A Brief But True Mayse!
By Charlotte Berliner Wolpin, Tonawanda, NY
On a lovely sunny afternoon my father, my husband and I took the opportunity of visiting the Canadian Horticultural School across the border in Niagara Falls, Ontario and not too far from our home, to enjoy the beautiful flower gardens. The trip was very pleasant and on the way home we stopped, as usual, at the American Immigration Station at the Rainbow Bridge.
My father Aaron Shloyme (Harry) Berliner lived and operated a shoe repair shop and raised our family in New York City where he remained until 1981. At the age of 92 he added a new facet to our lives by becoming a part of our home here in the outskirts of Buffalo, New York.
The inspectors persistent questions were directed first at my husband and myself since we were in the front seats of our car. "Where were you born? Where do you live? Why were you in Canada? How long were you there?"
Worried that anxieties might be created for my aged father, I fully turned around and found him looking at me with a great deal of concern across his face. As the inspector directed the same questions at Papa. the anxieties caused him to hesitate in answering.
Without a pause the inspector again repeated, “Well, were you born here or in another country? What was the name of the city? You must remember the name of the city where you were born."
My father answered, “Of course I remember. But it wasn't exactly a city and besides you wouldn't know it."
The inspector pressed for an answer that would be acceptable by his standards and asked again, "What country were you born in? Surely you must know that."
My father turned and looked directly at the source of great annoyance and answered, "Let's just say Russia."
The inspector smiled and was pleasant enough but not satisfied. He said, "Russia! That's a very large country. Where in Russia?"
To which Papa responded, with a great deal of exasperation, "Lumsergebernyah! Do you know it?"
The inspector's face lit up and he raised both of his arms in the air as he exploded with happiness. “I’ve been on this post for thirty years and you are the first person to give me that answer. Of course I know it. My grandmother came from there with my mother when she was a little girl. You must have known my grandfather; he never came to America, only my mother and grandmother. For thirty years I've wondered if I'd ever meet another Lumser."
"Well," said Papa, "aren't you lucky. I've been looking for seventy years and haven't found one yet."
My father, Aaron Shloyme, passed away at the age of 98 just before Peysakh, 1988, and we wish him peace. He was born in Govorovo (Polish Goworowo) the southern‑ most point of Lumserguberniya. He married Chava Gittel Zimbal in Vishkov, about 18 miles from Warsaw, and lived there until 1913, a year before WWI broke out, when he immigrated to the United States leaving his wife and two daughters. It was seven years before they again were reunited in America.
In New York City where the family lived and five children were raised, Aaron Shloyme became Harry at the suggestion of a friend who thought it was more "American". Harry worked as a shoemaker for more than 50 years and was an active member of the Govorover Young Men’s Benevolent Association. His name is mentioned in the Govorover Yizkor Book.
In 1969 when there were no more "young men" the New York GYMBA was dissolved and Harry was presented with a plaque on his 80th birthday, for over 55 years of devoted service. His memory has warmed the hearts of his many friends and mishpokhe alike.
Editor’s note: Charlotte is a long time subscriber and has contributed articles to Der Bay. She has been the leader of the Mameloshn Mayvinim Yiddish Club which was the 12th club to join the International Association of Yiddish Clubs. In addition, Charlotte is The Yiddish Network contact for the Buffalo, NY area.The Yiddish Network contacts are helpful for those who travel or relocate. There are contacts in 145 major cities in the U.S., 16 major cities in Canada and 65 other cities in 38 other countries.