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Ysobelle
02-22-2010, 11:20 PM
And I mean that quite literally.

Remember the furor over the woman who has 19 kids? Every time I hear the story, I keep thinking, "Yeah, but that's not unusual in some spheres." Then today, I came across this quite lovely story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/nyregion/21yitta.html?emc=eta1


God Said Multiply, and Did She Ever

By JOSEPH BERGER
Published: February 18, 2010

WHEN Yitta Schwartz died last month at 93, she left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren and so many great- and great-great-grandchildren that, by her family’s count, she could claim perhaps 2,000 living descendants.

Mrs. Schwartz was a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose couples have nine children on average and whose ranks of descendants can multiply exponentially. But even among Satmars, the size of Mrs. Schwartz’s family is astonishing. A round-faced woman with a high-voltage smile, she may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust — a thumb in the eye of the Nazis.

Her descendants range in age from a 75-year-old daughter named Shaindel to a great-great-granddaughter born Feb. 10 named Yitta in honor of Mrs. Schwartz and a great-great-grandson born Feb. 15 who will be named at a bris on Monday. Their numbers include rabbis, teachers, merchants, plumbers and truck drivers. But these many apples have not fallen far from the tree: With a few exceptions, like one grandson who lives in England, they mostly live in local Satmar communities, like Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Kiryas Joel, near Monroe, N.Y., where Mrs. Schwartz lived for the last 30 years of her life.

Mrs. Schwartz had a zest for life and a devotion to Hasidic rituals, faithfully attending the circumcisions, first haircuts, bar mitzvahs, engagements and weddings of her descendants. With 2,000 people in the family, such events occupied much of the year.

Whatever the occasion, she would pack a small suitcase and thumb a ride from her apartment in Kiryas Joel to Williamsburg or elsewhere.

“She would appear like the Prophet Elijah,” said one of her daughters, Nechuma Mayer, who at 64 is her sixth-oldest living child, and who has 16 children and more than 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Everybody was fighting over her!”

There were so many occasions that, to avoid scheduling conflicts, one of her sons was assigned to keep a family calendar. But her family insists that Mrs. Schwartz had no trouble remembering everyone’s name and face.

Like many Hasidim, Mrs. Schwartz considered bearing children as her tribute to God. A son-in-law, Rabbi Menashe Mayer, a lushly bearded scholar, said she took literally the scriptural command that “You should not forget what you saw and heard at Mount Sinai and tell it to your grandchildren.”

“And she wanted to do that,” he said, without needing to add her belief that the more grandchildren, the more the commandment is fulfilled. Mrs. Schwartz gave birth 18 times, but lost two children in the Holocaust and one in a summer camp accident here.

She was born in 1916 into a family of seven children in the Hungarian village of Kalev, revered as the hometown of a founder of Hungarian Hasidism. During World War II, the Nazis sent Mrs. Schwartz, her husband, Joseph, and the six children they had at the time to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

At the shiva last month, another Bergen-Belsen survivor recalled her own mother dying at the camp; Mrs. Schwartz took it upon herself to prepare the body according to Jewish ritual, dig a grave and bury the woman.

“For her it was a matter of necessity,” Nechuma Mayer said of her mother’s actions.

When the war ended, the family made its way to Antwerp, Belgium. There, Mrs. Schwartz put up refugees in makeshift beds in her own bombed-out apartment.

In 1953, the Schwartzes migrated to the United States, settling into the Satmar community in Williamsburg. She arrived with 11 children — Shaindel, Chana, Dinah, Yitschok, Shamshon, Nechuma, Nachum, Nechemia, Hadassah, Mindel and Bella — and proceeded to have five more: Israel, Joel, Aron, Sarah and Chaim Shloime, who died in summer camp at age 8. Sarah came along after Mrs. Schwartz had already married off two other daughters.

While her husband sold furniture on Lee Avenue, Williamsburg’s commercial spine, Mrs. Schwartz, who never learned English well, tended the family. She sewed her daughters’ jumpers with mother-of-pearl buttons and splurged for pink-and-white blouses — 20 for 99 cents each — at that late lamented discount emporium on Union Square, S. Klein.

