Rachel and Kayleen McAdams, Who Do You Guys Think You Are, Eh?

It’s time to talk about that most frustrating part of family tree research; the family.  Genealogy is a less a hobby than an obsession, and as with any obsession, it often mystifies the people around us who just don’t understand.  Sometimes we get a little bit of interest, while other times it seems that we are talking some poor, unwilling soul’s ear off.  We may not understand why our relatives don’t care about their own personal history, but they don’t, and they just want us to shut up.

I have two brothers, and neither of them has ever expressed an interest in even so much as looking at the family tree I have spent years building.  When I offered to show them, they said no.  Which is why tonight’s episode was something of a pleasant surprise for me–two siblings actively explore together.  Who Do You Think You Are almost always features family members, but usually at the beginning of the end of the journey.  This is the first time the show has actually featured two family members taking the entire journey together.  (Perhaps my brothers would be more interested if my research involved international travel.)  And one of said siblings is not even famous.
Speaking of this lack of fame, did this season of WDYTYA have its usual promo tagline of “Some of America’s most beloved celebrities”?  Because while we can joke about whether Valerie Bertinelli fits that bill, it is fair to say that Kayleen McAdams most certainly does not–regardless of how talented a makeup artist she is.

Kayleen is the makeup artist and Rachel McAdams is the star who was fantastic in Mean Girls.  The McAdamses are from the exotic land of Canada, although I believe that both of them live and work in the United States.

Before we get into the details of the show, I want to talk a little about Canada, the Jan Brady of North America.  WDYTYA is a British show, which had many offshoots around the world.  There was a Canadian version, but it did not last beyond a season, which is a shame.  Canadians who want to see their own celebrities’ stories must therefore either embrace either the British version (which originally aired the Kim Cattrall episode) or the American version (Rachel McAdams).  Just as Canadians sports have been incorporated into US leagues (hockey, baseball, soccer), so too are their celebrities incorporated into US television.  This particular episode is a fascinating look at Canadian history.  The episode also offered a glimpse into a fascinating alternative universe, Canada as a mirror image of the US, what would have happened had the 13 colonies not broken away from the mother country but instead remained loyal.  Maybe we in the US would have even had a period of sustained sensible governance and beneficial laws and policy.  Or perhaps as a southern neighbor I will block out what makes Canada great and instead think of Canada as a frostbitten wasteland where everyone pronounces “out” incorrectly, and Toronto is a short jaunt from Vancouver, eh?  (I am reminded of the Onion headline, “Perky ‘Canada’ Has Own Government, Laws.”)

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Rachel and Kayleen, are the daughters of Lance and Sandra (Gale) McAdams.  Their father was from a large, close family, so we can safely ignore them.  Their mother’s side is a mystery because their mother’s parents–Howard Gowen Gale and Eileen Maude (Bell) Gale–died when she was in her early 30’s.

Our intrepid heroines began in the US on the phone with their mother who sent them the Gale/Bell family tree.  Howard, who was a mechanic in the Battle of Britain, was born in Plymouth, England.  Mother McAdams also sent a photo of Howard’s parents, William and Beatrice Maud (Sedgmore) Gale.  William was a mechanic in the Royal Navy.  Mother McAdams suggested that her daughters start their search in Plymouth, and I died a little inside.  No research?  Not even on Ancestry?  (The plug would come 8 minutes in the episode, after they were already in Britain.)  Come on, WDYTYA!  Let’s at least pretend that this is an organic search.

At the Plymouth Central Library, genealogist Paul Blake showed the Sisters McAdams the marriage certificate of William and Beatrice Maud.  William was the son of William Henry Creber Gale (b. 2 Jan 1850) who in turn was the son of William Gale and Elizabeth Creber.  On his son’s birth certificate, William Gale the eldest was listed a servant, and on the 1851 Census, he was listed as a footman, which one of the sisters says was “very Downton Abbey.”  Sure, why not?  (My views of British servants is more informed by Gosford Park than Downton Abbey, so I kind of recoiled.)

William Gale was the footman.  Having no conception of the hierarchy of servants, I will take the show’s word for it when they say it was a big deal.  He was second only to the governess, and the face of the household.  His wife and child however, did not live with him, and his job was 24/7 and very demanding.  It seems like the job’s only redeeming grace was that it lifted his social standing, which was not insignificant, but what a trade-off.

