Sunday, May 10, 2009


My mother and her family had a great impact and influence on me, I identify closely with them. If I was being a pessimist, I would say that impact and influence gave me a lack of confidence, lack of optimism and no entrepreneurial skills. However, I am surprised at where this latest journey is taking me.

When I began this blog I called it "alostbohemian" and set up an e-mail account for this blog at
. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Bohemian as a person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior. I have spent my life trying to adhere to conventional standards of behavior. A Bohemian lifestyle could be closer to who I imagine I would have been if I had made more enlightened decisions over the years. A sense of family and of family history would have given me skills to make better choices. However, looking back is not the way to look forward. Or is it.

I am a Bohemian. The other definition of Bohemian is a native or inhabitant of Bohemia. Isn't it interesting that in searching for a path forward, I have found myself looking back? My mother was born in Eger, Czech., now called Cheb, located in the far northwest corner of Bohemia. I knew where my mother was born and when she immigrated to the United States, but I know little of how they lived before they came to the United States. I could surmise why they came here from lessons learned in history classes. For my mother's family, their lives began when they came here, they even changed their names. There are Jewish people that were Jewish by birth and there are those that were by not only Jewish by birth, but who actively practiced their faith. I don't know which my grandparents were. From reading published biographies of Jewish World War II immigrants, I am impressed by their sense of family and history. My grandparents relocated to a community where there were other family members, but the sense of history and family didn't seem to be there. There was little sharing, little explanation.

Opa, the gardener, had had a shop. There were times that he would show me a jar of buttons that seemed important. I wish I had paid more attention. From recent discussions with my mother, Opa's shop sold tailored suits. Opa wasn't a tailor. Mother thinks that he helped his clients pick out the fabric and accessories for their suits, then had the suit sewn for them. He may have even manufactured the material for the suit. The buttons must have been an important part of the look. From what I have been reading in biographies, many Jewish people were shopkeepers, providing necessary goods and services. After the war, there must have been an incredible void in the fabric of European society.

The cousin who was tracing his family tree shared information with my mother from the granddaughter of Dr. Paul Löwy, Anat . Dr. Paul Löwy was an attorney and a successful puppeteer who immigrated to Israel in 1939. He was Opa's brother. I frequently read her letter and I am a little jealous that she has more family history than I do. However, I do have one piece of the puzzle that she doesn't have.

My mother had mentioned, once, that the family was planning on going to England if they needed to. There was a nephew in England who had a manufacturing business having to do with clothing. Anat's letter quotes , ""It is September 15, 1938. We are all in Prague. We heard that in Carlsbad, windows of Jews and Czechs were smashed, in Eger and the German provinces were bloody riots, it seems that the removal of the recognition of the German Sudeten area will happen soon. It seems that the marionettes have to find another place to live." Paul and Opa did not believe that something would happen to them because they were officers in the previous war. Anat says, "Until this day I wonder what was the logic behind learning waterproofing of raincoats and glove making, ending up in a hot place like Palestine." Paul was an attorney and his brother, my Opa, was a successful clothing store owner, it was the 1930's. Maybe they were thinking that if that had to leave for a while they would go to England and work with the nephew, then go back home. Shopkeepers and business owners are always looking for new opportunities.

Shopkeepers and business owners are envied by me. I have always worked for someone. In this latest downturn in our economy, having your own business may be the way to turn things around. Business owners must be fearless and optimistic. There must be an unshakable belief in themselves. While owning your own business seems to be scary, there must be a unique sense of accomplishment in having a successful enterprise.

There is a 1951 film "Out of Evil" at At the beginning of the film there is a donkey marionette, fast forward to about 41, 46 minutes and there is a campfire like scene with people sitting around on straw bales watching the puppet show. The man making the marionette's dance is my great uncle. Dr. Paul Löwy also carved the puppets. I look at his suit and it is very similar to the suits Opa wore and I wonder if that is a style that Opa had a hand in. I wonder about Opa's business skills, I wonder what he was like when he had hope and optimism. I wonder how he ran his shop and his business.

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