With so many children, Mrs. Schwartz had to make six loaves of challah for every Sabbath, using 12 pounds of dough — in later years, she was aided by Kitchenaid or Hobart appliances. (Mrs. Mayer said her mother had weaknesses for modern conveniences, and for elegant head scarves.) For her children’s weddings, Mrs. Schwartz starched the tablecloths and baked the chocolate babkas and napoleons.

After her husband died 34 years ago, relatives said, Mrs. Schwartz never burdened others with her new solitude.

“We didn’t feel even one minute that she was a widow,” Mrs. Mayer said. “She used to say, ‘When there are so many problems in life, I should put myself on the scale?’ ”

Mrs. Schwartz did not want her children to collect photographs of her and, given that modesty, her family was reluctant to provide more than one to accompany this article. “Just keep me in your heart,” she used to say. “If you leave a child or grandchild, you live forever.”



A version of this article appeared in print on February 21, 2010, on page MB7 of the New York edition.

Bean
02-22-2010, 11:47 PM
just. WOW.

KissMeKate
02-22-2010, 11:51 PM
That is an amazing story!

I am still one for lessening the burden on Mother Earth from the billions of humans that prowl the world, but that is my personal opinion.

Ysobelle
02-23-2010, 01:03 AM
That is an amazing story!

I am still one for lessening the burden on Mother Earth from the billions of humans that prowl the world, but that is my personal opinion.



Oh, I am, as well. But at the same time, I have to admit there's a part of me that takes a savage joy in this: "A round-faced woman with a high-voltage smile, she may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust — a thumb in the eye of the Nazis." It's an absolutely primal response, I know. A giant cosmic "fuck you" to history.

At the same time, I know these are people with an enormous community support system. A very close-knit community. We do tend to take care of our own, no matter what sect.

Kathryn Blakeley
02-23-2010, 02:26 AM
Oh my goodness. Such an amazing story!

I can't imagine baking 6 loaves of challah every week!!

Now I want chocolate babka.

Madame Deanna
02-23-2010, 08:42 AM
A great story.

Her quote “Just keep me in your heart,” she used to say. “If you leave a child or grandchild, you live forever.”

Not having children, I can only hope my life vibration will continue through peoples memories!

My heart soars when hearing the traditions that continue.

Thank you for sharing that piece Ysobelle.

Vyxen
02-23-2010, 09:37 AM
May her memory continue to be a blessing.

Selena
02-23-2010, 10:32 AM
she may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust — a thumb in the eye of the Nazis." It's an absolutely primal response, I know. A giant cosmic "fuck you" to history.


That's exactly the way I felt after watching Schindler's List -- you know, at the very end when the real ancestors and survivors are placing the stones upon his grave.... A giant cosmic "fuck you" sounds about right!

Ravin' Raven
02-23-2010, 11:19 AM
In my humble opinion a family this wonderful, regardless of its size is no burden to our world. I know many more singlular people out there who are more of a burden. We cannot measure our contribution to or destruction of mother earth by our carbon footprint alone and how may gallons of water we may use in our life time. To truly contribute to the betterment of the planet and to so many people is not a burden in a world overburdened with hate and despair and longing which are far more destructive to our spirits, our planet, and our cultures.

oh...and I want some babka too....no latkes fried in scmaltz. Something tells me Mrs. Schwartz made some mean latkes (with onion....)...noms..

Lady Hefron
02-23-2010, 11:41 AM
Wow, God bless her. I have trouble keeping track of 1 daughter, 9 nieces and nephews, 1 granddaughter, 1 great niece and 1 great nephew.

SilverMirth
02-23-2010, 12:54 PM
Wow, God bless her. I have trouble keeping track of 1 daughter, 9 nieces and nephews, 1 granddaughter, 1 great niece and 1 great nephew.
/small threadjack/ :shock: I've meet you. I would never have pegged you as being old enough to have a granddaughter. Consciously I know that you do but it still dumbfounds me whenever you mention her. just saying. /end jacking/

Bronya
02-23-2010, 02:53 PM
I wish now, 36 years later, that I had made the choice to have more kids. I had my tubes tied the day after she was born. I was 23 and thought I knew. It was the mid 70's, peace and love, yadda,yadda,yadda. I love her and my 2 grandsons and love this thought “If you leave a child or grandchild, you live forever.” I just wish, as I get older I had had a few more.

