Meeting the relatives is a life-long process, especially when they are part of the vast diaspora that resulted from the Holocaust. Many of my relatives fled from Germany to South Africa in the late 1930s and over the years I’ve met quite a few of them. As a child and young adult I approached these encounters with mild interest, but as an adult they’ve become more meaningful. When I heard that I had a cousin who was born in South Africa, grew up in Israel, and was temporarily living in Vienna, it seemed important to meet her and discover if we felt a family connection. Not only did Daniella and I form a quick connection, but our kids are ecstatic about their new 9-year-old twin cousins that they never even knew about until now.
What did I, an American from California and the Rockies, and Daniella, who grew up on a kibbutz where she met her wonderful husband while tending the cows, have in common? Experiences with our mothers, of course! Our grandparents were siblings and we had many stories to share about our mothers, the offspring of her grandfather and my grandmother. The genetic connection between us is invisible to the naked eye and yet it felt very palpable as we spent a whirlwind weekend together in Berlin. The kids must have felt it too, or else they were just extremely compatible playmates.
But there was also the sense of wanting to piece together the family diaspora that can help us understand who we are and where we came from. Our personal stories were very different, but there was an overlap of shared experience that seemed to stem from our blood ties. The temporary Vienna-Berlin connection between our families is a fortunate coincidence to take advantage of before we disperse back to North America and the Middle East. A trip to Vienna will have to be added to our travel agenda!