Peregrine flight

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Family talk

My mother was very closeted about her Jewish past, I never really found out she was Jewish until I was in my twenties. I had suspicions but they were never confirmed until I started getting into genealogy and genetic testing.

As you can guess she got pretty pissed about my digging but when the cat was finally out of the bag she eventually gave up the charade. My dad said that her folks read The Forward and spoke yiddish in the home but hey, I wasn't there.

In any case, I never met many of her relatives, whom she had apparently alienated and ostracized, probably thinking that they would give her true identity up. 

Her family was from Yednitz, Moldova, I have written about them before.  The family started out in Providence, joining other cousins in the family business, the Roberts Paper Box Company.

Never met either grandparent to the best of my knowledge, my grandmother died of a cerebral hemorrhage and despondent over both his wife's death and the demise of the fur industry, Martin committed suicide the year after I was born, in 1958.

This is a picture of my mother Adelle, her brother Norman and her father Martin (Mondko) standing behind him, 1930's. 

I had a slightly older uncle but he died falling out a window in the Gashouse district of Manhattan, an event that traumatized my grandparents and probably caused them to move to California. My mother was born in Los Angeles, on Western Ave., next to El Cholo.

My mother is sitting in front of Martin's brother Sam.

In any case, a relative has passed and I wanted to mark his passing as he did great things in this world. 

My second cousin Edward Baer Roberts has passed. Here is his wikipedia entry:

Edward Baer Roberts (November 18, 1935 – February 27, 2024) was an American academic who was faculty member at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He became the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology in 1974.

Roberts, the world’s leading authority on entrepreneurship, wrote "Entrepreneurs in High Technology: Lessons from MIT and Beyond" on high-tech business creation and growth. The book won the Association of American Publishers Award for Outstanding Book in Business and Management in 1991. Dr. Roberts was the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Chair of the Sloan School’s Management of Technological Innovation & Entrepreneurship research and education programs, and the founder and chair of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center.

Roberts earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Engineering, an MBA, and the world’s first Ph.D. in System Dynamics, all from MIT. He has authored over 150 articles and 11 books, most recently Innovation: Driving Product, Process and Market Change.

Entrepreneurial in academia and industry, under the direction of MIT Professor Jay Forrester, Dr. Roberts was a founding member of the System Dynamics field at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT System Dynamics Group in 1958. System Dynamics, formerly known as Industrial Dynamics, was developed from a need to better understand highly complex problems through their feedback systems and how they change over time.

Roberts was a co-founder, director, adviser, mentor, and angel investor in many emerging companies. For 20 years, he co-founded and was a General Partner in the Zero Stage and First Stage Capital Equity Funds, venture capital funds specializing in early-stage technology firms. He co-founded and was CEO of Pugh-Roberts Associates, an international management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and technology management (now a division of PA Consulting Group). He also co-founded and served as a Director of Sohu.com, a leading Chinese Internet firm.

Roberts served on the board of advisors of Maverick Ventures Israel, a unique venture capital fund composed of private investors which invests in early growth Israeli startups.

In 1996, he helped Charles Zhang found the company ITC, which later became Sohu, one of China's biggest Internet companies.

Roberts died in Boston on February 27, 2024, at the age of 88.

Edward was a very smart guy. I spoke and corresponded with him a handful of times in my life. Obviously there is a lot of brainpower on both sides of my family but this is the only person I could think of who had a chair at MIT. My venture capital friend Rich Levandov was a student of his and knew him very well.

Edward went back to Moldova years ago and did family research, hired a woman who could read Polish and looked for gravestones. We first crossed paths in the 1980's. He was the son of my great uncle Nathan Roberts, son of Moishe. Here is a neat sentence describing him in his obituary:

Ed had infinite energy, never slept, and was a lifelong learner. While known for his storytelling, his ability to listen with immense focus always made you feel loved.

Sounds a lot like my mom. I wish that I could have known him better. He also had a strong physiologic family resemblance to my mother and uncle.

I sent a note of his passing to our mutual cousin Linda Forman last week and got a nice letter back. Linda reads the blog regularly and we have a lot in common, including our love for American roots music.

