Category Archives: jewish history

Gerald Rochkind, my Bubie — In Memoriam 20 years

In Yiddush, the language spoken by generations of Jews, of which I am proud to say I am, the word for grandmother is “Bubie” or “Bubbie” (phonetically, “Boo – Bee” or “Bubb – ee”).  My children call my mom “Bubie”.   My father refers to my mother as nothing else now that they have grandchildren.  For the word means something more…I called my father’s mother, “Bubie”.   Geraldine King Rochkind, of blessed memory, died 20 years ago this weekend.  She is my Bubie.  The feelings of remorse and regret, the ones that try to swallow away, fill my throat.  I keep trying to swallow them down and away…it doesn’t work.  My father says that I was the last person that she spoke to before she died.  20 years  – – she has missed much.  We have missed her more.

Rest in peace, Bubie . . . you’d be proud to see how well your little family has done.

 

Advertisements

Battery Charging

I’ll write more about this after my experience ends but I NOW understand the meaning of going on vacation and “recharging the batteries”.  Contrary to my earlier thoughts, it does not mean going on vacation and resting.   It does not mean relaxing.  I never really understood it until now . . . on this trip, after a year battling the “powers the be” and experiencing what it means to be the top dog (all other dogs line up to challenge the top dog), I was beat.  I felt disconnected and distant.  A servant to my work and profession but a stranger in my home.  In the moment, while fighting out court cases, there is/was no way to end that cycle or trend.  This trip did that for me.

I spent every second with my children, wife and when they returned from their mini trip, my parents.  My family, the ROCKIND’s, spent time together.  Quality time.  Bonding time.

My batteries are re-charged.  I feel love, light and connected.  I feel plugged in.  Just what you do to charge your batteries.

Baruch Hashem.

 

 

Israel Defying The Odds – AMAZING VIDEO

Holocaust survivor reconnects with GI | detnews.com | The Detroit News

Holocaust survivor reconnects with GI | detnews.com | The Detroit News.

West Bloomfield or Skokie?

After I moved from Detroit to West Bloomfield, the landmarks of my youth changed.  Exit Dexter and Davison, the old grocery store haunt of my youth.  Enter Maple and Orchard Lake Road.  That corner of West Bloomfield was one of the landmarks of my youth . . . in many ways, similar to Tally Hall and Maple and Telegraph, to name a few.  I could describe every nook, store, sign . . . it was at this shopping center corner that I purchased my Bar Mitzvah suit although (shame on me) I cannot remember the name of the store.  When I returned from my family vacation on Saturday, January 3, 2009, I was confronted with a difficult reality — that landmark of my youth had been used by people who were protesting against Jews and Israel.  I was stunned, offended and angered.

I remembered something else from my youth and studies as a youngster, the KKK march on Skokie, Illinois.  A predominantly Jewish suburb, the KKK deliberately eschewed marching in some backwater town in its comfort zone to instead “spit in the face of the Jewish community” by marching and bringing their hatred and vitriol to a Jewish neighborhood.  As I watched a video of the demonstrators chanting “Kill the Jews” less than 100 yards from a kosher bakery and the storefront where I bought the suit in which I’d become a Jewish “adult man”, I was stunned.  I thought of Skokie.  How I longed for my radio show to try and express my outrage . . . to take the corner back, so to speak.

On Sunday, January 4, 2009, the next day, I was given that chance by some dear friends who organized a Pro-Israel rally for that very corner.  Despite an overwhelming amount of work, I attended . . . in the rain, sleet and cold.  The cold and wet weather did nothing to extinguish the fire in our bellies as made signs, waived flags, donned hats and shirts in support of Israel.  Soon the rally grew.  We were joined by others.  Jews.  Chaldeans.  Christians.  Soon professional signs showed up.  Bagels.  Coffee.  Cookies.  A television camera showed and interviewed me . . . even though I was not the event organizer, I was proud to speak and represent the bunch.  I hoped that my words would match our spirit and the passion of those who started the rally.  To represent them and Israel was an honor.

I thought of my people, not just the Jews who were there but the Chaldeans too.  I spoke for them as well hoping that I wouldn’t let their commitment to this cause down.

I thought of my youth, about that corner and what it meant that of all the places the pro Hamas organizers could have selected to chant they selected this area.

And I thought of Skokie.  I thought of those Jews then forced to surrender their corner to those who were chanting for their death.  I looked out over the corner that Sunday and I felt the pride that someone somewhere must feel in a turf war.  This was our corner.  This is our neighborhood.  We are taking it back!  And guess what . . . we did!

