Thursday, April 06, 2006

Zayde, 20 years later

Today, the 8th day of the month of Nisan marks the 20th Yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of my grandfather, Tommy Rutta z”l. Though I knew him for less than three years, he had a very formative effect on making me who I am today. One of my earliest memories is being bounced and dandled on his knee joining him in a traditional Yiddish song, such as Oyfn Pripichik. It was he who gave me my love for Yiddishkeit. Had it not been for him and my Grammy (whose 15th Yahrzeit will be observed in Tishri) I would likely have not made the major decision to dedicate so much time and money into learning and practicing Yiddish, a decision I am very thankful I made.. It is obvious that I also inherited certain traits of his, such as my baking skills (he came from a long line of bakers and owned two bakeries in Brooklyn, one year-round, and one for this time of year, for Passover) and, yes, my belly I inherited from him as well. Passover was his time to shine, he led a great seder. After he passed away, Shiva was cancelled by the arrival of Pesach, the holiday he loved so much and we were without a leader. My father had to take the reins for the first time, and these were big shoes to fill.

His family made it out of Warsaw to America before the Holocaust, actually, around the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. They escaped from being in the White Army (Czar’s army) which at that time Jews were forced to be a part of. Most of his extended family wasn’t so lucky, and hundreds of his first cousins, from the 22 aunts and uncles he had on his father, Max’s side were murdered by the Nazis.

Really, most of what I know about my zayde is from home movies and stories. I’m just privileged to have been able to know him for those three short years. Josh only got 6 months with him and Zach wasn’t born until many years afterwards. All I know is that if he were alive today, he would be cooking up a storm in preparation for Passover. I know he’s with me.

Thi Nafsho Tzrurot BiTzrur Hachayim et nishmat Tuvya ben Menachem Shehalach L'Olamo, may he be bound up in the bonds of life and his portion be the Garden of Eden on the Wings of the Divine Presence.


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