The first section of these poems were written over a period of many years by my mother, my brother, and myself. Invariably, it was the shock of my grandparents' deaths that forced each of us to take pen in hand to express our pain and to try to make sense of the immense loss. These were our parents and grandparents. We had lived together with them in a small neighborhood in the Bronx.  They had connected us to our childhoods, to our cultural and political traditions, and to one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of our family: their emigration from the "Old Country" at the beginning of the 19th century. We owed them a great deal. We loved them.

I was aware of these poems-they "accompanied" me-when I embarked on a project to research the history of my Grandma Bessie and her family who had lived in the small town of Kholmich in Byelorussia (now Belarus). We had found 102 letters that were sent to her over a period of twenty years by her father and by her many brothers and sisters. It took eight years to have all of these Russian and Yiddish letters translated. Placing them in the correct order and re-creating a context for them through research and the acquisition of official documents was like an great archaeological dig into my family's past. In 1998, with the assistance of my father Jerry Schechter, the results were bound into a book entitled Bessie's Letters.  Books about  Max Schechter and Sarah Sholkov Lubin Karish soon followed. The poems that appear in the last section all came out of these years of historical excavation and remembrance.

Memory survives by being sustained. Yarzheit candles should be lit in remembrance of my grandparents-our immigrant generation-on the following dates:

Karl Karish / October 12 (1963)
Max Schechter /  March 30 (1966)
Sarah Karish / April 2 (1973)
Bessie Schechter / December 4 (1980)

Consider lighting a candle for our Russian family as well, lost to us forever in the fog of time, of war, of Holocaust.

Sarah Karish, Max Schechter, and Bessie Schechter are all buried in the Cedar Park Cemetery, Westwood, New Jersey.

Bill Schechter

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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