When a book was published in 1977 by Random House entitled “Finding Our Fathers – a Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy” authored by Dan Rottenberg, I immediately purchased it as I was always interested in the genealogy of my family. What I learned from the book was the derivation of the name “Prager” and that they originated in Prague and over the centuries settled in England and Germany and ultimately in Poland.
In the spring of 2004, I went to “Google” on the internet and searched for “Jewish Genealogy”; I found “Jewish Genealogy Family Finder.” When I went to that website, I found the name “Krantz” and the city of Yadow. I became enthused because I knew of Yetta and Benny Krantz, she being the daughter of Finkel (nee Prager) Pargman. Finkel was the sister of Mendel Prager, my grandfather.
I inserted “Max (Mendel) Prager” and the city of Yadow hoping that I would receive a reply from Krantz. Since 8 or 9 months passed and I didn’t receive a response, I became less hopeful.
On November 18, I finally heard from Brian Krantz in Los Angeles advising me that he had “lots of information on the Prager family from Jadow.” A day later, he again sent me a message that he went to my website and was stunned to read in my memoirs a perfect description of his grandfather Benny. In this lengthy e-mail, he described his immediate family and informed me in detail all about my great-grandfather, Zalman.
He also related to me many details that I never knew about my father’s oldest brother Yisroel and his descendants who are presently living in Australia, Argentina, Israel, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. He also stated that in 2001, he connected through the internet with the Australian cousins; namely, Chana Prager Kogosowski Ida Prager Gurvis, and Eva Prager Slymovits, Yisroel’s grandchildren. Chana’s son Alan is a famous pianist performing throughout the world.
Five days later, I replied to his e-mail excusing myself for being tardy in replying since I had just undergone surgery. I informed him of information that was related to me by my father regarding Zalman i.e. his being the bal-tefila (cantor) for the Kotzker Rebbi, my wearing Zalman’s tefillin (phylacteries) and his genes being inherited by many of the Pragers as regards their singing ability.
Whenever the Pragers would meet in the Bronx, where most of them lived, song was more important than food. I mailed him a Prager family tree that I prepared and asked him to correct any errors that he discovered. He mailed me a tree that he prepared which was very much more detailed than mine.
A day later, Brian e-mailed me a message telling me how happy he was in meeting me. He related to me many details about his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and his cousins, some of whom I had met in the past. It was extremely interesting reading which I disseminated to all members of my family. He included a synopsis of Chana Kogosowski’s memoirs. When I contacted her at a later date, she mailed me her memoirs in full which Hilda and I read with much interest. She is an excellent writer.
He also advised me that there exists “The Book of Yadow”, containing a small section in English and Hebrew and the major part of the book is in Yiddish which I am presently reading. I thank Kenny for buying the book when I told him about its existence; I was going to buy it but he beat me to it.
On Dec. 1, I e-mailed him correcting some facts in his family tree for which he was very grateful. I then gave him information about Hilda, Kenny, Dennis and our grandchildren.
We exchanged interesting e-mails several times until Dec.16 when he told me that he received a phone call that morning from Ida Prager Gurvis who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Stan and her sisters, Chana (Hannah) and Chava (Eva). Ida was attending with Stan the birth of their first grandchild in Sausalito, Ca. She requested that Brian forward to her all my e-mails as she, too, is very desirous of “meeting” other Pragers. He, of course, has been complying with her wishes to this day.
On January 31, 1983, we were blessed with another grandchild, David, born to Dennis and Janice. Of course, we were delighted to travel to L.A. to participate in this great simcha (happy occasion) and bris (circumcision). I was honored to be the sandik (the person holding the child in his lap during the circumcision). I was extremely happy to have my brother Murry and Gert present at this enjoyable event in our lives. David entered this world with wonderful traits; handsome and good which, I must add, he has retained to this day. Hilda and I have loved him right from birth as he is a beautiful person in every respect.
In the following year, I increased my practice by obtaining another 5 clients. Rappi’s son, Michael, who became quite famous in the diamond trade by creating a monthly newsletter containing the latest prices for wholesale diamonds and which became an instant success, engaged me as his accountant. I retained this client till 1988 when he immigrated to Israel where he continued his business to this day.
The stockholders of my client, IABM Bakery Systems, became interested in real estate in addition to their bakery machinery business and purchased 4 buildings which my firm audited. Since 3 of them were quite successful, I decided to invest in the fourth. You guessed it – I lost my entire investment.