William Gale’s family lived far away, and he barely saw them.  He met Elizabeth Creber because they had both been servants at the same house, but once she had a child she had to leave because while a married servant was acceptable, children of that union were not.  Probably because caring for a child would get in the way of around-the-clock-care for the family of the house.  William died in 1860 from delirium tremens (alcohol withdrawal).  There was some talking head/empathy for the fact that maybe this would not have happened had he had his wife and child near him, but honestly this is hypothetical psychobabble, which I really do not like about WDYTYA.

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The Sisters McAdams headed back to Canada in order to learn about how their family got to Canada, which I interpreted to mean why the Gales immigrated, but no, they were talking about the other side of the family.  Considering that the show focused on one tiny branch, the Grey family, my guess is the others were either not as interesting, impossible to trace, or merely redundant.

The Bell family tree goes back quite far.  So far and so quickly, I did not catch all the names thrown at the audience, although that does not really matter.  Somewhere along the maternal lineage we ended up with Rachel’s and Kayleen’s great-great-great-great-grandparents Alexander and Charlotte (Grey) McDonald.  They were born just around the time the American Revolution broke out.  The show did not care much about Alexander, but Charlotte was significant because in 1824 she petitioned the British crown as the daughter of James Grey of the Johnstown Loyalists for a land grant.  When the American Revolution broke out, James was a Loyalist who fled to Canada where he would eventually join the Loyalist Army.  WDYTYA’s narrator gave us a little history lesson about the Canadian side (or what would become the Canadian side) of the Revolution in the battle of the Loyalists vs. the Patriots.  Kayleen and Rachel discuss a Canadian identity (and hint at a Canadian inferiority complex) and wondered what their Loyalist ancestors would think about them working and living in the US.  I imagine not much, but both countries have changes tremendously in 230-some years, so who knows.  Largest undefended border in the world and all that.

At the City of Ottowa Archives, the Sisters were shown the document where James Grey first appeared in the historical record.  He was quartered at a refugee camp in 1779 at Fort Saint-Jean in Quebec with his wife and two sons.  They had fled from the Lake Champlain area around the New York/Vermont side of the border.  The historian assisting Rachel and Kayleen posited that James Grey was probably a farmer and a new settler because that area was full of new settlers.  After the British were defeated at Saratoga, the Loyalists left their land forever to settle in the harsher conditions of the refugee camp at Saint-Jean.  James Grey served in the Peters Corps in the Crown forces.

The Sisters McAdams went the land that was the site of one of the refugee camps, and looked like they were about to cry.  There were a lot of children housed in the camps and disease ran rampant.  One of James Grey’s sons died at the camp, probably from disease, which killed more than the actual fighting.  And after all that hardship, the American forces beat the British so the Loyalists could never go home.

To find out what happened to the Grey family, the Sisters headed to the Archives of Ontario in Toronto.  What struck me is how beautiful the architecture of Toronto is.  At the Archives, they found records of James Grey.  He was awarded two 200 acre lots of land along the Saint Lawrence River near the new United States.

Afterwards, the Sisters McAdams and their historian friend talked about this being a source of pride for many Canadians because these were the founders of Canada.  Which begs the question, is there a Canadian equivalent of the Daughters of the American Revolution?  It is a shame that there was no connection to the War of 1812, basically a wash for the United States and Great Britain, but a real win for Canada, which forever afterwards became not part of the US.

The Sisters were very excited to find out they had such deep roots in Canada.  One might say like the deep roots of an old maple tree.  Or something like that.  One of the sisters said she wanted to be more like her ancestors.  Here’s how you do it: attack the US.  Impose your universal health care, curling, and Anne Murray.  One of the McAdams sisters also said that ending the journey was like finished a book and she felt sad to leave the characters behind but excited to share the details with their mother.  I totally understand the finishing the book sadness; I felt incredible melancholy when I finished Don Quixote and War and Peace given how much time and effort it took to read them, but I am not sure why this is the end of the McAdams journey.  Genealogy goes on forever.  This is not the end; it is the beginning.  To any newbies out there, don’t listen to the McAdamses.

Next week is… I have no idea.  Wikipedia says Kelsey Grammar.  I missed the promo commercial, but it looked to be either Valerie Bertinelli or Lauren Graham.

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Rashida Jones, Who Do You Think You Are?

Continuing on the Parks & Recreation theme from last week, this week’s Who Do You Think You Are celebrity is Rashida Jones.

