My story 1: What’s in a name?

Today I go by the name: Rahel (pronounced RAH-CKHEL). That’s Hebrew for ‘Rachel’.
I was born Ann Rachel Silverman. “Silverman” was originally “Zylberkant”. My brother, who currently lives in Israel, learned that:

“In Poland, it was Zylberkant. The family mythos was that it was changed at Ellis Island, but my Dad found the records and it turns out that my grandfather changed it during his first few years in the states.

Zylber means silver and kant (in German) means edge, which doesn't make a lot of sense. It has some nice poetic finesse of finding the silver lining, but how someone would come to be named that is confusing. My Dad recently found out that it could be a regional variation of kunst which means art or artisan, which makes a lot of sense if one of my ancestors worked in silver.”

I was given the Hebrew name, ‘(Chana) Rahel’, and the Yiddish name “Raizele Ratza”. I’ve been told that Raizele was a young child, a relative on my dad’s side, who, together with most of her family, perished in the Holocaust. Their story is part of my story, though, curiously, I do not feel entirely connected to that part of my family’s history.

My relatives on my dad's side are mostly from Poland.

All but Aunt Sarah (my dad's oldest sister) perished in the Holocaust. My grandparents on my father’s side were immigrants from Poland. They lived in the now famous tenement buildings of the lower east side of New York where most of the immigrants lived after arriving via the Ellis Island port. My father, Sam, or Shmuel Mendel, was sent to yeshiva, an orthodox Jewish school, where most Jewish immigrant kids would learn. My father, like most first generation Americans, rejected the yeshiva education, skipping school to spend a good deal of time as a street hooligan with his peers. He was a smart kid though and an avid reader. The father of a friend, a college professor, took note and my dad managed to learn a lot from him – so much so that he was able to attend NY’s City College at the age of 16 yrs. My father went on to became a geo-physicist. He worked for the American Air Force as a research scientist studying auroras for twenty years. He then retired so that he could study to become a lawyer, which he accomplished at age 50. My dad married twice and I am the eldest of 5 siblings with two different mothers.

My relatives on my mom's side are mostly of Russian descent.

My mother, Jacqueline May, was the eldest of two sisters born into a very large family system of Jewish immigrants mostly of Russian decent. Their immigration to America also came via South America. My mother’s family did very well in America selling upholstery and pickled products in East Orange, NJ. They lived the American Dream in the Gulden Medina.

Education was valued in Jewish families and my parents were both educated and both have graduate and post graduate degrees. Even with this they tell of having difficulties getting jobs because of anti-Semitism. They managed though and finally settled in the suburban town of Lexington, MA – just outside of Boston.