The first section of these poems were written over a period of many years by
my mother, my brother, and myself. Invariably, it was the shock of my grandparents'
deaths that forced each of us to take pen in hand to express our pain and to
try to make sense of the immense loss. These were our parents and grandparents.
We had lived together with them in a small neighborhood in the Bronx. They
had connected us to our childhoods, to our cultural and political traditions,
and to one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of our family: their emigration
from the "Old Country" at the beginning of the 19th century. We owed
them a great deal. We loved them.
I was aware of these poems-they "accompanied" me-when I embarked on
a project to research the history of my Grandma Bessie and her family who had
lived in the small town of Kholmich in Byelorussia (now Belarus). We had found
102 letters that were sent to her over a period of twenty years by her father
and by her many brothers and sisters. It took eight years to have all of these
Russian and Yiddish letters translated. Placing them in the correct order and
re-creating a context for them through research and the acquisition of official
documents was like an great archaeological dig into my family's past. In 1998,
with the assistance of my father Jerry Schechter, the results were bound into
a book entitled Bessie's Letters. Books about Max Schechter and
Sarah Sholkov Lubin Karish soon followed. The poems that appear in the last
section all came out of these years of historical excavation and remembrance.
Memory survives by being sustained. Yarzheit candles should be lit in remembrance
of my grandparents-our immigrant generation-on the following dates:
Karl Karish / October 12 (1963)
Max Schechter / March 30 (1966)
Sarah Karish / April 2 (1973)
Bessie Schechter / December 4 (1980)
Consider lighting a candle for our Russian family as well, lost to us forever
in the fog of time, of war, of Holocaust.
Sarah Karish, Max Schechter, and Bessie Schechter are all buried in the Cedar
Park Cemetery, Westwood, New Jersey.
All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
Contact Bill Schechter