First, a full disclosure:  Even before this week’s episode, I had a soft spot in my heart for Rashida Jones, because she is the only celebrity that I have ever personally met (Rufus Wainwright gave me a hug once, but that was after a concert, so it’s not like we actually met).  Now when I say I met her, I mean that for a couple of hours our paths crossed, and we were in the same room at the same time although we did not actually interact with each other after being introduced.  This was post-Boston Public, but pre-The Office, so Jones wasn’t quite a celebrity yet.  Not being a fan of Boston Public, I did not actually know who she was, although of course I knew about Quincy Jones.  (Quite honestly, I couldn’t remember what she looked like after she left.)

Having said all that, in the brief time we interacted, Rashida Jones was a thoroughly decent human being.  Now that I have actually seen her on television, I am a fan.  And I very much enjoyed this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are.

Rashida Jones’s father is Quincy, but her mother, Peggy Lipton, is an Ashkenazic Jew.  Rashida grew up very much a part of both African-American and American-Jewish cultures.  According to Jones, her father avidly pursued his genealogy years ago, and already shared it with her.  Therefore, it was her mother’s side of the family that required exploring.  And this gets to the heart of why I liked this episode so much; the story she traced is very much like my own.

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The initial focus of the Rashida Jones episode was her maternal grandmother Rita Hettie Rosenberg, who was born in Ireland but came to the United States when she was 12 or 13.  Rita was something of a free-spirit, and when she was old enough she left her family in Nyack, New York for Manhattan where, prior to her marriage to Rashida’s grandfather, she worked as a taxi dancer.  (I was disappointed that despite the constant references to taxi dancing, no one mentioned Sweet Charity.) Rita ditched the surname Rosenberg and went by the name Benson, which Jones and Lipton ascribed to avoiding anti-Semitism.

Jones began her search at the New York Public Library where the show got its contractual Apple and Ancestry plugs out of the way at five minutes in.  At the library, Jones found her grandmother’s passenger list from 1926 when she arrived with her elder sister Pearl.  The ship’s manifest recorded that the girls were going to join their mother Jeanie Rosenberg in New York where she was already living.  Another relative was listed on the manifest, an uncle Elliott Benson, and that surname piqued Jones’s curiosity given that she thought her grandmother made it up.

In 1939 Rita became an American citizen and officially changed her surname to Benson (again, the show hammered home the theme of anti-Semitism by showing one employment ad after another in which only Christians were acceptable.)  In 1941 Rita married Jones’s grandfather.  Prior to her marriage however, there was a 15 year period of Rita’s life which Jones knew nothing about except that she was a taxi dancer.  At the remains of Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe nightclub, Jones was showed an old tabloid from 1933 with a column about a taxi dancer that very likely could have been her grandmother.  It appeared that for Rita, taxi dancing represented her attempts to break into show business, which although failed for her, succeeded for her daughter and granddaughter.

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Jones left New York for Dublin to see if she could find out about the origin of Rita and her family.  Prior to this episode, I had no idea there was a Jewish community in Dublin worth speaking of.  Apparently there was one and there is even an Irish-Jewish museum.  In Dublin, Jones was given her grandmother’s birth certificate.  Rita was the daughter of Hyman Rosenberg and Jeanie Benson, which meant that Benson was definitively a family name for at least another generation before Rita.  Wanting to follow how far back the Benson name went, Jones discovered that her great-grandmother Jeanie was born in Manchester as Ginny (or Jennie) Benson in 1882.  From her great-grandparents’ marriage certificate, Jones discovered the names of Jeanie’s parents: Benjamin and Sophie (Winestein) Benson.  She was also given photos of Benjamin, a Hebrew teacher, who made quite a striking figure with his long white beard and Shabbos clothes.

In the 1911 census, Jones found Benjamin and Sophie, and she learned two very important facts: (1) Benjamin was born in the late 1830’s or so; and (2) he was from Russia.  “Russia” in this context is a very nebulous term that the show only partially explained.  When a Jewish person says that his ancestors came from (pre-Soviet) Russia, what he means is that those ancestors came from the former Russian Empire.  This is an important distinction because the chances are that those ancestors were not from Russia proper–certainly not Moscow or St. Petersburg–but rather the Pale of Settlement, an area which encompassed all or parts of modern-day Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, and Moldova, with a little bit of western Russia thrown in.  With few exceptions, this was the only part of “Russia” that Jews were allowed to live in, and largely because this had been the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, where they already had been living.  15 of my 16 great-great-grandparents were from the Pale of Settlement; on my mother’s side this meant modern-day Ukraine, and on my father’s side it meant northern Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.*

While most of the Irish-Jewish community came from a specific area of Lithuania, the Bensons did not.  Using information gleaned from the documents of Benjamin Benson’s sister Pescha, Jones learned that her family actually came from Latvia. Therefore, she set off for Riga.  One of the major questions on Jones’s mind was why her family left Latvia, and the answer to that is, of course, anti-Semitism.  The Russian Empire was bent on physically and spiritually destroying the Jewish community through measures such as conscripting young Jewish into the Russian army, where they would stay for two-and-a-half decades.  (Escaping this fate gave rise to the gruesome crippler phenomenon, of which I previously mentioned.)

