Examine any of the significant periods in Eastern European history in the last century. Then look at those events that impacted on Jews. You are certain to identify the forces that shaped your family. What we know about our families become more meaningful when seen in the context of these occurrences. We are better able to understand the lives of our parents and grandparents.
"The events that triggered Jewish emigration from Russia, Poland and Romania were political, but the underlying cause overpopulation-was the same elsewhere in Europe and was exacerbated in the Jewish case by the newly tightened restrictions on areas of settlement within the Russian Empire."
"During the great waves of emigration, the chief motive was economic. Some left the country to evade long-term conscription, some to escape pogroms, but the chief reason was the search for parnosseh (Hebrew -- 'livelihood, earning a living, occupation, trade). Even for those who went as a result of pogroms, the basic reason was often economic, for pogroms left stores looted and burned, and many sources of livelihood dried up. As living became increasingly difficult, the dream of going to find a beautiful ‘parnosseh’ in the United States (and elsewhere) became more prevalent and more compelling”.
Most emigrants were young people for whom the economic future appeared to be a blocked road, and who saw their only solution on 'the other side of the ocean.’ Many contrived to bring their families after them, but many families who remained had to count on assistance from the United States and elsewhere. During the thirties, even though there was a depression across the sea, the shtetl could hardly have survived without the help from the 'new' country."
My family history was determined by the choices made by my relatives. Any one of us, by tracing our families, will soon discover their immigrant relatives. Very few Eisenberg elders alive today were immigrants. They are the only ones among us who do not have immigrant ancestors because they themselves were the immigrants. They include:
Rose (Eizenberg) Barr, Melbourne, Australia
Les Eizenberg, Melbourne, Australia
Harry Eizenberg, Melbourne, Australia
Most of us have deep emotional roots in countries we call home (Australia, Brazil, Israel and the USA) even though we have lived in these places for much less time than our ancestors lived in Telechan.
Dov Berel, Elka, all of their children and their spouses were immigrants. Dov Berel and Elka migrated twice, first to the United States and later to Palestine. The one exception in this group of 16 was my grandfather, Azriel. He died in 1917 in Telechan. Had he lived, he surely would have left Telechan with his wife Minka. Where would they have gone? Would I now be writing this book in Israel or Australia rather than the United States?
The first Ajzenberg to leave Telechan was Herschel, who immigrated to the United States in 1906. To my knowledge no Azjenberg preceded him or immigrated in the 19th century. There are no family stories or records of any relatives before that time. The last of Dov Berel and Elka's children to leave Telechan was Motol, who immigrated to Australia in 1925. Thus, in the span of only 19 years, roots were firmly established on three different continents: in the USA, Australia and Palestine.
All family members who left their homes as young men and women to travel to distant foreign lands were ordinary people who did an extraordinary thing. They are the unique family members. They are the heroes and heroines who have made the lives of the following generations possible. Although driven hardship, anti-Semitism and fear, the final decision to leave home took immense courage. "It is impossible for us today to appreciate the enormity of the decision to leave one's home and family to emigrate, no doubt forever, to a new strange land 5,000 miles away."
For hundreds of years our families were outcasts in the society into which they and their ancestors were born. They were peasants, craftsmen, farmers and laborers, who rarely traveled more than a few miles from where they were born, lived, and died. Now they were crossing continents and oceans to create new lives. Surely they were desperate and driven, also brave and adventurous.
What would compel you to leave your home and country never to return? What would motivate you to leave your family and friends, never to see them again? I think about my father who, at age thirteen, came to the United States with his grandparents. He never again saw three of his four surviving siblings. He reunited with his mother and brother Yitzhak in Israel after a thirty-five year interval. When I look at my grandson, Nathan, it is hard to imagine him embarking on such an adventure. He is, at this writing, the same age of my father when he came to the United States in 1921. I can only speculate what my father thought and how he felt at the time. Did he have any choice in the decision? Was it a wrenching experience for him? Did he understand that he might never see his family or home again?
It's difficult to understand what it meant for a child that age to leave home permanently, to leave his mother and siblings, to go to a strange land where he could not speak the language. It must have been both exciting and frightening. It is impossible to truly comprehend.
In this section of the book, I attempt to follow the immigration patterns of the AJZENBERGS from TELECHAN to the many places on this Earth where they settled. Currently, I know that relatives left Telechan and settled in Australia, Brazil, Palestine, and USA. There may be branches of my family and places, which I presently am unaware.
Because I have greater access to US information than from other countries the section on Azjenbergs in the United States is more extensive than other branches of the family. However, the US story is no more or less important than that of my family in other countries.
On behalf of all the children, representing many different generations, I wish to express gratitude to "Our Immigrants." They are the ones who, by taking risks, made our safe, secure lives possible. Our immigrant parents gave us life twice; first when we were born and when they decided to leave Telechan for other lands. Surely we, the children of the immigrant generation would have perished along side our aunts and cousins had our parents remained in Telechan.