Jewish Migration

Joe Writes:

> Has anyone ever seen the syndicated religious
> program "Jewish Jewels"? My girlfriend and I
> caught it late one Saturday night. It was
> hilarious...they had a woman talking about
> making gingerbread cookies "from the Old
> Country."
What do you mean, "hilarious?" My mom used to bake gingerbread cookies back in the "old country" -- Philadelphia! I remember well when they immigrated to Washington DC. The long, uncomfortable trip in the Amtrak unreserved coach, with the bag of pretzels and coke as the only kosher food available. Boy, did I hear about that trip! ("Hey Mr. Big Shot, you're such a 'success' in Washington you couldn't have found the money for two business class seats for us?") 
Of course, I had already immigrated to Maryland before (and the trip west even harder for me -- I could only afford the Peter Pan Trailways bus) and was there to meet them when they arrived, tired and confused at Union Station. At least I knew the local customs, and once they passed through DC immigration, I was able to set them up with other Yankee "Landsman." I was also able to teach them how to use Metro fare cards, in the old country you have to put cash in a fare box to ride the subway. Ach! If only I could do justice in my description of the Yankee Jewish immigrant neighborhoods in Washington and the northwest suburbs. The sights, the sounds, the smells of real northern Jewish food. At first the local Dixie Jews were out off by our odd folkways, but once they found that they could actually find decent kosher deli and bagels in the stores, the communities integrated fully. I myself married a local Jewish woman from Baltimore.
My dad had to start out with a humble internal medicine practice, but with a little hard work and determination, he now owns one of the largest HMOs in North America, and, in fact, I'll bet he just prevented you from consulting with your choice of specialist. Yes, despite the culture shock of living south of the Mason-Dixon Line, with a little hard work and determination, my parents soon prospered. First they moved from their tenement in Rockville to a nice house in Potomac, then they bought a Toyota, then an SUV, and now its a common sight for me to see Dad stuck in the opposite lane facing me as we both endure those Beltway traffic jams. 
But despite the big changes, my Mom still bakes those pareve gingerbread cookies from the old country. The recipe is straight out of her Hadassah cookbook written in that quaint Philadelphian dialect. In fact, we're going for dinner on Erev Rosh Hashana, and I know that when that smell of gingerbread hits me as I enter their 35-room mansion on Foxhall Rd., I will be transported back to the Old Country, to the 15-room modest little cottage of my youth in that shtetl on the Main Line.
For my next installment I'll tell you the tale of my brother's wrenching immigration from the Old Country to the far-off land of Chicago. :-)
Shana Tova,


Posted by Wendy Baker