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My roots trip to Germany

My roots trip to Germany

Tears for My Mother’s Three Brothers

Last Sunday, May 10, 2015,  I set out, together with my husband, brother and sister-in-law, on a “roots” trip to Germany.

I was feeling rather ambivalent about the whole trip as I always swore to myself that I would never set foot in Germany after what happened to my family and of course to the Jewish people as a whole.

To understand the background of my family history, read my family history page here.  In short, my mother had 3 older brothers who were sent on a Kindertransport to Holland for safety in 1938 after Kristallnacht, but the Nazis invaded in 1943 and shipped them to Sobibor where they were killed on the day they arrived, while my grandparents and their daughters eventually made it to safety in England.

Above: My mother’s 3 brothers who were killed in the Shoah: David, Elchanan (Herbert) and Uri HY”D Below: The 3 brothers with my mother Judith תבדל”א

The people of Michelstadt, my mother’s home town, issued a memorial book last year, and kindly invited us to come out and visit. Despite my ambivalence I felt it is important to accept their efforts to “make good” towards the Jewish community and they have been extremely gracious towards us.

Following is a diary of sorts of our trip.

First impressions:

From the air Germany is a beautiful country, green fields neatly laid out, glittering rivers and straight roads, even the forests seem orderly in the way the trees grow!

As I admired the country from the air I felt guilty for even allowing a positive thought to enter my head about this country with the terrible history. And then I considered that so many other countries have a blood-soaked history with the Jews, and if it’s OK to entertain the thought of visiting Holland, France, Belgium, not to mention the former Soviet Union or the Baltic states, then why should Germany be any different, especially considering the efforts of the German government as well as so many German individuals to atone for the sins of their fathers.

German police van accompanied us to the airport building in Frankfurt

As we were taxiing towards the arrivals building in Frankfurt airport, our El Al plane was accompanied by a German police hummer travelling alongside the whole time. The thought struck me that a mere 70 years ago the sight of one of these vehicles would have struck terror into any Jewish heart. Today it merely comforted me and made me thankful that we were being provided by excellent security from the German authorities. How the wheel of history turns!

Our Amazing and Courageous Hosts, Otto and Heidi Haag

At our beautiful hotel in Michelstadt we finally met our hosts, Otto and Heidi Haag and their friend Klaus Schimmel, face to face for the first time and we had a warm and emotional welcome.

The Haags have been working for decades to research the history of the Jewish community of Michelstadt and bring it to the attention of the city fathers. They are amazing and courageous people, and very resourceful in their methods of research and in their initiative to get the town to commemorate their lost Jewish community, sometimes against some objections from the locals.

Otto and Heidi Haag and their friend Klaus Schimmel

Our first full day in Michelstadt included a fascinating visit to the town’s 14th century library built by Nicolaus Matz, a priest, theologian and philosopher who travelled around the area. You can read more about what we saw at the library here.

What followed was the main reason we had come to Michelstadt.

As we walked to the Haags’ house, Otto pointed out another project that they had initiated: the laying of Stolperstein – “stumbling blocks” – outside the houses of each Jewish citizen who had been murdered in the Shoah. These stumbling blocks are in fact small plaques inscribed with the names of the murdered citizens, and they are inlaid into the pavement right outside their houses.

The stones with my mother’s brother’s names are inlaid outside the synagogue. Even these small memorials have proven unpopular with certain elements and have occasionally been plastered over with antisemitic or anti-Israel stickers.

It is gratifying to note that the local police take these incidents very seriously.  The “stumbling blocks” project started elsewhere in Germany and has been spreading throughout the country, a very blessed initiative.

The 3 “stumbling blocks” memorializing my mother’s 3 brothers David, Herbert and Uri who were killed in the Holocaust, outside their house in Michelstadt

Inside the synagogue we were guided by the visiting chazan (cantor), Roman Melamed, who showed us the interior of the shul where our grandfather used to pray.

Again, the enormous sense of history combined with the surreality of finding myself in the very spot where my grandfather once stood combined  in my mind with a swirl of emotion which I and my brother are still trying to work through.

The shul (synagogue) in Michelstadt

The shul is mainly a museum now, though as the Chazan Melamed explained, there is a Shabbat service once a month, though usually without a full minyan, which is really very sad.

