We always knew that my husband’s great grandfather was a prominent Rabbi in Washington DC. We knew little more besides that he had fled Russia in one of the many pogroms there and that my husband’s father had, sadly, had contact with that part of his family cut off when he was four years old and his mother (the Rabbi’s daughter) passed away and his father remarried. Everything else was lost.
Until last night, during a fahrbringin in our new community.
Mr. Safek’s great grandfather was Harav Hagaon Yaakov Aizer Dubrow, Z”L. There are also several paragraphs about him and his achievements on the wikipedia page for the congregation he led from 1925 to 1949, Kesher Israel in Washington, DC.
My husband found his great grandfather’s story written out, more known about him by strangers than his own descendants. He was a chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Z”L who corresponded with him often and was “instrumental” in helping to secure his safe evacuation during World War II. He studied under the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Shneerson. Just months ago, my husband had chosen a new Hebrew name…Dovber Yosef, named for the same.
It’s enough to make your head spin, the way different threads of the past are now intertwining themselves in the present!
Many things happened to make my husband lost to this past. When my husband’s grandfather remarried, his new wife cut off all contact with Rabbi Dubrow and his family, connected as they were to his first wife, Rivka (she went by Riva when they moved to the US). My husband’s father grew up secular, knowing little about his grandfather and my husband grew up knowing even less. If anything his story is a perfect example of how quickly assimilation can happen and a long legacy can be lost in the winds.
Then, by a small chance, my husband’s father met and married a woman who they thought had had an Orthodox conversion and they had 2 children. They named their son Robin, after his mother Rivka since they weren’t certain they would have more children. When a daughter followed, they gave her the Hebrew name Chana, after his great-grandmother, a woman he’d never really known. The only connection the children held to this legacy was their names.
When I met my husband, he was estranged from his Judaism, fighting a battle within himself. He wasn’t attending shul, but he kept a Siddur in his car. He was full of contradictions, as if fighting against something that kept calling him back. Finally, when I began wanting to pursue conversion and begged him to come to the local Chabad house with me, I saw him put on a tallis and…suddenly there was a calm to him, a peace that wasn’t there before.
Hashem’s ways truly are mysterious and wonderful.
Our journey, each of us individually, has been the journey of a lifetime, but now we can see that this journey stretches beyond our own lifetimes back into a past. I truly believe that neither of us could have made this journey alone and that Hashem brought us together so that we both could reach this place where my husband will be returned to his people and my children and I will join the Jewish people.
We have a legacy to learn and pass on so that it isn’t again lost to time.