Thirteen, the old Hebrews say, is the age of maturity, when you are considered a man and take all the obligations of a man - 12 is a preparatory -
A few years after the age of 13 they used to get married and had children of their own.
When I was 12, I stole a train ride and went from Doroham in Moldavia, a district of old Romania, to Budapest, the capital.
In Dorohom, all the Jews lived together and were separated from all the gentiles- They did not mingle - The Gentiles had schools. The Jews were very poor and only a few old man tried to teach the Jewish young to pray in Hebrew but the other school subjects they could not teach.
So, the Jews lived in a ghetto (ghetto is the Hebrew word for separation) and were separated from the community. They could not vote - they were not permitted on the street on Christian holidays and except for business, they did not speak to a Christian.
I was born and brought up in Darami, a smaller town then Doroham, until your present age - 12.
My father was born to the same kind of life. He ran away from Zamosz, an old fortress town in Poland, to Vienna and later to Paris, where he went to the French school and German Schools. I never asked him how he supported himself but he knew Hebrew and chances are that he was teaching or tutoring Hebrew in France and Austria until he graduated and became a graduate teacher. He could teach Hebrew and French and German and mathemtics and he was sent to the poorest locality in Romania where there were no teachers and Jewish children were not permitted to go to a Christian school. There he married my mother who could not read or write when she married him. She build a house from twigs. She was a country girl and had 6 children (4 girls and 2 boys) and they had to live on 120 fr a month ($24 a month) with their children and an aunt when her mother and father died. Her mother was from a Spanish Jewish family and when her father, my grandfather died, she came to live with us. And with the little my father earned that was very hard. Had my father gone to a larger city, he would have made much more, but Darohen was a very small town; there was no school for Jewish children and even if he made hardly enough for his large family, he felt he had to stay there to give the children there a chance to learn to read, to write and do arithmetic.
Therefore, when I reached 12, I figured, it will be easy for them to miss me; there will be one mouth less to feed and I stole a ride to Bucharest.
From my father I learned French and German; Romanian I knew for I was born in Romania. In a short time I found a job in an office because I knew the languages. At first I slept in unused railroad cars but later when I made money I rented a room with another young man who came from Turkey and worked as a translator for traveling salesmen who could not speak Romanian-and made good money.
In as much as Romanian comes from the old Latin language, it was not hard for me to learn Spanish, Portuguese and Italian which with my French and German made me a valuable translator.
But when I made enough in a week to live on, I used all the time to go to the library and learn some more. Some of the money I made I sent home, so that the family should have it easier.
When I was 13, I went into a synagogue and told them I want to read ___________ because I became Bar Mitzvah.
When I was 20, I decided to go to America to escape the Draft, for I felt no obligation to Romania which persecuted the Jews and did not give a Jewish boy a chance to go to school.
I had a relative by the name of Louis Marcus who also ran away from the Draft and established himself in St. Louis, Mo. My father helped him to escape; for the village in which he lived chased out his mother and brothers and they came to the little town in which we lived and stayed with us for more than a month. To him I wrote and at that time, it cost only $50 to come to the U.S. in the steerage class. So I came to America, to St. Louis, Mo. in 1912.
At first I worked in a factory for $7 a week, $4 I paid for food and lodging. I walked 20 blocks every day to work, $1 I gave to the Zionist Organization of America that sought to get back our ancient land, Israel for the Jews, $1 I sent home and $1 I saved for emergencies.
But three months after I landed in the U.S.A., I saw an ad that they needed a young man who knows languages to become an assistant in the Laboratory of Physiology at the Washington University in St. Louis. So I went on Monday morning to apply. I did not know much of Physiology; so Sunday, all day long I spent at the library to learn what Physiology is all about for in those days one worked 6 days a week and only Sunday was free.
There were about 20 young men who applied; some were college graduates- but I knew more languages and I got the job - which was to test all the experiments which had been done in foreign lands and see whether they would work in America.
My boss was Professor Ezlanger at Washington University, who was a great physiologist, who later got the Nobel Prize in Physiology.
A few years after I took the job I became very sick and had to go to a hospital.
When I came out I entered Washington University as a student. The next year World War I broke out and I was drafted for the army; but since I knew so many languages, they used me to translate American speeches for propaganda and they sent me to Austin, Texas where I worked translating American propaganda into Romanian and brought 2 of my sisters to the U.S. When Romania joined our enemies, I had to translate more news that would fignt the Germans but could not send any money home.
In 1918, when the first world war finished, I graduated from the University of Texas - a little late for my age but I had to learn a language, send money home, never went to school in Romania - and then I received the news that my father died, had to bring my other sisters and my mother to the U.S. and make a living for 4 sisters and a mother.
I bought a business in Pittsburg, Pa., settled down there for a number of years with all my sisters, and got married. My one brother did not come; for in 1917 when the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in Russia - he was a friend of Rakovsky the leader of the Bulgarian Communists, he went to Russia to fight for the triumph of Communism. During the second World War, when Stalin killed so many with whom he disagreed, he also killed my brother. But my brother still left two children in the Ukraine province of Russia, in the city of Odessa on the Black Sea. I still write to them and send them packages. When you will be in Odessa, you can look them up. His daughter is a school teacher and his son an engineer. You will have no trouble remembering their name; for it is Rosenblat and they have a boy about your ae whose hame is Solomon Rosenblatt, who plays chess, they write me, and studies English.
All you need to do is decide what you want to be...
I am an old man (I am 75 years). I hope you bring pleasure to your parents and grandparents.(Ethan's grandfather encloses a birthday check and suggests)
It would be nice if you bought an Israeli bond for this money. It pays more percentage than an American bank and you will do some good for your people.
Many happy returns on your birthday ... from your grandfather & grandmother.