Because of the conscription, meticulous records were kept for men, and from those Jones learned (1) the name of Benjamin’s father, her 3rd great-grandfather Schlaume (Solomon); (2) the town in Latvia Benjamin and his family were from, Hazenpoth (now Aizpute) which was in the Courland Gubernia of the Russian Empire;** and (3) the names of Benjamin’s brothers Abraham and Yankel.  She also learns the name of Schlaume’s father, Benjamin Marcus Benson (Jones’s 4th great-grandfather) who was born in 1786 and was possibly the originator of the Benson name.  Surnames for Russian Jews came late, around the early 19th century, and only following an official decree by the Russian Empire.  Prior to that, the surname was the patronymic.  Schlaume would have been known as “Schlaume, the son of Benjamin.”  It’s not much of stretch to see how “son of Benjamin” becomes “Ben(‘s) son,” particularly in the Courland Gubernia which was unique among the gubernias in that the region had strong Prussian/Germanic cultural ties.

In Aizpute, Jones came face to face with a very hard truth, the once-large Jewish community was entirely wiped out during the Holocaust in brutal, executioner fashion in a nearby forest on October 27, 1941.  (I wondered who was responsible for that massacre, the Nazis or the Latvians, who were no innocents during the Holocaust.)  Jones, for the first time, also understood exactly how close the Holocaust actually was to her.  That sudden realization is one that I am deeply familiar with.  As is the belated survivor’s guilt that she began to feel throughout the latter half of the episode.  It’s a remarkably upsetting and humbling feeling to realize that you live while your cousins were killed or prevented from being born.

In Aizpute, there was no evidence that the Bensons were killed, but back in Riga, Jones got the bad news.  Her family had left Aizpute for Riga and, as required by Latvian law, they got passports.  Using those passports Jones saw for the first time, photos of Jette Benson and Abram David Benson, desendants of Schlaume Benson’s brothers.  But those passports also told a sad story; these cousins were also killed on 27 Oct 1941 in the forest of Rumbula.  In Rumbula there is a memorial to these Jews.  At the end of the episode Jones and her mother made a pilgrimage to the monument in Rumbula to memorialize their lost family.  Jones says that it is important to remember them, a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with.  If we do not remember, no one will remember for us.

This episode touched something very personal in me.  In a way Rashida Jones was telling my story, although I think there is more documentation in Latvia than in Ukraine where my known relatives who perished in the Holocaust lived.  It was a very moving episode, and a hard one to sit through.  But it is also one I will watch again.

Next week: Jason Sudeikis.

Footnotes:

* The remaining great-great-grandmother came from Galicia, which means either present-day southern Poland or western Ukraine.  Galicia was at that time a part of the Austrian Empire.

** Gubernias were the largest administrative districts of the Russian Empire, sort of akin to the states of the United States.  Often we genealogists are told by relatives that our family came from (for example) “Grodno Gubernia” when we ask about our town of origin.  This is about as helpful as being told “California” when the answer we want to know is San Diego (or Bakersfield).

Rita Wilson, Who Do You Think You Are?

When the guest list was announced, I raised an eyebrow in curiosity when I saw that Rita Wilson was one of the celebrity guests.  I know that Wilson is an actress and has appeared on stage and screen, but because of her marriage to Tom Hanks, she is eternally overshadowed by her husband’s fame.  The conceit of Who Do You Think You Are is that the guests are “some of America’s most beloved celebrities,” and I am not sure that Rita Wilson really qualifies for that title.

