Full Circle on the Circle Line
In 1919 my paternal grandfather, Henry Scajewicz, arrived, via steerage class on a ship, at Ellis Island from a small town in Poland. He entered the New York Harbor with the address of a relative in Newark, NJ, a few dollars and some potatoes for emergency eating. He came in the steerage of a ship and left behind his wife and two daughters. Officials at Ellis Island simplified our familial last name (heavy on the consonants) to Sherman and our beginnings as grateful citizens of the United States of America began. Being Jewish in Poland in the early 1900s (and later of course) was like wearing a big target on your back. Anti-Semitism was rampant and Jewish homes, businesses and people were often victims of random acts of violence. My grandfather saw where this was leading and made a tough and courageous choice: he left Poland. What he lacked in financial resources he had in heart, vision, skill (he was a tailor) and determination to give his family a better life. With time, hard work and a lot of chutzpah, Grandpa Henry was able to arrange for my grandmother (Mary) and their two eldest daughters( Rose and Bea) to join him in Newark, NJ. Soon after the family was reunited, two more daughters (Rae and Lillian) and my father, (Irving) the youngest child, was born and the seven members of the Sherman family began to do what families do when they are no longer being treated with cruelty and oppression — they worked, lived, grew and flourished. This past Sunday our immediate family gathered to celebrate father’s day. My sister in law and niece came up with the brilliant inspiration to get on a short Circle Line Boat Ride in lower Manhattan so we joined forces to take my almost 92 year old father into lower Manhattan so we could surprise him with this plan. This photo says it all. My brother David and me with our beloved dad, the waters of New York Harbor carrying us into our current lives and lady liberty echoing her chant: “Give me your tired, your poor..." Grandpa Henry and Grandma Mary were tired and poor AND they were vibrant and bold. In this photo I was feeling all the feels that one feels when the past, present and the future (we had four little ones under the age of 7 with us) merge together into a place that feels something like hope, something like awe, something like bittersweet acceptance of the joys and sorrows that generations experience and everything like enduring love and deep gratitude. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. We all love you so very much.
Thank you Diane Rabin Shulman for the photo share.