Opening The Torah Scrolls

In the Aron Hakodesh, the Holy Ark, there were 2 Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls). One was not kosher for use any more but the other one was brought over by the Rabbi of Leipzig some years ago. The Chazan and caretaker agreed to take out the Torah scroll on condition it was read from, so David and my husband readily agreed.

We were all quite emotional as the Torah scroll was opened and we saw that the passage it landed on was the Ten Commandments. How appropriate! Surely this was a sign from Heaven? David duly read the piece while we looked on, and once again experienced the acute hand of history on our shoulders as we remembered that our grandfather had stood on this very spot and read the Torah right there.

Here is the video (apologies for the poor quality and sound):

We all had the strong feeling that our grandfather was watching down on us from Heaven. We hope so anyway.

The Jewish Cemetery

From the shul we moved on to the old Jewish cemetery in Michelstadt where the Baal Shem of Michelstadt, Rabbi Yitzchak Aryeh (Seckl Lob) Wormser is buried. The Baal Shem was regarded as a miracle worker and healer not only by the Jewish community but by all the locals as well and his grave has become a site of pilgrimage for prayers.

We all stood there and prayed for the health and well-being of various family members and friends, and recited some Psalms.

We were extremely moved to see a flower and a stone on every gravestone in the cemetery with a message in Hebrew: “We apologize for all the evil that we did to you”. No one knows who carried out this initiative but it is clear that they wanted to apologize and show respect both according to Jewish custom – by placing a stone on the grave – and according to their custom by placing a rose.

A stone and a rose with a message of apology on every grave in the Jewish cemetery of Michelstadt

On our third day in Michelstadt we saw the historic town center and local sites as regular tourists, and you can read about it all and see more photos here.

Michelstadt’s historic town hall, built in 1484

Guests of Honour

At the end of the day we were the guests of honour at a reception at the town hall attended by the Mayor and other local dignitaries, and we saw a short presentation of the Stolperstein, “stumbling stones” project, how they were placed, and their “inauguration ceremony”.  Afterwards we were hosted at a dinner at our hotel.

We were extremely touched by the warm welcome given to us by the locals, and the genuine interest shown both in our family history and the history of the lost Jewish community. You can see pictures from the presentation and read about the reception and dinner here.

Our last two days in Germany were the most intense and personal for us. On Wednesday Otto, Heidi and Klaus accompanied us to Frankfurt where the family moved to after leaving Michelstadt in 1937. It was also from where my mother’s family fled just before the Holocaust, and was also the hometown of my father-in-law.

We had a short guided tour of the Jewish Museum, and it was horrifying to learn of the anti-Jewish laws which began way back in the Middle Ages and even before, and then how the age of enlightenment and emancipation eased their lot, followed by the renewal of the evil anti-Jewish laws under the Nazis.

At the museum there was a huge display board with the names of all the Jewish Frankfurt residents who had been killed in the Shoah where we found the names of our mother’s brothers.

After a wonderful lunch at the kosher restaurant in the Jewish community center (where, in a sad sign of the times, the security was so strict we had to present our Israeli passports in order to enter) we visited  the site of the Hirsch Realschule where my father in law and his siblings studied. There is now a modern state school standing on the site, but there is a memorial plaque both outside and inside recalling that this was once a Jewish school that was destroyed during the war.

Memorial plaque for the Hirsch Realschule which once stood on the site of a new state school in Frankfurt, and where my father-in-law’s siblings studied

We also had a short chat with one of the teachers and a couple of her students, and the teacher informed us that she was leaving that night with her class to Krakow in Poland. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed that despite these trips not being compulsory or funded by the government, most schools do go on these Holocaust education trips.

Tears for My Mother’s Three Brothers

Back in our minibus we passed by the places where my grandfather and my father-in-law once lived. In both places, neither the houses nor the streets themselves exist any more.

After seeing the Westend synagogue, a beautiful new modern thriving community, we concluded our trip with a visit to the Old and New Jewish cemeteries.

The walls of the Old Cemetery are embedded with tiny stones with the name, birth date, and date and place of death if known, of every single Jew from Frankfurt who was killed in the war.

It was the first time that I shed any tears in Germany and am still processing all that I saw and felt.

It has been said that 6 million deaths is a statistic but one person is a tragedy.