The Pen is Mightier Than the Rocket

During the holiday of Passover, my family recites a passage during the service which includes the phrase, “Israel, my people, G-d’s greatest riddle, will your secret ever be told?”  The passage is beautiful and challenging questioning how it is that we Jews have been able to withstand centuries and millenia of brutality, anti-semitism, torture, murder and terror and yet here we still are in both the disapora and, to the chagrin of our enemies, the proud residents of the state of Israel.   Today, again, we are under attack from forces discussed and talked about and some overlooked.

Hamas, the terrorist group who desire to push all of us Jews into the sea and return the Western Wall and Kotel, the holiest site in Judaism that the Israeli’s have kept open, sacred and safe (just as they have the Christian, Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Moslem holy sites), to the alley way and garbage dump that it was pre-1968.

western_wall_cf35-69wr

To this day, Hamas maintains, not just in its charter, but as a key component of its policies, the destruction of the state of Israel.   A key tool of its trade was the suicide bomber . . . that is until they discovered that smuggling Qassam rockets that can be shot from afar, terrorize the Israeli’s all the while saving a Hamas fighter from certain suicide death is better.   The Israeli people, whose will has never been broken, again found themselves under attack . . . an attack from the air.   For months, the Israeli’s tolerate these acts of terror — not knowing when you leave your home whether you’re going to have to find a nearby bomb shelter because of a recently fired Qassam.   As a young parent, I used to feel terrorized by the unpredictability of my infants’ nighttime crying . . . I’d settle in and hear a cry . . . she’d get quiet and then I’d wait for another cry and then settle in thinking that she was asleep only to be startled by an untimely, unpredictable outburst.  Awake I’d lay . . . nerves on edge . . . wondering when the next cry would come.  Of course, it was just crying and only my nerves and a nights sleep were at risk.  The thought of the terror of not knowing when and where a Qassam rocket will fall is to me nervewracking alone . . . let alone having to experience the actual random rocket attacks themselves.  The terrorists know this and realize that by firing Qassam they either kill innocent Israeli’s/Jews or, worst case scenario, at least cause them terror.  They are raining down Qassam terror rockets on Israel as I am writing and you are reading this blog.  Thre is an insightful website and Facebook tool, (www.qassamcount.com/fb), that highlights how many Qassam were fired today, etc.  I won’t relive the stastitics here for there are far better websites to gain that sort of data but suffice it to say that Israel is attempting to put an end to the rocket terror now.  It is this fact, the reason that Israel is again forced to sacrifice its youth in a fight with Hamas terrorists that once again is obliterated by the mainstream media.  While I have no doubt that Israel will survive the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah and Co., I fear the mainstream media’s poisonous pen and vitriol more.

MSNBC, CNN, ad infinitum, ad nauseam and their talking heads, Christian Amanpour and Rachel Maddow, for example, treat the Qasam rocket fire as an afterthought.  In many ways, after displaying horrific images of injured Arab children and bloody hospital floors and repeating with spittal afiring that “to date the Israeli incursion has seen 600 Palestinian civilian casualties”, the stations mention almost like a fast rolling credit to “the 2nd camerman” after an episode of your favorite TV show that Hamas fired rockets into Israel today.  The fact that the rocket fire is mentioned as though it were an afterthought or an annoying fact that they just have to conclude is what I fear most.  Again, the media acts as though the rocket fire means nothing.  You get the sense that they’d rather not to have mention it at all for mentioning the rocket fire just takes up time from other stories.??  It is this form of revisionism and ignorance, the kind that cause the world’s leaders to condemn Israel, that frustrates me the most.  Why?  Because I expect little to nothing from Hamas and the Palestinians.  I expect unfairness, brutaliy, unreasonability and insensitivity.  I never allow myself even for a second to be disillusioned about their intentions or loyalties.  While the foreign powers, those who condemn Israel but who cough when mentioning the Qassam rocket terror as if to drown it out (like we used to do when we were children and we were coughing over a word), continue to drink the proverbial koolaid served up by Hamas, etc., I expect Hamas will do anything to harm Israel and the Jewish people.  Since they believe that those who die fighting the Jews and Israel are martyred and secured a place in heaven, I know that they will sacrifice and martyr civilians, mosques, children, women and the elderly by using them as human shields.  By doing so, Hamas can create more images for the media, more reasons for the UN to condemn Israel, more foreign leaders to chastise Israel and more media to portray Israel as brutal monsters.  I can only imagine the conversations with the “shields”:

Sir, stand here . . . you will become a symbol of the cause and go to heaven and help us drive the infidel Jews into the sea.  Of course, you will be dead and your children will be crippled but you’ll be a martyr.  Please sir, move closer to this spot. . . thank you.

