Innergiggler's Blog


Posted on: February 13, 2011

After reading Kristine Van Raden’s “Side by Side” blog post this afternoon – I started thinking about yesterday – not like in February 11th, but yesterday as in the early 1900s when my grandparents were strongly encouraged to leave Egypt and practice their errant Jewish ways  elsewhere.  Historical papers claim religious freedom for Jews back then, yet when my cousins went on a family fact-finding mission to Cairo more than thirty years ago – the synagogues were gone and all family-related historical documents had been destroyed.

Before arriving in Cairo, my grandma Frieda’s family lived and thrived in Aleppo, Syria where for many years Jews were accepted and even extolled.  But those days ended as economic conditions in the city became dire thanks to the Industrial Revolution. 

Around that time, my grandfather, Moses (I swear) Mizrahi, his family and most other Jews were  expelled from Constantinople.  The family fled to Cairo where young Moses (please don’t think Charlton Heston here) was eventually in a “planned betrothal” to one named Frieda Mizrahi, a petite red-haired firecracker with a limp.  No one ever quite got the limp story straight, but it was always attached to her tomboy and “in your face” ways.  One rumor offered up that she had skipped school one day, and in an attempt to climb a windmill, slipped and fell. 

I was so used to her right-sided limp I never thought to ask about it.  She was always busy making vats of yogurt with cucumber, humus, stuffed eggplant and her famous baklava, so she never mentioned it.  She also never spoke about her arranged marriage – maybe because it was a given part of their tradition and besides they produced eight offspring.  Something fit right somewhere.

My grandparents had already birthed three of their eight kids when financial and religious discrimination prompted their departure to their next home in Panama around the time the Suez Canal was completed.  Grandma popped out two more offspring here before being summoned by their older brothers and sisters who were flourishing in New York.  The Mizrahi clan – five kids, two adults arrived at Ellis Island speaking Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, French – and fully prepared to learn English which they did beautifully.

Within the next year, 1920, my mom Adele, the sixth of the brood arrived.  Mom was so proud to be the first American-born Mizrahi but felt embarrassed  both by being a child of immigrants and being from the “poor” side of the family.  Her parents didn’t flourish as did grandma’s “Grazi” brothers.  Unfortunately Mom never embraced her Syrian heritage.  TMI?  See Memoir:  “How I Buried My Mom…With The Umbilical Cord Still Attached.”  I used to blame my mother’s` shame for my ignorance, but the truth is I never asked questions until it was too late.  Yesterday was too late. 

Oddly enough, even with all the discrimination and horrific stories of the holocaust, Grandma Frieda would sit by her living room window in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn every Sunday morning and watch  the people walking to church.  Smiling, she would always remark:  “See the church-going people?  It’s good they believe. ”

Kristine’s blog was filled with HOPE for the dreams of the young women of Egypt who have been kept in the background – Hope that they’d have access to education resulting in a positive impact on the policies of Egypt’s future.  I couldn’t help but wonder – had these young women been in power while my grandparents lived there – might they never have left?  Of course then Mom wouldn’t have met Dad – and there’d certainly be no me – or else me in another body.   That too is another blog

For today, I wish ALL the Egyptian youth – male and female – freedom from tyranny and restrictions.

Long live the liberty of spirit and expression.


5 Responses to "LET MY PEOPLE GO…WHERE?"

Great blog. Thanks for a little history of your family roots.

I love this blog! It is filled with so much to ponder. Thank you dear Linda, for sharing this with us. It makes me want to know more and more. Although I have visited more than 80 countries in over 40 years, I am so sorry that I have not been to Egypt, Syria, Israel, or the Holy Land. I had two trips planned and had to cancel both. We were going to Egypt this year, but will most likely wait. I feel that it is so important to see, feel, and understand our roots as much as possible. I always love your blogs, your humor, and all you share with us.

you are a goddess extraordinaire.
end of story.

Always enjoy the little pieces of your life that you share with your audience. Wish that my folks would have shared their heritage with me. I guess that it never dawned on them to do so. As a child, I certainly was not asking, “Where did your parents come from?” I was too busy being a child who should be seen and not heard!!! Even when I “grew up”, my ancestors were not of interest to me. Maybe, one of these days, I’ll start digging up my past.
Be well and happy, Linda. I love you. God bless.

Linda…it is your vulnerability..and willingness to openly share that makes you such an incredibly human incredible incredibly loving, sensitive, caring friend! Hurray..for whoever and whatever made you the miraculous person you are!!!

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