Seeing those stones, and finding the names of my mother’s three brothers, was a personal emotional jolt, yet seeing the hundreds of yards of stones along all the walls of the cemetery, going round the corner and then again, emphasized the sheer numbers, the statistics, the magnitude of the Holocaust. It is a very powerful memorial.

David Strauss, eldest of my mother’s brothers killed in the Shoah


Wall of memorial stones around the Old Cemetery of Frankfurt, with the names of all the Frankfurt Jewish citizens killed in the Shoah. The names continue around 3 walls of the cemetery, 30,000 in all

The cemetery itself looks almost empty, with large expanses of grass and trees, and strange looking monuments dotted around. It took a few minutes to realise that the “monuments” were piles of gravestones that had been found after the war (whether destroyed by the Nazis or by the Allied bombing), and since no one knew where the graves were any more, the gravestones were simply piled together in different arrangements.

Gravestones piled up together in the old Frankfurth Jewish cemetery

Graves of Our Great Grandparents

We continued to the new cemetery (over a century old itself) where we looked for – and eventually found – the graves of our great-grandparents, David and Miriam Strauss, the parents of our grandfather Leopold.  The gravestone on Miriam’s grave was in very good condition, but sadly the stone on our great-grandfather David’s grave was crumbling and barely legible.

A very strange thing happened during that search. The weather had been cloudy but warm, but as we progressed through the cemetery it became darker and a gentle rain began. The rain got heavier as we neared our great-grandparents’ graves, and as we got there a short sharp downpour began. We stood in the rain and recited a few prayers and psalms, and as we concluded our prayers, the rain eased off. When we left the sun came out.  Now that might have been coincidence but we have a different theory…

We returned to Michelstadt exhausted physically and wrung out emotionally, but we were all very glad we had made the trip and accomplished so much. It left us all a taste for more.

Fuerth, near Nuremberg in Bavaria

The next day, we travelled to Fuerth, near Nuremberg in Bavaria, my father’s hometown, where my grandfather worked as the Direktor, the Principal, of the Jewish school. (Henry Kissinger was a student of his…).

We started out at the Jewish Museum whose director, a delightful young American woman named Daniela Eisenstein, served as our guide throughout our visit and she had prepared our itinerary meticulously. After seeing the museum’s exhibits (the museum is supposed to be expanding in the coming months) we saw the house where my father lived which was also in the same complex as the school where my paternal grandfather taught, and that in turn was next door to their shul.

Photo of the Fuerth shul, still in use today

We were pleased to note that the building still served as a Jewish community center, and in the courtyard outside, we looked up and saw our father’s old bedroom window! It could be identified by a fault in the wall where there once was a balcony.

A plaque on the wall commemorated the Jewish soldiers who had fallen in the First World War (fighting for the Kaiser) – including our grandmother’s brother Heinrich (Chaim) Heinemann.

Another plaque commemorated Dr. Isaac Hallemann, the director of the orphanage in Fuerth who, like the famed Janush Korczak, chose to accompany his 30 young charges to the concentration camps rather than use his exit visa to get himself to freedom in Palestine. His children did escape, and his daughter was a member of our synagogue here in Petach Tikva until she died very recently at a very old age.

Plaque commemorating Dr. Hallemann, the director of the Fuerth Orphanage, who was killed with the orphans in the concentration camps

We also went by the house where my father’s grandparents lived. They were lucky enough to escape to Brazil with their daughter, our grandmother’s sister, and thus survived the war.

We proceeded to the town square (now an underground train station) where my father’s family was marched to on Kristallnacht, (see the story of my father’s experiences) and then to the library, which is now a theater, where my grandfather and the other men were taken to after the initial “assembly”, to be beaten by the Nazis. Again, it was shocking to actually see the places, and to absorb how innocuous these sites seem to be today.

We continued to the Old and New cemeteries to find graves of long deceased relatives, and then finished with a visit to the Schulhof, the square where 4 synagogues once stood together. The synagogues were all burnt down on Kristallnacht, and all that is left now is a rather ugly monument, and a modern housing estate around the square.

Memorial to the Shoah at the Schulhof, the site of 4 synagogues, in Fuerth

My father recalls asking his mother “why is the sky red?” as they returned from their forced march to the square on Kristallnacht, and his mother saying “Quiet! Don’t say a word!”. I’m trying to imagine his trauma as a 9 year old child, and cannot fathom it.

We left Fuerth rather subdued at the depressing memories and the sight of the rather grim-looking town and went further back into history.