In 1986, Kenny who was Chairman of the Board of Moriah School, a yeshiva in Englewood where all 4 of his children attended, was honored together with Jeannie at its annual dinner. You can just imagine the pride and joy that Hilda and I experienced.
I am now writing in June 2006 for the first time since January 2005, an 18 month hiatus. This long delay was due to the tax seasons of 2005 and 2006 and, more importantly, Hilda’s surgery and stay at the hospital.
On June 29, 2005 about 3 am, I was awakened by Hilda having a conversation with Dovid Mehler, our nephew. She was speaking in a loud voice and very animatedly; except for the fact that she was not speaking into a phone. She was sitting at the edge of her bed the entire time and the phone was resting in its base. Of course, I was alarmed but did not interrupt her conversation which lasted about 5 minutes. She went back to sleep and, after an hour or so, she went to the bathroom. When she returned to the bedroom, I asked her why she spoke to Dovid in the early hours of the morning. She thought I was crazy, asking such a ridiculous question. Now, my fears became stronger. She definitely had an amnesia attack; however, the question was what caused it.
We went the following morning to Dr. Livelli, our primary doctor, for consultation. I related the entire incident to him and he advised us to immediately hospitalize her to undergo several tests to rule out any possible physiological malfunction of the brain.
I brought her to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital that evening, so that Kenny can be with her as much as possible. After a stay of 2 days, she was discharged as all the tests were proven to be negative. All the physicians said that these attacks of amnesia occur and, if they come again, she should immediately consult a neurologist.
Two weeks later, Hilda decided to attempt for the second time the insertion of stents in her left leg which had an extremely low flow of blood. Two years previously, she had stents placed in both her legs at Roosevelt Hospital. It increased the blood flow in her right leg but did not do so in her left leg.
She was admitted at Columbia-Presbyterian on July 14, a Thursday, for the stent surgery and was expected to be discharged on Friday. The second attempt failed but what was even more disheartening, was the phone call I received from her on Friday afternoon telling me that she experienced a mild heart attack and would have to stay over the weekend at the hospital.
On Monday, they performed an angiogram and, unfortunately, discovered that Hilda had 4 coronary blockages and would require a quadruple bypass. The surgery was performed on Wednesday by Dr. Smith, the surgeon who performed the bypass on Pres. Clinton. I assume that Dr. Smith, knowing Kenny very well, elected to operate on his colleague’s mother.
Hilda was an exemplary patient throughout her recovery. In fact, while in the recovery room, she asked me to give her the lipstick tube so that she could makeup; that’s my Hilda.
After 6 days of post-surgery, she began a period of 14 days of rehab and finally, after 27 days she was discharged. For her entire stay at the hospital, I was with her from 10am to between 7pm and 10pm every day. Although I am an excellent sleeper, gazing at the empty bed beside mine was agonizing and I found it difficult to fall asleep. Also, very troublesome thoughts kept entering my mind; i.e. how would I react if she would leave me. After 65 years of marital bliss, we functioned as one individual respecting, however, each of our desires and even our foibles. Words cannot express the feelings we have for each other. May God grant us many more years of happiness together with our devoted children and grandchildren.
Several days later, Hilda commenced with rehab therapy at home. Nurses and therapists from Englewood Hospital visited her almost every day and, may I say, every one of them was efficient, cooperative and pleasant. In fact, I wrote to President Duchak of Englewood Hospital telling him how pleased we were with his staff naming every one of them.
On May 17, 2006, Kenny delivered the Invocation at the graduation exercises of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He has been a Professor of Medicine at this college for many years. At the graduation, he received the Humanism in Medicine Award for his devoted service at the college. Tonight, June 13, we are all going to a dinner at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital where Kenny will receive a Service Award as Clinical Professor of Medicine.
I now return to the chronological order of my memoirs. In 1987, Danny Retter, the son-in-law of my friend and client, Leo Rappaprt whom I mentioned several times previously, gave me 8 real estate clients. He is an immigration lawyer and was an investor and attorney for all these companies. I kept these clients for a period of 4 years during which time many of the properties were sold.
For several years I had cataracts in both eyes, although I was not aware of this. I knew that my eyesight was failing to a small degree but, as usual, paid very little attention to this fact. When the condition became worse, I realized that I had to remedy this situation. Kenny suggested that I see Dr. Trokel, an eye surgeon at the Eye Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian. He suggested surgery on one eye and surgery on the other the following year. Both procedures were so successful that I have now excellent vision, not requiring eye glasses for distance and very weak glasses for reading.
