Nostalgia is trending on the web and the Detroit Jewish News's digital archive, launched in November, is a prime example. I am famously fond of my hometown, where I now serve as a rabbi, so poking around on the site is fun for me, but the archive also connected me with someone I have longed to meet since my Bar Mitzvah and thought I never would.
In my liberal and uber-secular extended family, there was only one figure who cared whether my sisters and I went to Hillel or dated/married Jews: Harold (Hans) Wiener, my father’s father.
Born to a large, secular German family whose members mostly managed to emigrate well before the Holocaust (he arrived in New York in 1922), Grandpa Harold, a wholesaler of men’s undergarments, never lost his German accent. He nonetheless settled comfortably into the mainstream American Jewish life of his generation: membership in a Conservative synagogue and a B’nai Brith chapter, donations to Israel Bonds and UJA, loyalty to the Democratic party and eventually retirement in Century Village, a predominantly Jewish community in West Palm Beach, Fla.
When, just months after announcing my engagement to lapsed Catholic Joe, I got my first job in Jewish journalism, at the Detroit Jewish News, I thought Grandpa Harold would be excited, that perhaps it would compensate for his disappointment about the upcoming intermarriage.