The Journey of Steve Jaron

Climbing the tree one branch at a time

#FamilyTree365 – Day 7 September 7, 2016

Today I am cheating – it is my grandmother’s 93rd birthday and even though I am sure I have posted about her before I am doing so again. This is an abridged version of the whole story.

So even though you don’t have the Book Face Gefeliciteerd Oma!!

Judith Polak was born in September 7th, 1923 in the small town of Tilburg, Netherlands to Alfred Polak and Seraphina van Cleeff. She is the youngest of three daughters – her older siblings being Adah and Edith. She grew up living 2 doors down from her uncle Max Henri (Hans) and his first wife Bertha Cohen with their four children Bertram, Florentine (Floortje), Leonie, and Louise (Wijse). Leonie and Louise were born six days after my grandmother and were closest to her for that reason.

On May 10th, 1940 the Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany despite its position of neutrality. That very day Judith, her family, and her uncle’s family escaped Tilburg to London. They stayed there for a time with a family friend and a cousin before making their way to the US through Canada. Interestingly on that same boat was a family of cousins, some of whom ended up in PIttsburgh.

While in New York she finished high school and then went to college to be a dietician. Sometime before 1943 she met my grandfather Harry Rothstein from Vienna (his parents were from Galicia – Tarnopol and Stanislwow) who after high school enlisted in the army as a translator for the CIC. Throughout his time overseas they would write letters back and forth. On September 8th, 1946 (70 years ago tomorrow) they were married. After the war Alfred and Seraphina returned to the Netherlands and her sisters eventually ended up in Israel, but that is a story for a different time.

In 1953, upon responding to an ad for interior decorators, Harry, Judith, and their two children Naomi and Edna moved to Pittsburgh. While working as a dietician in the Pittsburgh area she also help Harry with his drapery and interior decorating business over the years. In 1964 their third daughter Beriwas born.

In 1972 my grandfather passed away but that didn’t stop Judith from living her life. She still worked as a dietician and with my mother kept Rothstein Decorator Service running until eventually selling it to a friend of the family, Jimmy Mizgorski.

Aside from working she has also volunteered her time at many places around Pittsburgh and all the while being there for her three daughters and over time each of her ten grandchildren and nine great grandchildren in one way or another.

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