Schopfloch – The Holocaust Even in this Tiny Village

We continued our journey to the little village of Schopfloch – which I used to think was a made-up name 🙂  – an altogether happier affair, where we saw the village where our paternal grandmother grew up.

We had imagined a little dumpy town but it is in fact quite a pretty little village. Our great-grandparents Heinemann owned a knitting factory there, and the building still stands though it is now residential. We met a couple of locals who remembered the factory and the family name, but none of them could speak Lachoudish – the curious mixture of Hebrew and German (not Yiddish) that became the local dialect amongst both Jews and Gentiles.

Even in this tiny village of 2,000, the Holocaust did not pass over the Jews and we found the memorial plaque in the memory of those murdered.  You can read my report of this day in more detail here.

Memorial to the Jews of Schopfloch murdered in the Shoah

An Overload of Emotions

This intense and emotional day concluded our roots trip to Germany, and left us with an overload of emotions to work through.

From reading this diary you might get the impression that the Jewish experience consists of memorial plaques and graves, and you wouldn’t be far wrong. But there were the positive things too.

I’m glad we made this trip and found that the “bogeyman” isn’t so scary after all, and that the Germans are making sincere efforts to atone for the sins of their fathers.

Sadly with the rise of the new antisemitism, we must remain eternally vigilant to combat this vicious disease.


The author blogs at Anne’s Opinions, lives in Petah Tikva, Israel, and kindly met with Professor Jacobson in Israeli in 2013.


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American Human | May 19, 2015 at 7:57 am

I am not Jewish and as far as I know, none of my ancestors were Jewish. I lived in Germany for 3 years as a soldier in the 1970s not far from Frankfurt. I visited a few of the places you mentioned. I also visited, twice, Dachau. The second time was when my mother and grandmother came to visit. When we got there, my grandmother was hesitant to get out of the car and when my wife asked why, she just said she didn’t know if she could be in a place where such evil happened. She did get out and we all walked through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate and visited the whole place including the ovens. When it was over, she said that she was glad she visited because she realized that just because it was still there, with ashes still in the ovens and candles burning, she realized that Germany, the German people, were regretful it happened and intended for that to never happen again and so they kept these places open for the public. I am from 80% German stock and I even look like one (blond, blue eyes etc.). There is nothing inherent in the German people that allowed this to happen any more than there is in any other people anywhere. It was the result of a relentless and evil narcissist who imposed his will upon people with a horrible result.

    Sammy Finkelman in reply to American Human. | May 19, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    It was the result of a relentless and evil narcissist who imposed his will upon people with a horrible result.

    That was why Jews were the target, but that was not why they were willing to kill.

    That was the result of the removal of religion and morality from the public sphere, and its replacement by other ideas, something which went back at least to the 1870s.

      Juba Doobai! in reply to Sammy Finkelman. | May 19, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Anne, your post is deeply touching.

      I’m not Jewish. I’m a Christian, a black woman, who has struggled for years to understand why the Holocaust happened. I’ve read the books, repeatedly watched the History Channel programs. It’s almost like it happened to effect a radical change, and I hope no one misunderstands what I’m saying. Think of it as a chessboard on which suddenly all the pieces to make a huge move are in place and in connection with each other creating a vortex from which no escape is possible. By themselves, the seeds of evil were present in them, their rabid hatred of Jews. By themselves, they were powerless. Yet, when they came together, they not only fed each other’s hatreds, but the vortex was set in motion. And the German people, caught up in it and for a mess of pottage, turned their backs on German Jews.

      The best I can determine or conclude, however one looks at the events at that time in history, is that that was the time of the commencement of the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy–which is still ongoing, but people did not understand or heed the signs. By the time many Jews began to realize they should go, it was too late in many ways. Many couldn’t afford to go anywhere. Many didn’t know where to go. Some tried to flee to other countries in Europe, within reach of the Great Evil, and they became caught up in the vortex. Some tried to flee to Britain or the USA or places outside of Europe, but they were rejected and wound up in the vortex. Some fled tio the region of Palestine, where there were those like Amr Al Husseini who wished to bring the vortex to them, and they established the State of Israel. Israel was meant to be.

      Why it happened is still incomprehensible and will always be so. How could the German people turn on their fellows? How is it that no one could kill Hitler though many tried? The Nazis meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, for out if it came Israel.