In 1989, Dennis married Fran, a divorcee with a daughter Anya. Fran was born in Kansas whose parents were Lutheran. She was divorced from a Jew and, although it was possible that she converted to Judaism at the time of her first marriage, Dennis would not marry her unless she went through a year of study with an Orthodox rabbi. She consented and after a year she and Anya were converted according to Orthodox halacha (law).
The marriage ceremony was performed in the Young Israel of Century City by Rabbi Muskin, an Orthodox rabbi in Los Angeles. It was attended by many members of our family and Fran’s mother, brother and members of her family; her father had died many years ago. What amazed me was the joy and elation exhibited by her family at this very Orthodox wedding. We accepted her as a true and devoted daughter- in-law and she reciprocated in the same manner.
While walking to my shul on a Shabbat morning, I had to stop suddenly, not being able to walk another step. Fortunately, my friend Jack Walker came along and helped me walk to the shul. When this occurred several times again, I realized that something had to be done to relieve my predicament.
Again, I consulted my son, “the doctor,” who suggested that I see a neurologist at his hospital which I did. After a very intensive examination, it was suspected that a stenosis in my back was the cause of my inability to walk. He suggested that I go through a series of tests to confirm this diagnosis. After CT scans and bone scans, it was determined that I had stenosis in the fourth and fifth vertebrae of the lumbar area and only having surgery would eliminate the problem.
As people age, the incidence of arthritis developing increases. If this condition occurs in the spine, you have what is called “spinal stenosis” causing the spinal canal to narrow. This squeezes the back nerves, putting pressure on them. It is this pressure that causes the back pain. Numbness, pain, and weakness in the legs can also occur. The most common symptom of spinal stenosis is pain that gets worse while walking and is relieved by sitting down. It was suggested that surgery called “a laminectomy” would eliminate the stenosis. In this procedure, one of the laminae, which are large bones emanating from the spinal column, is removed relieving the pressure on the nerves.
In 1988, I underwent surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian performed by Dr. Jost Michelson a neuro-surgeon. I was told that I would remain in the hospital for 5 days and the recuperative period at home would last for about a week. Unfortunately, this was not achieved. I stayed in the hospital 10 days and my recovery lasted several weeks; enduring severe pain during that entire period. Also, may I add, another vertebrae developed stenosis and I refuse to undergo another laminectomy considering what I went through the last time. In fact, although the distance between my home and the shul is only 1/3 of a mile, I have difficulty in walking to shul on the Sabbath. I purchased a scooter in 1½006 which I use only going to shul on Saturday. Since I am a Sabbath observer, my scooter is equipped with a box invented in and imported from Israel thus allowing me to use it on the shabbat. I turn it on on Friday so that I can use it without violating the shabbat.
From the time of Hilda’s surgery in July 2005, I would push her in a wheel chair to shul every shabbat. After a while, Kenny forbad this practice, fearing the effect on my health. Consequently, we engaged young boys from our shul to push her. Since this practice did not work out too well, she finally consented to purchase a scooter in Jan. 2007 and now we race each other to shul evoking many remarks and glances from passersby.
After Dennis and Fran were married for 3 years, they decided to adopt a child which they did in Nov. 1992 when Aaron was born to a young unwedded couple in the state of Washington. This event gave us our 6th grandchild.
On Oct. 16, 1994, our first grandchild, Karen, married Mark Kramer, a young man whom all of the family fell in love with because of his character, looks and his wonderful family. At the time of his marriage, he was a computer programmer at CUNY in Brooklyn, NY. In 1998, he felt that this is not he wanted to do for the rest of his life and went back to school to take courses leading to teaching the subject of history. He graduated 2 years later and his first position was in Summit H.S. in Summit, NJ. He did so well there, that after 2 years he was offered a position at the very prestigious Bergen County Academy in Hackensack, NJ to teach history. The administration recognized his superb ability in his profession and he was granted tenure 4 years later, making him the youngest teacher at the school to gain this honor. Last week, in Jan. 2008, he took a group of students called the “Model UN Team” to compete at Yale University in the “Yale Modern UN” competition and his team garnered the second spot amongst teams from all over the country. A wife could not ask for a better husband and a child could not ask for a better father. We are all extremely proud of Mark and thank Karen for her choice in selecting a spouse.