On September 20 I put up a post that I started out intending to be about Isaac Berliner, a Mexican Jew, who wrote poetry in Yiddish. Having been struck by a feeling of connection that surprised me, I´m afraid I got carried away and wrote MORE about my family than about Berliner and other Mexican Jews or Jews in Mexico.
So now I offer more on Yitzkhok Berliner, here my translation of an homage in Diario Judio de México that his granddaughter Feige Efter Berliner wrote as part of a series on outstanding Jews in Mexico for Diario Judio de México.
To speak about my grandfather, a man of letters, and an upright man, is an honor for me. A man who left a great literary legacy and a good name for his family and for everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. Born in Lodz, Poland on September 27, 1899, he died in México City on January 27, 1957.
On arriving in Mexico in the year 1922, he worked, as did other immigrants, as a street vendor, carrying in his mind and heart the wish to write, which he did throughout his whole life. He was one of the first writers in Yiddish [in Mexico] and so he found a place at the magazine Der Veg (The Way) where he worked for many years.
Later, with the writers Jacobo Glantz and Moisés Glikovssky he wrote the book "Drai Vegn" (Tres caminos/Three Ways) which was the prelude to more of his writings. Its words spoke of his feelings across time. "Guezan Fun Mentsch" (Melodía del hombre/Song of Man), "Ad Matai" (Hasta cuándo/Until When), "Shtil ol ain" (Que se haya el silencio/That There be Silence), a fragment of which is written on his gravestone, and "Shtot Fun Palatzn" (Ciudad de los Palacios/City of Palaces).
Given that my grandfather walked on Mexican lands, although without knowing Spanish, he fell in love with its people, with its freedom that had been longed for by those who arrived from a Europe at war, with its landscapes. But also he worried about the poverty which he saw ruled in our country. which penetrated deep in his life, in every corner. He wrote "Shtot Fun Palatzn", a book that spoke of Xochimilco, Popocatépetl, Tepito, and all that was emblematic of his beloved Mexico, but always taking into account the neediness of its people and its vices. When my grandfather was working at "Der Veg", the great painter Diego River needed someone to write something in Yiddish on one of his murals, and thus began a close friendship between the two, to such an extent that the painter, at learning of the publication of the book, undertook to illustrate it.
The strong and solid foundation of his great caring and respect were what, from the beginning, he gave when he married a great woman, his Nejumele. It was a love that began in Lodz (Poland) and that after many vicissitudes was consumated in Mexico.
Like a good poet, he saw to it that every day my grandmother received a rose and a poem. Thus the love for her family was converted into something vital for her life, since her health was fragile. In spite of being very little, I remember that on many Sundays there were gatherings in their house with the presence of teachers and writers and as part of these unforgettable afternoons it was I who sang standing on one of the stairs of the big staircase.
I visited my grandparents on many days, going outside to the garden filled with roses where my grandfather directed me to wander through them to appreciate their fragrance.
I feel very fortunate to have known my grandparents, to have received so much love and learning from them, with which they have given me these foundations that, in the company of my husband, I can transmit to my children and grandchildren.
They say that the greatest inheritance we can leave in this life is a good name and Isaac Berliner did this many times over.