        It is certainly one of many theories Juba Doobai. But my attitude is that no one can really know what G-d’s plans were. We can only know what man planned and did. In this case, it was men who planned the destruction of the Jews, and very nearly got away with it. It was also good men who rose up to defeat the Nazis. Don’t get me wrong, I am very religious and a strong believer in G-d. But I refuse to believe that G-d wanted such a huge destruction. He had His plans, but it is not for us to know or understand. We just have to accept, and learn our lessons from what happened.

        It is tempting to think that “out of the sting came sweetness”, i.e. out of the Holocaust arose Israel, and I am sympathetic to that idea. However the fact is that Israel was on the way to becoming a state long before the war. The return to Zion began back in the 1880s – although as an integral part of Judaism, the Jews never really “left” Israel. They were forced out, but the desire to return is expressed in our prayers 3 times a day.

        The embryonic state had existed to all intents and purposes by the 1930s. There were all the institutions of state already in place: a government in the form of the Jewish Agency, headed by David Ben Gurion; a trades untion, the Histadrut; a health care system, the Kupat Holim; an educational system, universities, hospitals, factories and industry. All that was needed was for the British to fulfill their task to transform then-Palestine into the homeland for the Jews.

        But perfidious Albion, the British, reneged on their promise, and closed the gates of Palestine to the fleeing Jews, thereby causing untold numbers of deaths at the hands of the Nazis.

        After the Shoah, the British did not relent out of embarrassment at what they had contributed to the destruction of European Jewry. On the contrary, they intensified their blockade of Israel, and it was only after intensive efforts at the UN, plus the story of the Exodus ship that embarrassed the Brits, that the state of Israel was born.

        In fact, if we look at the timeline, we can see that the Shoah actually delayed the creation of Israel rather than led to it.

        You also ask how could the Germans turn on their fellow people. It’s a very good question. I think it was the result of economic hardship, the wish for a scapegoat, and years of dehumanization and demonization of the Jews.

        It’s scary to see a similar pattern today with BDS and anti-Israel activity. The difference is that today there is a strong Israel to protect the Jews.

    Thank you for this. I agree with your grandmother that the German people as a whole seem to be facing their own history and trying to come to terms with what they, or their parents, did, and they seem sincere in their wish to make amends.

    I also don’t think there is anything inherently evil in the Germans, any more than any other nation. It was a combination of the dehumanization of the Jews, terrible economic conditions and the desire for a scapegoat, plus of course a vicious megalomaniac psychotic antisemite leading the country.

    How he got there in the first place is another story.

Thank you Anne for sharing this.

My research shows that it is spelled “Stolperstein” in German. When I lived in Germany during the 70s, there still were ex-Nazis in positions of leadership everywhere, like Kurt Waldheim and Günther Grass.

Your story and the haunting photo of your three uncles is a poignant reminder of why Legal Insurrection’s focus on BDS matters.

1920s German intellectuals and conservatives assumed wrongly that their advance economy and liberal culture would have a civilizing effect against medieval attitudes about Jews and totalitarian rule.

They underestimated the corrosive power of anti-semitic memes when it was entertained by German academia and media.

BDS needs to be nipped in the bud before genocide becomes fashionable again.

    Very good point.

    Also, it was not only German intellectuals who thought they could civilize the Nazis. Many Jews themselves thought the Germans were too civilized to do anything to them. They thought if they keep quiet and keep their heads down the evil will blow over. My paternal grandfather (from Fuerth), an educated cultured man, and an Orthodox Jew who understood Jewish history well, was one of those, and very nearly didn’t make it out of Germany. They escaped to England by the skin of their teeth on one of the last boats out of the country in 1939. His mother, my great-grandmother, did not make it out of Germany and she was deported to Theresienstadt where she was murdered.

LukeHandCool | May 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

Thank you for sharing this, Anne.

Being of German descent on my father’s side (my mother’s father was Czech and her mother half-Jewish, half-French) I’ve been interested since childhood in how the Germans deal with the Holocaust.

One of my father’s employees when I was a boy was a Holocaust survivor. He made a huge impression on me. His wife and baby boy were killed. He was saved by a Czech couple and his story is simply amazing. After my mother passed away I wrote a tribute to her and him. In it is a link to his story.

