Today is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death – her yahrzeit.
She immigrated from Russia when she was young, during the period of the Kishinev pogroms. She married my grandfather and raised three boys. My dad was the middle child.
She had lived in a town called Uslan. Her family had helped to raise a boy named David who had been orphaned. Later, that boy became the most famous employee of RCA where he managed the Marconi office on the night of the Titanic disaster. And then later he became even more famous as the head of RCA, and as a major force building the TV industry. His full name was David Sarnoff. My dad and uncle shared stories of taking the train from Philadelphia to Camden where they played in Sarnoff’s huge office as children.
I was young when my grandmother died. My strongest memory of her outside the kitchen was of going with her and my brother down to her basement. I don’t recall why we went down there – probably to get something. But while there she showed us her flag. Her US flag that was draped over a table in her basement – located opposite the stairs where it was sure to catch the eye of anyone entering the basement.
She was very proud of that flag and of being a US citizen. Being a native to this country I can never truly grasp what being American meant to her, coming from a place of pogroms to a place where a poor orphan boy could become one of the nation’s leading industrialists. But her the strength of her quiet patriotism left a strong memory, and perhaps she is a cause for my interest in serving our community and our city.