I fear the media more because they have the capacity with every carefully chosen phrase and intonation to shape how the story is understood and heard by millions of people.  How can so few people know about the Qassam?  Israel’s courage and retraint for years as the Qassam were fired into Israel?  The pain of the parents of Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured and held in captivity in Gaza by Hamas extremists?  Ask around . . . most people, due to media coverage of the conflict today just “know” that “Israel’s boming is killing civilians”, “there is a humanitarian crisis because of Israel”, etc.  They are being taught that Israel is “disproportionately responding” (whatever that means).   It is this type of propoganda that scares me the most.  When locally, here in Michigan, a pro Hamas demonstration is organized to take place in a deeply Jewish area and not one member of the media mentions or challenges the action as deliberately inciteful or insulting to the Jewish community, something is amiss.

Rockets are a form of sword but remember . . . the pen is mightier than the sword.

Prepared But Not Ready – Norbert Reinstein and Neil Rockind

In a previous post, I referred to him as the Energizer bunny.  Tireless.  Powerful.  Charged.  He seemed to run, just like the bunny, when all others stopped.   But he was much more, he was my grandfather . . . Norbert Reinstein and on Wednesday, November 10, 2009 he passed quietly, painlessly in his sleep in the hospice ward of Beaumont Hospital.   For 2 weeks, I spent time with him in the hospital.  In my own way, my very own “Tuesdays with Morrie” but with my grandpa.  I miss him very much.

My grandfather was born in Vienna, Austria.  My grandmother too.  She was a rich aristocratic high society girl.  He, a common villager.  He loved her . . . you can imagine her reaction to him.  Uhh, … no thank you.   When the Nazi’s began taking the property of Jewish families, including their homes, etc., my great-grandfather sold nearly all to pay for my grandmother to come to America.  In New York City, without any survival skills, having never taken care of herself (cooking, etc), she found herself in a foreign place and world x 2.  My grandfather would make it there too but his was a much more harrowing path.

He, like his family, was caught by the Nazi’s.  He was detained in Dachau, a concentration camp.   His parents and other relatives (save his brother, Ernest) were murdered by the Nazi’s.  My grandfather and his brother escaped . . . literally, sneaking out and living in the woods.  Ultimately, he made it to England and through shrewdness and tenacity, found a stranger in Cleveland, Ohio to sponsor them to come to America.  Upon arriving, he too found himself in a foreign city and country but . . . he was placed in a bunk in a “Y” next to someone who was friends with my grandmother.  Within a week or so, he found her . . . 67 years, they were married until he passed.

He was larger than life.  A giant.  A reknowned philanthropist and professional in his field.   He was photographed with senators, governors . . . I used to stare in awe at the awards (I have a wall not dissimilar in my office).  But to me . . . he was just my grandpa.

I eulogized him at his funeral.  My friends were decent and kind enough to come and I hope that they learned something about him.  He outlasted those f*&king Nazi’s, those animals that wanted him dead and more.  He didn’t just outlive them by alot (he died when he was 95) but he defeated them.  He joined the US Army, translated for the Army to get intelligence from the captured Nazi’s, got 2 degrees from the Univ of Minnesota, married, had 2 children who in turn had 5 children (his grandchildren) and one of those children, me, has 3 children (his great-grandchildren).   Where the Nazi’s wanted rootrot and death and termination, he created 3 generations of life!!!!

During the 2 weeks in the hospital, I bounced nervously at every noise he made.  Was he ok?  Nurse?  What’s happening?  My mother and father were there too . . . over his sleeping form, we’d share stories of our life with him.  All funny.  All sad.  I lost it one day.  Crying so hard that my mother had to comfort me.  Something that hadn’t happened since I was a child and I don’t know then even when exactly.  I’m just assuming it did.  My family put him into hospice, ironically the nicest and most well-equipped rooms in the hospital.

It’s time.  We just want him to have a peaceful exit.

People would say this, preparing themselves for his departure.  We tried to prepare ourselves.  Today? Tomorrow?  Soon?  His breathing is slowing.  Doctor, what does that mean??  But when he passed, I returned to the hospital with my parents . . . his body still oddly warm and we stared.  We were kind of waiting for him to start breathing again . . . but such things occur in Hollywood, not on Woodward.  He was gone and I was not ready.  All the preparation did little to make me ready for that moment.

I am blessed to know this.   He died before Hannukah however my 2 boys, his blood, his genes, his legacy were at his house 2 weeks prior playing dreidel with him.  We took a photograph of the 3 of them . . . the 95 year who sacrificed and overcame so much for these 2 boys to be here.  It would be the last photograph he ever took.

Norbert Reinstein.  Neil Rockind.  He wore a ring on his finger with the initials “NR”.  I wear his “NR” ring on my finger as though I had always worn it.  I guess in a way, I always wore his initials and his imprint on me.    The ring is just a reminder.  He is in my heart and mind forever and always.  I wasn’t ready to have to remember him.