My wife is Japanese and the contrast is stark and disappointing with how they try to stuff the past down the memory hole. My wife, in adulthood, came across a book about the atrocities the Japanese committed leading up to and during WWII, and it was a complete surprise to her.

She said the subject was never broached in school. Never.

    Sammy Finkelman in reply to LukeHandCool. | May 19, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Even worse than Japan is Turkey, although things happened 20-30 years before.

    Luke, thank you for linking to your story and then to Mr. Feder’s story. It had me in tears. Every single person in that account was a hero. It is so humbling to read how these ordinary people took extraordinary steps to survive and to save others. Would I act the same in such circumstances? I’m scared to think about it.

    Re the Japanese and their ignoring or whitewashing the past, I heard the same thing from a Chinese reader of my own blog. I must admit I was surprised. The Japanese seem so peace-loving that it’s a shock to remember how warlike they were.

Thank you, Anne, for sharing your pilgrimage with us. God bless and keep you and your family.

Indeed, “stolpern” is the German word “to stumble”, so Stolpersteine are stumbling stones (blocks). I visited Dachau — that was enough of a reminder of how horrible humans can be to each other — I simply cannot visit the other death camps. It’s tough for non-Jews to relive this — I can’t imagine what the families of victims have to endure viewing all of this.

But it’s not just Germany.

Here in Zurich, when I give a tour of the city, I always take guests to “Froschaugasse” (frog meadow alley) in what is now the “hip” area of the old city near the university where the old Jewish quarter thrived until the pogroms of the 14th century, when the Jewish community was brutally forced out and many burned at the stake. All that is left are two columns from the synagogue. Jews were forbidden to live in Zurich until the 1860’s (and since Zurich was also the center of Zwingli’s Reformation, Catholics were forbidden from building new churches in Zurich until the 1950’s).

But keep the faith. Especially the Orthodox Jewish community thrives now in Zurich — Ashkenazi Jews who settled here during and after WWII. It always brings a huge smile to my face to see fathers proudly walking hand in hand with their young sons on the way to shul.

Sh’ma Yisrael . . . .

Sammy Finkelman | May 19, 2015 at 3:35 pm

In short, my mother had 3 older brothers who were sent on a Kindertransport to Holland for safety in 1938 after Kristallnacht, but the Nazis invaded in 1943 and shipped them to Sobibor where they were killed on the day they arrived,

That should be:

…the Nazis invaded in 1940 and shipped them to Sobibor in 1942 or 1943.

It was thought that in the event of war Holland would be neutral, as it had been during World War I, but this time, the Germans invaded the Netherlands as well as Belgium and Luxembourg.

There was a very capable Nazi, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who was put in charge of Holland, and it was much more difficult to successfully hide on Holland than in Belgium.

Seyss-Inquart, which means 6 1/4 in Dutch, acquired the nickname 6 1/4 , and indeed he was pretty much the Nazi ranked number 6 1/4 and he was executed in Nuremberg.

    Thank you for the correction of the date of the Nazi invasion of Holland. The reason I was thinking of 1943 was that despite the Nazi occupation there was correspondence between the boys and their parents (my grandparents) who were by then in England up to a couple of months before they were deported.

      Sammy Finkelman in reply to Anne in Petah Tikva. | May 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      How was that possible during the war and the German occupation of Holland?

      Through Switzerland or the Red Cross? Or was this allowed as part of some arrangement where Germans (loyal to Germany, and interned) could also send mail?

        I honestly don’t know,and there’s no one left that we can ask. But we have the letters that my grandparents received from the boys, dated in 1941 at least (because they mention the birth of their new sister in England) and a year later, i.e. 1942, when they commented on a photo of their sister standing up at age 1 year.

Anne: thank you very much for sharing. Tracking familial roots is a journey all should take as it is quite illuminating, spiritual and humbling some times.

Please excuse my ignorance, but how does a Torah become non-kosher?

    A Torah becomes non-kosher when the letters become erased or unclear, or if the parchment is damaged. If that happens then it’s not fit for use, literally not kosher. But it can be fixed by a scribe (a Sofer) fixing the letters. The parchment can be fixed if it’s torn along a seam by re-sewing the seams. But if it’s torn in the middle then it’s unfixable. In that case the whole panel needs to be rewritten on a new panel, and then sewn in place of the damaged one. Sometimes it’s just not worth the price or effort, in which case the Torah scroll is buried in a special section of the cemetery.