Page 4 - Boca ViewPointe - March '23
P. 4

Page 4, Viewpointe                                                   March 2023
      The Highest Leaf On My Family Tree

      By Robert W. Goldfarb                                 I often walked past the Mormon temple on Manhattan’s   upon Bar Mitzvah scrolls of great-great-grandfathers whose
                                                         West Side, certain its architect must have been jolted awake,   names I couldn’t pronounce. My family tree was becoming
         When I became 93 years old in December, I found   crying: “Good grief, I didn’t build the temple in Utah; I   heavy with announcements of first communions and Bris’s.
      comfort in thinking of myself, not as a very old man, but   accidentally erected it in New York City!” But the temple      Together, Sister Evans and I began pasting leaves on a
      as a leaf high on my family tree. There was something   is in Manhattan and Sister Evans, a genealogist there,   family tree that began to bend under the weight of limbs thick
      youthfully confident in being a leaf holding firm through   welcomed me to her office. Quickly, she became my guide   with leaves that told my family’s story. It didn’t take long
      the gusts of nearly a hundred winters.             as we searched through ship manifests, proof of citizenship   for us to realize how dense the lower branches were and the
         There was also something hopeful. As my leaf    documents, military records and birth, marriage and death   bareness of the limbs from which my leaf hung. How could
      ascended into the topmost branches, it was possible I   certificates. One of Sister Evans first comments to me was   that be? I was certain relatives I had visited with my parents
      would find relatives, perhaps distant cousins I had never   “I’m surprised that so many of your papers are from both   to bid a final good bye were at least as old as I am now. It
      met, hanging from still higher branches. How reassuring   synagogue’s and churches.”                 turned out that the oldest of those bent people with grey hair
      it would be to be welcomed by leaves higher than mine      My mother, born Cecilia Bridgett Connolly, was a devout   and dark clothes died in their eighties.
      that saw no reason to fall because others in the family   Irish-Catholic married to Jacob Goldfarb, a non-observant      Fluttering above my leaf there were no Tommy’s,
      had let go and fluttered to earth.                 Jew. My mother’s family attended mass at St. Malachy’s   Isidore’s, Paddy’s, Jacob’s, Veronica’s, Ida’s, Sean’s or
         Friends, knowing my sudden interest in distant   Church on Manhattan’s West Side, passing through my father’s   Rebecca’s. War’s, Spanish Flu, polio, tuberculosis, scarlet
      relatives, urged me to subscribe to But   Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood to get there. My father knew just   fever, chicken fat, pork chops and smoking had shaken
      there  was  something  ceremonial  in  finding  forgotten   enough about Catholicism to assume girls who went to church   their leaves from the tree. Vaccines, antibiotics, MRI’s, a
      family not through an algorithm, but in dusty volumes   with their parents on Sunday must also have reason to go there   Mediterranean diet, exercise and routine visits to doctors
      shelved in hushed libraries. I had read that genealogists   alone. She did and they met. They married in 1929 and it is   had secured my leaf to the highest branch.
      at the Mormon Church tended a forest dense with family   on the tree they grafted themselves that my leaf hangs.      After a long silence, Sister Evans, now more friend than
                                                           Sister Evans found my ancestry intriguing, a stew of
      trees and decided to ask their help in finding mine.     Catholics and Jews, of Irish, Russians and Poles, of Sullivan’s   guide, turned to me and said, “Bob, no one in your family
                                                                                                           lived as long as you have. I was hoping we would find one
      Wildlife                                           who said “chutzpah.” The Goldfarb’s, Schwartz’s and Isaacs’   relative in all these papers who was older than you.” She had
                                                                                                           become too close a friend to even think of reassuring me that
                                                         fled Eastern European shtetls, finding their way to the port
      In Boca Pointe                                     of Hamburg following maps in languages they couldn’t   I was healthy enough to live deeper into my nineties.
                                                                                                              We shook hands goodbye--you don’t hug Mormon ladies--

                                                         understand. The Connolly’s, Quinn’s, Sullivan’s and Malon’s
                                                                                                           and I went out into the noisy street., clutching the volume thick
                                                         left blighted potato fields in County Sligo and boarded ship
                                                         in Cork. Both families made their way deep into steerage,   with my family’s story. As I walked home, I wondered less about
      Have you captured any images                       carrying with them family trees they would plant in more   how long my leaf would clutch its branch and more about how
                                                         nurturing soil.
                                                                                                           I would live the seasons before it fell.
      of Wildlife in Boca Pointe?                           Returning time and again to the Mormon temple, I
                                                         brought Sister Evans yellowed pages inked in script no      Bob’s articles have appeared in The New York Times,
         We’d love to publish your pictures in our new section   longer taught. Together, we found a Connolly killed in the   The San Francisco Chronicle and in Next Avenue, the
      Wildlife in Boca Pointe!                           Argonne Forest in 1918, an Isaacs’ who married a Goldfarb   publication of the Public Broadcasting Service. His book,
         Please tell us where the photo was taken. Your photos may   in a synagogue as they passed through Bialystok, Poland.   “What’s Stopping Me From Getting Ahead?” was published
      be published in The Viewpointe!                    Baptismal certificates from churches in Ireland were heaped   by McGraw Hill and is in five languages. 
         Send your photos to 

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      Eating the fish just caught in La Paz lagoon.
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