Chapter 22 – Family Connections

In the spring of 2008, when I began assembling a basic family tree in preparation for my son Joshua’s Bar Mitzvah, I did not know any of my cousins outside of my own (Paull) branch of the Polonsky family. Never before had I met any member of the Adler, Chaber,...

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Chapter 21 – The Greatest Generation

Unlike any era America has known, the 1940s were characterized by a generation of young people united by a common cause and values. Tom Brokaw wrote of them in his book, The Greatest Generation, calling them: “... the greatest generation any society has produced.” He...

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Chapter 12 – We the People

As discussed in the preceding chapter, the patriarch of our branch of the Polonsky family in America was Nathan Polonsky, born around the time of the American Civil War, in Shpola, Russia. He and his wife Bessie Polonsky represent the first generation of the Polonsky...

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Chapter 11 – The Family Patriarch

The patriarch of the Polonsky family in America is Nathan Polonsky (c. 1863–1929). Nathan’s birth name in Russia was Menakhem Nahum Polonsky. Nathan was most likely born in the town of Shpola, in the Zvenigorodka uezd (district) of the Kiev guberniya(province) of the...

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Chapter 10 – Lest We Forget

We are extremely fortunate that our Polonsky ancestors immigrated to America between 1905 and 1914, prior to World War I. Immigration to America was dramatically curtailed after 1914, and very few Russian Jews were permitted entry to the United States after that...

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Chapter 9 – An Epic Era

Unbeknownst to Nathan Polonsky and his family when they arrived in Brooklyn in 1914, they were on the cusp of one of the most epic periods of history that America, and arguably the world, has ever known. Over the next three decades, the country would experience two...

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Chapter 8 – The Golden Land

Amidst the poverty and the persecution that defined Jewish life in the Russian Pale of Settlement, there was one potential way out of the misery – immigration to America, di goldeneh medina, the Golden Land. Between 1881 and 1920, approximately three million Ashkenazi...

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Chapter 4 – Two Tablets of Stone

The family story told in Bertha Paull Friedman’s memoir provided intriguing clues regarding how we in the Polonsky family are descended from two very important Chassidic rabbis.70 Further, it tells us that both of these rabbis were disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, one...

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Chapter 3 – Our Oral History

When I first embarked on my quest to discover our family’s lost heritage, I had no family tree and very few of what genealogists refer to as primary documents – vital records such as birth and death certificates, or marriage records. Along with the Ellis Island...

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Chapter 2 – And So, It is Written

The study of lineage has been of importance to the Jewish people since biblical days, and lengthy genealogical lists are recorded throughout the Bible. The Talmud in the Tractate Kiddushin stresses the importance of yichus or family background:      Ten lineages...

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Chapter 1 – A Millennial Heritage

Jewish religious and cultural history dates back more than four thousand years and includes hundreds of different populations. Our family’s Jewish lineage and ancestry, as far as this author has been able to trace it, dates back over one thousand years to the great...

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