Where it all began / by Susie Lubell

Essex Street

On Sunday we met up with an old and dear friend of mine and his amazing wife and two delicious daughters. They live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan about two blocks from the corner where my grandmother grew up and about eight blocks from where Mr. Rosen's grandmother was born and raised. In fact we told this to Grandma Rosen and she asked if we had seen all the pushcarts. She remembers it very differently from the funky, eclectic, bistro'plenty place it has become. But even though the vibe is very different now, it was easy to imagine what it looked like a hundred years ago when these women were born. The streets are still lined with five story walk ups (read: three million dollar tenements) and their ubiquitous fire escapes.The pickle guy is still there and plenty of kosher delis. Although now the neighborhood is peppered with Chinese grocers and organic juice bars.

It got me thinking about all of the Jews who came over from Europe at the turn of the century. My dad's parents arrived as kids from Poland and what is now Romania. Back then the country designation made no difference if you were Jewish. Your nationality was Jew and the authorities made it clear you were living on borrowed time.

All of this seems especially poignant right now as we prepare to cross the ocean and start our lives anew. While we like to complain that the process and the packing and the goodbyes and the schlepping seems never ending, we are most certainly doing it on our terms. No one is chasing us out of America. We are not refugees. We are not saying goodbye to loved ones forever only to land in a country full of hardship. On the contrary. We feel loved on both sides of this journey; we are dual citizens; we're making this move because we want to, not because we have to.  That feels incredibly fortunate to me. And we owe it all to our grandparents whose generation made terrible sacrifices so that we could enjoy the liberties they or their parents never had in Europe.