Good Morning, 
I just got back from the gym…and…the usual:  What will all that buy me for dinner tonight?  Anyway, I DID meet Ed Roberts 13 years ago.   Your Uncle Norman had tracked down a number of relatives, and he wanted to meet them.  He decided to come East.  Ed Roberts hosted a dinner at the FOUR SEASONS (abutting Boston Common).  He and his wife lived in a condo right next door.   MY sister and I drove in from Providence.  We loved Norman’s business card.  At bottom it said: “I plan to live forever;  So far, so good.”  There were about 15-18 people;  I overheard Ed say to the servers that they were to keep the wine flowing, to please replace any empties immediately.  This was so sad to me…you must be familiar with the photograph of our great grandparents and a few kids …the kid in the lower right hand corner in the school uniform was Zanvil…He got himself killed in The Great War, and my Father was named for him.  Anyway, a few years ago, I found his name in a database on JewishGen-he was one of the few Jewish landowners in Yednitz. …turns out, Norman was asking everyone if we could identify the people in the photograph…He had NO idea that it was his grandparents.  That made me feel really bad.  If you do not know which photograph I am talking about, I’ll photograph mine and send it to you.
On another subject…on the way home from the gym, I caught the tail end of an interview with Chris Smither about his new album and his background.  Every year for the past ten years I have posted a YouTube Video of his “LEAVE THE LIGHT ON.” on my birthday.
It is my favorite song by him;  I actually got to meet him some years ago, and, we discussed the song.  He told me he felt it had to been dictated to him from the ether.  He is my age exactly, and, the song meets my bar (as does most things for me):  Has he said anything that is not true?  I think you are probably several years younger than I, but, if you take a listen, I am sure you will get the gist of it.  Okay, got to go into town and avert a cracker crisis and a Pinot Gris, crisis.

This is the photo Linda is referring to, back in Yednitz, my great grandparents Meier Weinrober (b. 1858) and his wife Rivka Solomon on the top step.

She ends her next note like this:
Apparently, all the males had the first or middle name Meyer.  I could not get this photograph out of the frame…it is sealed with one whole piece of brown paper.  Anyway,  Zanvil is in the lower right hand corner.  And, my father as a younger man bore a strong resemblance to him.  I believe the older one on the left is Auntie Hansel.
She would come to Providence to see Grampa Isador…She was very warm and affectionate…we all loved her.  Here is a not widely known family anecdote:  One of the siblings was Frieda (I never met her).  They considered her to be unattractive, so Grampa Isador paid his cousin, Izzy, a thousand dollars to marry her.  When they met, it was love at first sight, so, no money did change hands.
My Cousin, Alan Levine, Aunt Roslyn (my Father’s sister) and Uncle Irving’s son, and I referred to our Grandfather as the “brown eyed handsome man.”…..but…but…but…then again the Wainrober men were ALL brown eyed handsome men.
On her last line, I think we can all agree.

Funny about the Meyer part. When I went back to Israel during Desert Storm I sat next to a Rabbi on the plane. He asked me my Hebrew name and I told him I didn't have one. He said, "I am giving you one, right now. Meyer."


Linda Roberts Forman said...

Names? I have a question: Why are so many Jewish women named Roz or Roslyn? It is in my collection of great unanswered questions, among them: Why did Wally and Beaver have to share a bedroom? That house was huge. John Forgerty…Big wheel keep on toinin, Proud Mary keep on Boinin-Speech impediment or affectation? Aren’t those motorcycles with the handle bars a foot high like really uncomfortable? At certain times of the day, you can drive in the breakdown lane on Route 128, the beltway around Boston…well what happens if there is an actual breakdown? Why don’t cars parked horizontally on the steep streets in S.F. Come tumbling down? I have many more. If anyone has any theories on the Jewish Woman-Roz, please let me know. Thanks.

Blue Heron said...

I don't know about the Roslyn thing but you bring up a good question on John Fogerty that begets a better question; how does a kid from Berkeley who grew up in El Cerrito come up with a bayou drawl like he was a Louisiana swamp rat and pul that off? Always liked his brother Tom better, personally. The motorcycle handlebars are called ape hangers by the way.

Liz said...

I do remember Grandpa, who died the same year you were born. Pretty certain you didn’t meet him. I remember the picture of him and our uncle and mom and Norman. Pretty certain he was the one behind mom.

I was near my teens when she started being secritve about being Jewish. She always told me that her mom was keeping it a secret and had converted to Christian Science. Mom used that as an excuse for all the diseases she either had or pretended to have. She wanted us to believe that she had polio. I doubt it. I guess she never tried to keep her childhood hidden from me because I knew my grandparents. Grandpa more than grandma. I remember the day grandpa died. I wanted to go to the funeral and she refused to take me. I didn’t realize that she spent so much time lying to you.

I spend a lot of time trying not to be mom, who really didn’t want to be her mother. I think her father beat the shit out of her regularly. Because of this, I was only spanked once until she married the asshole.

I would have told you all this if I had realized that you didn’t know it.

Love you