Amazing Grace – Family once lost, now found

Part of our journey through Poland was a heritage search, which culminated in the discovery of my “cousin” J, a Jewish believer who lives near my Galilee village.

The prayer team traveled in three cars on Friday, December 9.  Our car arrived in Zambrow, where my Mother’s parents, Sam Bernstein and Grace Susman, came from and there we were led to the town historian.  My friend J said her grandfather, Max Bernstein, also came from this region, but both of us knew very little about our grandfathers except that they both had traumatic childhoods which they never spoke about. When I showed J a photo of my grandfather, she began to cry and said, “That’s the exact face of my grandfather!” We had always been drawn to each other as friends but never knew we were actually family!

When we entered the town library and found “The History of the Jews of Zambrow” we asked where to buy this book, but were sadly informed it wasn’t for sale. Afterwards the historian gave us a treasure trove of information, but we still wished we could buy that book!

That afternoon the whole team united in a nearby forest for a powerful time of prayer, worship and communion with each other and with the land.

Then we drove to a Zambrow congregation that had kindly prepared Shabbat dinner for us. After hearing of our family discovery, the pastor presented J and I with “The History of the Jews of Zambrow”!

So, of course we turned to thank our precious Polish friend who organized this tour, assuming that she told the pastor about this book. But the pastor explained that he bought two of these books over a month ago, knowing they were for someone and this was the evening that Adonai told him to give them away – to us! Praise Adonai who knows what we need, even before we know that we need it!

Our Polish friends found my great grandparents in this treasured book and that’s how I learned more of their story. Not only were they founding members of Mea She’arim, but Mendel Susman, my great grandfather was an art instructor at the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem.  Perhaps that explains why our children are so full of creativity! My heart is overflowing with gratitude for the goodness of our G-d!

Closing impression:

In Krakow we met so many Israelis, I felt at home! We had friendly conversations with several and while watching them wander through the synagogue and adjacent cemetery, I noticed a deep longing to reconnect with their past.

There seems to be a missing link that causes us to come to Poland to search, not just for missing family (as in the signs we saw that families displayed in the Jewish bookshop, looking for long lost relatives) but it’s almost a kind of spiritual search. Even though we’ve heard many Israelis say they “can’t believe in G-d because of the Shoah”, could they in fact be searching for Him in the ashes of their family lines?

Remembering the roots of the Hebrew word efer אפר:

1. ash

2. meadow

3. gray

4. apply make up

5. blindfold

The root meaning of Poland is “meadow”.