This is the history, more or less, of the Schechter family in America, from the turn of one century through much of the next. Like all history, it is mediated, shaped, perhaps even distorted by the play of time and the limits of memory. It is our history, as recalled by my parents Ruth and Jerry Schechter.
In October of 1987, armed with my new video camera, I sat my mother and father down on my couch in Brookline, Massachusetts, and proceeded to interview them about our family story. The transcript that follows does not capture the intense kibitzing that punctuated the session. Both agreed on only one thing: whoever was talking was wrong and remembered nothing correctly. Details were swatted back and forth like a volleyball. In the end, my mother emerged the aggrieved party, because my father had hardly let her speak, perhaps feeling that the Lubin family really had little history worthy of reporting. When she did finally get her chance, she spoke with the moral authority of a victim, and sternly warned him not to interfere. The interview lasted perhaps 90 minutes.
As for contradictions, the reader can make his or her own judgements. One interesting aspect of the interview was what it revealed about what my father thought he knew about his familys life in Russia, based on what his own mother had told him. Some of this information turned out to be wrong or dramatically incomplete. It wasnt until many years later, when we began the process of having my grandmothers letters translated, that he learned, for instance, that she had left behind a half-dozen brothers and sisters in the old country. That story, based on more complete research, is told in the book, Bessies Letters, published in 1998.
A much longer interview of my father, more than six hours in length, was conducted in his former residence, at Croton, NY, in the winter of 1989, less than seven months after my mother had passed away. The history of our family now poured out in even greater detail. Yet memory also played its tricks: I was confounded that my father, still in a state of deep shock and grief, could not remember some classic family stories, told and many times re-told, over our kitchen table.
These interviewsthe two brief ones of my mother and father, and the longer one of my father are preserved on video tape. These transcriptions will, hopefully, help to make the interviews more accessible.
With the publication of these interview, the project of recording and preserving my familys history, and the story of those incandescent individuals who shaped our has been largely completed. No doubt, the next generation of Schechters will have a word or two of their own to add to this continuing family saga. To date the following works have been published:
The More You Watch the Less You Know (Danny Schechter)
Bessies Letters (Bessie Rapoport Schechter)
Max Schechter-Father, Grandfather, Union Activist
Remembering Grandma Sarah
Ruth Lisa Schechter-A Memory Book
Back Of The Beyond (Family history poems)
A Storied Past
During World War II, my Uncle George, who served in the army for six years, carried on a voluminous correspondence with my mother and father. The originals of these letters can now be found in looseleaf binders in my home., in Brookline, Massachusetts. My aunt, Dana Schechter, is currently organizing the letters into a publishable format, with notes and maps that will provide a fuller context. We eagerly await the completion of her work.
October 17, 2000
Editors Note: Subsequent to the publication of this book four additional works appeared:
News Dissector/ Passions, Pieces & Polemics, 1960-2000 (Danny Schechter)
In The Center of the Whirlpool/ A Soldiers Journal (George Schechter)
What Happened To Our Family During The Holocaust?
Kholmich!-A Return To A Shtetl