Old family stories create dividends for our future


IN MY BOOK, “Pathfinding: Seven Principles for Positive Living,” I incorporate stories from my late father, who shared the following story about his father, my grandfather.

“In Czarist Russia, most Jews were Orthodox, and Jewish boys attended their own schools, called yeshivas. There was a military draft for all boys of military age. When Jewish boys were drafted into the Czars’ army, they were treated as inferiors. They could not obtain Kosher foods. So it wasn’t surprising that many of the Jewish boys facing military service left Russia before they could be drafted. Where did they go? They went to America.

“Your grandfather, as a youth, traveled all over Siberia. He was an entrepreneur and a salesman, so it wasn’t surprising that when he faced the draft he decided to leave Russia and go to America. He sewed five hundred dollars into the lining of his coat. That is all that he owned. He kissed his mother goodbye, said goodbye to his friends, and left for America.

“At that time there was an underground that operated throughout Europe, and it was able to spirit Jewish boys from town to town westward until they got to the German border. Once they got to Germany, they could board a ship that was bound for America.

“Your grandfather got all the way across Poland, and at the last Jewish outpost of the underground there was a family who had an eligible daughter. Her father took a fancy to your grandfather and demanded that he marry his daughter. But your grandfather didn’t want to marry his daughter. They threatened him that if he didn’t marry her, they would turn him in to the authorities. So during that night, he sneaked out and escaped.

“He made his own way across Germany, got on a ship from Germany and came to New York. Later when he settled in America, he brought some of his family over, including your great-grandmother. Your great-grandfather died in Russia.

“Your grandfather left New York and came to Boston with the help of people he knew from the old country. There he started his own business and proceeded to raise his own family.”

Recording this story in my book honors my grandfather and his voyage to America. My grandfather left an incredible legacy, and his courage and persistence are qualities that define each generation of our family. 

Where these stories of our legacy fit into our current worldview carries considerable intellectual weight. Learning old lessons can help us reap new benefits. Learning from the past is earning from the past. The dividends of the positive lessons we’ve learned are the currency of our future.

PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She has served on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence. 

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