Having said that, this past week I was extremely excited about her episode.  The promotional teaser looked amazing, and Wilson, being of Greek/Ottoman/Bulgarian heritage (her birth name is Margarita Ibrahimoff), brings a new geographic sphere to the show.  This episode was unique in the Who Do You Think You Are canon, because the search was entirely unlike any other in the show’s run.  I have written before about the two types of episodes in this series: the general “trace the family tree” episode and the specific “follow one ancestor” episode.  Both types of episodes have their benefits, but the common theme that both share is that the celebrity knows almost nothing about that family or the individual in question.  Wilson however knew the man whose history she was researching; it was her beloved and recently-deceased father, Allan.  Because she knew him well and loved him so much, each fact she learned about him was not about discovering a picture of him but rather reconciling the one she already had with facts he never told her.  Is it any wonder that she was emotional throughout her entire journey?*

Allan Wilson was born Hassan Halilov Ibrahimoff in Oraion, Xanthi, Greece.  Wilson found the name of his birth town on her parents’ marriage certificate which she located online.  (This was this week’s Ancestry plug.  One might ask why Wilson’s mother didn’t have it, but I suspect it had more to do with getting the plug in as all the research in this week’s episode is outside the scope of Ancestry’s holdings.)  I looked for the certificate, but I could not find it online; it’s a bait and switch that Ancestry did with the Martin Sheen episode too.  I did find the information from Rita Wilson’s birth certificate though which lists her first name as “Margarit.”

When Hassan Halilov was born, Oraio was still a part of the Ottoman Empire, and, as you can probably tell from the name, the ibrahimoffs were a Muslim family–another first for the show.  In Oraio that Wilson began her journey.  A guide took her to the house where her father was born, a home that now used as a storage house, and is otherwise vacant.  Wilson wanted to know why her father moved to Bulgaria, and her guide introduced her to her father’s cousins.  Truth be told, I could not understand what exactly they were trying to tell Wilson; it seemed a bit contradictory.  The cousins did show her a picture of her grandfather Halil Ibrahimoff, and told her that he was a funny man.  Wilson learned that her grandfather moved his family to Smolyan, Bulgaria, a town near the Greek border.

In Smolyan, Wilson learned from an archivist that the Ibrahimoff family moved to Smolyan somewhere between 1927 and 1934 (when Wilson’s father was between 7 and 14).  Wilson also learned that her father was drafted into the Bulgarian artillery in 1941 at the age of 20 because Xanthi, the province where he was born, was, in 1941, a part of Bulgaria (all persons born in Xanthi were retroactively considered Bulgarian, including Wilson’s father.)  It also meant that he fought for the Axis alongside the Nazis and Italian Fascist regime.  Wilson’s father however, was dismissed shortly into his service and sentenced to over three-and-a-half years in prison because of petty theft; he took 28 siphon bottles and five levs, an incredibly small sum. The army wanted to make an example by punishing the petty crimes disproportionately harsh.  Wilson’s father had told Wilson that he had been imprisoned in a labor camp when he was young, and Wilson wondered if labor camp was a euphemism for prison.

Wilson’s father was paroled after just over two years and he returned to Smolyan briefly but then moved out to Plodiv, and it was there that Wilson got the shock of her life–her father had been married before and had a child.  The marriage, to a woman named Alice Markayan, took place on October 26, 1945, 11 years to the day before Wilson’s birth.  The son of that marriage, Emil Hassanov was born on December 26, 1945.  Three days later Alice died.  Four months after that, Emil followed.

Is it any wonder that Allan Wilson never spoke about his past?  There was already so much pain, and more to come.  I imagine Bulgaria was a nightmare from which he could not wake up.  But 66 years after Emil died, his younger half-sister finally discovers his existence.  I was reminded of something similar in my family.  My great-grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1911.  He married my great-grandmother in 1919 and their first child was born nine months afterwards.  When I found my great-grandfather’s World War I draft card, I got a similar shock to what Wilson found.  My great-grandfather was asked is he had any dependents, and he answered that he had an 8-year-old child in Russia.  This is the only time I, my mother, or my uncles ever heard about this child, and he never mentioned the child again on any records.  I think this is something that he also kept from his own children.  It is possible that the draft card was mistaken, but between the Nazis and an archives fire in Ukraine, I am not sure I will know the truth.

There was a five year gap between the death of Alice and Emil and Wilson’s father’s marriage to her mother Dorothy.  Wilson traveled to Sofia where she discovered that her father told her the truth about the labor camp, a Soviet-style gulag with harsh conditions and the constant specter of murder.  Wilson was shown her father’s secret file, something that no doubt would only have been possible following the fall of the Bulgarian Communist regime.  Like in other Communist countries, most notably East Germany, the authorities got neighbors and friends to spy on suspect targets, and Wilson’s father was one of those suspected.  He was arrested for trying to flee to Turkey, declared a traitor, and sentenced to two different mining camps.

