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Facebook, Family, and Sweden

By Melissa Cohavi

Growing up, I always knew that my mother’s maiden name, Einziger, was a name that connected me to every other Einziger in the entire world. Einziger means “only one” in German, and my grandfather always said to me, “if you ever meet another Einziger, know that you are related.” I even recall that he had a family Coat-of-Arms on the wall in the family room. This fact always fascinated me, and as far as we know, the name goes back to Nowy Sanz and Jaslo Poland, and to a man named Wolf Einziger. There is family lore as to how his name was changed from Lauer to Einziger, but no one knows if it is true.

Fast-forward to Facebook. The social media giant enabled all of the Einziger’s, and descendants of Einziger’s, to find each other from various corners of the earth. Over the past 10 years not only have I found Einziger relatives in the United States that we didn’t know about, but I found relatives in Israel and, of all places, Sweden. Facebook has been a blessing for the Einziger family, and we can all trace our roots back to the original one, Wolf. My branch of the family descends from Pesach and Bertha Shingle Einziger and we ended up in New York because my great grandfather, Emil, left Poland at the turn of the 20th century looking for a better life. But many Einizger’s remained in Poland and were murdered by the Nazis. Those who survived scattered the earth and went where they were accepted after the war. Most went to Israel, but there was one man – Samuel Salamon, who went to Sweden.

Samuel arrived in Sweden at the age of 41 after surviving four camps, including Plazow and Mathausen, and he settled, married, and had children. One of his children is my cousin Henrik, who, together with his wife and children, are an integral part of the small but mighty Jewish community in Stockholm. Henrik and I made our family connection on Facebook, and realized that we had a lot of common. We also realized that our Jewish communities are very similar. These conversations, and an article I wrote that was published in eJewishphilanthropy.com about Jewish identity and Jewish education, led to my being invited to be a speaker at Limmud Stockholm.

My experience in Stockholm was incredible. I met so many wonderful and welcoming people, and learned that our communities are quite similar. The rates of intermarriage in Sweden are at 60% and the majority of the Jews in Sweden live in Stockholm. There is one Jewish Day School, but most send their children to a once a week, two-hour, supplemental program for their Jewish learning. Of the approximately 10,000 Jews in Stockholm, about 4000 belong (and pay membership to) the Jewish community, and after learning these statistics I was amazed to find out that the Limmud conference had 1300 attendees. The goal of Limmud Stockholm is outreach to the unaffiliated, which is also a goal of our community in Armonk, and given the numbers Limmud Stockholm was a huge success. I had the opportunity to lead three workshops and interact with both attendees and other workshop leaders. I met American Jews who have made their lives in Sweden, as well as Jews from other places in Europe, including London.

Over the years in my travels to visit Jewish communities around the world, I have found that no matter where we are from, we have so much in common. We are one people, who should unite and come together to remember our history and work towards the future.

Fri, February 28 2020 3 Adar 5780