I have just had the honor of celebrating the 100th Birthday of Dora Jaffe, my grandmother, born March 14, 1911 (a date she shares with Albert Einstein!), in Shepetivka, Ukraine (then part of Russia). Her father, Leib (Lewis) Greenberg, emigrated just before the war, stranding her and her mother until they could make it across Europe and the Atlantic to New York City. Speaking only Yiddish, a summer playing in the Bronx taught her enough English to start school in the Fall, and she’s been a proud American ever since.
So I know it was a pleasure for her to receive this (redacted) envelope and its contents: In fact, when I showed it to her, a good democrat and liberal for longer than I’ve known her — her father had been a union organizer in the Ukrainian orchards before emigrating — she said that it was a special honor for her to receive it from the first black President of the United States.
She spent much of the intervening century with her husband Aaron Jaffe, my grandfather, and we recently unearthed this fantastic picture of their young life in New York together:
Now, she’s the matriarch of our family, still sharp as a proverbial tack. Twenty-six of us, from the seven cousins of my generation on up, gathered this afternoon on Long Island, New York, coming in from London, Denver, and less exotic locations like New Jersey and Brooklyn to spend the day celebrating her life, telling stories, and eating. And, of course, kvetching and gossiping like any good family.
Happy Birthday, Dora!