Although the punishment for trying to escape was death, Wilson’s father did manage to flee in the night, and on May 4, 1949, he landed in the United States.  In 1973, 26 years after the escape, he was declared an enemy of the state.  Had he ever returned to Bulgaria, he would have been rearrested.

After learning the truth about her father’s life, Wilson gets one final shock, her father’s older half-brother Fairhat was still alive (at age 96) and residing in Smolyan.  The family reunion between Wilson and her uncle was a tearjerker, for them and for me.  It turned out that Fairhat was sent to the same labor camp as his brother, but Fairhat could not escape because he had a wife and two children.  After Wilson’s father escaped, Fairhat was interrogated and beaten.  He was however, eventually released.

In 1950, Hassan Halilov sent Fairhat and their father a beautiful letter from the United States about his progress, how happy he was there, and his hope for the future.  This appears to be the last communication that he ever had with his family, and Fairhat kept the letter in case one of his brother’s children even found him.  Her brother was flown out to Bulgaria to meet his uncle and the show ended with the two Wilson siblings in tears to the (incredibly out of place) stains of “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” as sung by Rita Wilson.

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What an episode!  It was almost something out of fiction.  After a patchy start, the show has finally found its ground, and the last two weeks demonstrated spectacular quality.  I hope that Edie Falco’s story is equally as interesting.

There have been some complaints about how the celebrities have stopped pretending to do the work, and that is true to an extent, but that is not a fair criticism of Rita Wilson’s episode.  It all happened in Greece and Bulgaria and in languages that Wilson did not speak.  Hiring experts is the only way that she could have learned about her father’s early life.

I have yet to see the new PBS genealogy show, the newest Henry Louis Gates project, but I will get on that as soon as I can.  I’m curious to see how the two compare.  I cannot imagine that Skip Gates’s show pack’s anywhere near the emotional punch of tonight’s Who Do You Think You Are, but I hope to be mistaken.

Footnote:

* This episode may be the likeliest to make me cry.  Part of that is the emotional content, but in large part it is because of how much it parallels my own family research.  I mention above about my great-grandfather’s possible child, but there is another story that struck me.  In a deleted scene available on the website, Wilson discovers the Oraion birth registry (of males) which has the births of her father, his older brothers (including Fairhat, who we meet during the course of the episode) and her great-grandfather.  Missing from the registry is her grandfather Halil, although the researcher who showed Wilson the book identified someone he thought was Halil, an entry that is listed as “the one whose finger is cut,” meaning he was probably missing a finger.  My great-great-grandfather Abraham was missing his right index finger like Halil.  I never realized his finger was missing until I stared a few old pictures of him for very long periods of time.  I wonder if the missing finger was accidental or deliberate.  In Czarist Russia, Jews who were not allowed to live outside the Pale of Settlement were nevertheless conscripted into the army and navy, which was a form of cultural murder and worse, a very real possibility of actual death.  To avoid that fate, there arose men called cripplers, hired thugs who mutilated Jewish boys to ensure that they would be unfit to serve.  I wonder if that was what happened to Abraham.

Explain To Me Why I Care…

Prince William got engaged to his girlfriend (Kate?) today.  It’s all over the news, and the media has been asking what her dress will look like, what her  engagement rings looks like, what kind of fairy tale Disney princess wedding she’ll have with carriages, and tiaras, and coachmen who turn into mice after midnight while all throughout the day the sun will shine only on the happy couple.

All the news sources I read are American.  Prince William and his future queen are British.  Americans don’t have princes, and haven’t since 1776.  When a member of the Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese, or Dutch royalty gets engaged, Americans and their media don’t care.  In fact, I’m not even sure Americans and the media can name any Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese, or Dutch.  And this makes sense because we are Americans and not Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese, Dutch.  Or British.  Royalty is an outdated concept, even in these countries.  It is far  more important to know who the actual political leaders of these nations are rather than who sits on ceremonial thrones.  If the Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese, Dutch, and British wish to keep their royalty, that is their business and their culture.  But we in America have replaced that need for royalty with celebrities who are famous for the achievements, their careers, or their money.  I can’t stand them either, but their ours.

This makes me think that this is a story that the media has decided that the public wants to hear rather than a story that the public wants the media to tell.

If the Spanish, Danish, Norwegians, Swedish, Japanese, Dutch, or British hate hearing about our celebrities as much as I hate hearing about British royalty, they should complain about their media.