Ysobelle
02-23-2010, 03:04 PM
I was my dad who sent me the article. I really hope there wasn't an undercurrent of "Are you ever going to have kids?", because that's a pretty wrenching question for me. Still, I seriously doubt there was. Anyway, my sister has kids.

Maybe one day....

Lady Hefron
02-23-2010, 04:35 PM
/small threadjack/ :shock: I've meet you. I would never have pegged you as being old enough to have a granddaughter. Consciously I know that you do but it still dumbfounds me whenever you mention her. just saying. /end jacking/

What a sweet thing to say. I'm blushing.

Gemdrite
02-23-2010, 11:59 PM
I was my dad who sent me the article. I really hope there wasn't an undercurrent of "Are you ever going to have kids?", because that's a pretty wrenching question for me. Still, I seriously doubt there was. Anyway, my sister has kids.

Maybe one day....
Last month my grandmother informed me that "one of her friends" has great grandchildren and she's decided she wants great grandchildren too, so we grandkids need to hurry up already...I've told her multiple times not to look at me, but I don't think it's sunk in yet that I don't want kids. I mean, I am a teacher, so I must want kids, right? :unamused:

Isabelle Warwicke
02-24-2010, 02:22 AM
My Mother winds my biological clock every time she sees me. I think it's a maternal thing. I'm still single and holding out for a husband first.

I love how the article states that a Holocaust survivor having that many children and subsequent get is a thumb-your-nose at the Nazi's. Take that Arayan state!

Kae
02-24-2010, 09:58 AM
There are many ways to have children and raise some. Some do it by teaching - I know that I help rasie every child who walks through my door. Some do it the old-fashioned way and some adopt - some because that is their only way - but always because they want to.

To bring a child through the web of stages that lead to adulthood is an amazing resposibility and job - more power to those that help in any way they can.
Kae

Phoenix McHeit
02-24-2010, 10:07 AM
Kae... +1, that was beautiful. Thank you.

Ravin' Raven
02-24-2010, 11:14 AM
Kae... +1, that was beautiful. Thank you.

Oh like YOU know anything about raising kids.... ::runfore:::runfore:::runfore::wink:

you actually...gasp...realize parent is a verb and your boys would make any mom (and some of us non-moms) proud.

And Yso - let's go with "Jewish Pride" not "I want grandkids.." That's why he sent it...

Isabelle Warwicke
02-24-2010, 09:09 PM
And Yso - let's go with "Jewish Pride" not "I want grandkids.." That's why he sent it...

That's awesome.

daBaroness
02-26-2010, 10:44 PM
I know many are quick to mock large families like the Duggars who are large (at least in part) because of religious beliefs. I believe that as long as a family IS a family (and not a woman who wants to use her frozen eggs), can afford them and is dedicated to raising them, then who's to mock them and say they shouldn't? I'm not so old that I can't remember when a large family was just assumed to be Catholic in this country because birth control was supposed to be forbidden by the church. I went to school with lots of kids who came from families of between 6-12 children. I applaud families and in particular, mothers, who dedicate their lives to their families. Frankly - I'm betting a majority of the children in these uber-large families turn out to be happier, healthier and more productive than their smaller family counterparts.

Nowdays - having a large family is a personal choice for most Americans, in spite of what their religion might dictate. I had a friend in high school who was Jewish (although pretty much non-practicing) and from a broken home. There were a number of children all being raised by their father - who was by accounts a pretty good dad. This one friend ended up getting involved in the very conservative, orthodox/hassidic sect and married a man studying to be a rabbi. They're still married, they had a large number of children and she chose to use her college education and intelligence to raise those children. By all accounts - they're a close and happy family.

I do have an admiration for these families who stick to fundamentals and believe in the strength of the family. While many may mock them, I think they get the last laugh knowing a kind of bond, faith and peace many of us spend a lifetime searching for.

Just so there's no misunderstanding - I'm not referring to families who make up cults or cloistered communities like the FLDS or David Koresh's Branch Dividians - I'm speaking strictly of families who practice their faith within a congregation, but live independently as a self-governing family and who then allow their children to make personal choices about how they will live as adults. Those who can say, "we understand and respect others' rights to freedom of choice, and we choose to live this way."