Auntie Em & Uncle Lawrence

I’ve spent the last two nights with Emilyn and Lawrence Kogan in Stamford, Connecticut. Emilyn is Steve’s late mother’s sister. I never got to meet Steve’s mom, Fritzi. But being with Emilyn helps me have a sense of her. It helps me know and love Steve all the more. Did I ever tell you how much I love my Jewish family?

I was pretty beat from the two-day train ride-DC ordeal, so we decided NOT to take another train into NYC for our one day together. Instead we stayed at the house all day in our jammies and talked – and worked on some family genealogy. Ah… lovely. It was a day full of family history, photos, and stories. This Brooklyn Jewish immigrant community was so far removed from my small-town Southern Baptist Oklahoma /Texas/California upbringing, we might as well be from different planets. Steve and I are going on ten years together, yet I have so much more to learn about this fascinating family with a rich culture, traditions, and strong ties.

Both Em & Lawrence’s grandparents emigrated from Europe to Brooklyn. They didn’t speak English when they arrived, but they learned it quickly and went to work. The next generation owned businesses. Emilyn’s father, Steve’s grandfather, registered for the draft for both WWI and WWII. Em & Lawrence’s generation had jobs, and Lawrence served in Europe during WWII. Their sons are now professionals in the legal and medical fields. Their grandchildren are working hard on their education and are destined for success. They’ve had their share of troubles, like any normal family, but through it all their love and commitment for one another remains strong.

Em & Lawrence are in their seventies and are always fun to be with. The same year that I was born, they left Brooklyn and bought this little house in Stamford for $18,000. Sometime later, without refinancing, they scraped together enough to add a second floor and more bedrooms upstairs. So now they own a six-bedroom home in a lovely quiet NYC suburb… free and clear.

Lynne, Em, and me

Steve’s cousin Lynne turns fifty on July 9, the day after my fiftieth birthday. To celebrate both our birthdays, Em took Lynne and me out for dinner last night.

What fun. Lynne has a vision for starting a home for women who are just out of prison and who want to be reunited with their children who are in foster care. The home would be an opportunity for these women to get back on their feet financially and socially, and have a supportive environment to rebuild their relationships with their children. She has the know-how to make it work, bringing in grant money, and gathering the right staff. I can’t wait to hear the outcome of this one. For her fiftieth birthday, Lynne and her family are going to the Caribbean for eight days. Cool beans.

Every two years Jay & Lynne’s synagogue takes their youth group on a civil-rights tour through the South. They visit the famous sites of the civil-rights movement and learn about what it took to bring a powerful change in American culture. They also do internships in Washington, DC to learn how to lobby for justice.

Lawrence and Yonaton

Lynne’s oldest, Jenny Rose, is at the University of Vermont. Jenny’s cousin Yonaton is at Harvard. He’s spending the summer in New York City working at Planned Parenthood. He stays with Em & Lawrence when he’s not house sitting in the city. He arrived last night and we stayed up with tea and cookies and talked. For his just-for-fun summer reading, he is plowing through Anne Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He’s on page 800 out of 1000. He’s reading it because he disagrees with the philosophy behind it and wants to better understand the opposing point of view. He reads to expand his own mind and challenge his own presuppositions. What a novel idea. I loved our discussion.

These are my in-laws. I love them dearly – and amazingly – they love me too.

Right now I’m on Amtrak’s Downeaster, heading from Boston to Portland, Maine, where I’ll start my next adventure with Harrah. I’ll write again, next time I have wi-fi. Might be a day or two.

Thanks for following along.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Susan on June 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks for posting all this on Em and Lawrence et al. Nice to read an update, and some history, about that side of Guthrie’s relatives.

    Susan

    Reply

    • Posted by fawngilmorekraut on July 2, 2010 at 4:29 am

      There must be books written about the Jewish community in Brooklyn. Guthrie’s family lived across the street from Fritzi’s family.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Steffi on July 1, 2010 at 2:22 am

    You can be an official MOT. Nice reading about your Jewish peeps!
    Steffi

    Reply

  3. Posted by Auntie Em on July 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    You brought tears to my eyes, and emphasized how much are you are missed! Just lovely sharing such quality time with you. Lawrence’s comment: ” Steven and I both married the right (gals) women.”

    Reply

  4. Posted by Little Sis on July 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I’m glad that you were able to get the genealogy done with her help! How awesome to get the stories first hand. I hope that you wrote them down and will upload them to your tree. That is what makes it all worth while. I miss you!

    Reply

    • Posted by fawngilmorekraut on July 2, 2010 at 4:36 am

      Time was pretty limited so unfortunately, I didn’t write them down. Just figured out who was who on the tree and filled in some of the missing info. Em is now set up to add documents and stories as she chooses. We were just too laid back to stress over writing it all down. I thought we did pretty well getting the ancestry account up and running.

      Reply

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