Saturday, September 30, 2006

A tribute to my cousin Bea Fox at 90

My first cousin, Beatrice Rabinowitz Fox, celebrates her 90th birthday this weekend. Her son David is hosting a party in her honor near his home in the Annapolis, Md. area. Beattie, as I and her closest relatives have always called her (most everyone else calls her "Bea"), attended my 80th birthday celebration two years ago at my home. I regret that, for medical reasons, I am unable to attend hers. I wish I could have attended as Beattie basks in the joy of being with her offspring and friends.

Beattie has two sons: a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and a businessman who is visiting from his home in Australia. Beattie has 5 grandsons and 4 great-grandchildren. Much to Beattie's belated joy, there are finally girls among the great-grandchildren. She has been a widow since the death of her husband Hy in 2003 at age 87. They had been married for 65 years. Her brother Herbert died earlier this year at 82.

Beattie's father, George (Gedaliyah) Rabinowitz, was my mother's brother. Both were brought to this country in 1903 as children from a village near Minsk in what is now Belarus. Beattie's mother, Gertrude (Gittel) Fytelson arrived seven years later from the town of Mogilev, also in Belarus, at age 15.

As a first-generation American, Beattie has had a life that provides a case study of a Jewish immigrant family's integration into American society. Her ancestors lived for centuries in East European ghettos as second-class citizens in a repressive culture that prohibited them from owning land, persecuted them for their religion, and limited their freedom to travel and to enter certain occupations. This country allowed the family to expand its cultural and economic horizons and to enjoy privileges that had been traditionally denied them in Europe.

Like many American families, Beattie's has spread itself in this country and abroad. She was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., later settled with her husband in Stamford, Conn., where her sons were born, and in retirement moved to Florida. In recent years, she has lived in a retirement home in Maryland.

Beattie and I are among four grandchildren of Beattie's paternal grandmother. Beattie bears the Hebrew name of Grandma's mother and I bear the Hebrew name of Grandma's father. In a Jewish cultural context, Beattie was the product of what might be called a "mixed marriage."

Her paternal side was dominated by our grandmother, a longtime widow, who was a devout Orthodox Jew. Her maternal grandparents were free-thinking Jews who, like many Russian Jews of that era, were non-religious and Bolshevik sympathizers. Their political views were based on the principle that the enemy of my enemy (the repressive Czarist Russian regime) is my friend.

According to family lore, Beattie's maternal grandfather was a business partner of Leon Trotsky, the top-level Bolshevik leader, during the latter's brief stay in the U.S. prior to the Russian revolution in 1917. Today, Beattie's son is a Republican, as is his son, who has run for political office.

From Bolshevik to Republican in three generations. Only in America! To my cousin Beattie: A happy and healthy birthday!


Anonymous Joared said...

What a lovely tribute to your cousin Beattie on her 90th birthday. Congratulations to her! She must surely have more than a few words of wisdom, stories to tell. Any chance you can persuade her to join you in blogging? ;-)

Sorry to hear you are unable to join the celebration. With this piece, she will have little doubt you are thinking of her.

Your family has an interesting history.
I don't know if you thought about writing this for future generations, but this is the kind of information they will treasure. "Only in America," as you say.

I feel privileged that you share this here.

Saturday, September 30, 2006 2:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Claude said...

A happy birthday to Beattie, Mort.
Another great story.
I have to go back into your blog a bit, I have missed several memoir episodes. But I know they are still here for me to read as I really enjoy them.
I wish you'd post a few photos... :)

Saturday, September 30, 2006 9:08:00 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Sorry you're not up for going. I hope this doesn't mean that you're not feeling well!

I tried to find a translation for Happy Birthday Beattie in Yiddish, but couldn't find it.

I hope she has a lovely day.

Kind regards,


Saturday, September 30, 2006 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Sydney said...

Thanks so much for sharing this information about Beattie and her family. I hope she has a really great day on her birthday.


Saturday, September 30, 2006 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Morton for writing about my Mom. The party was great and she had a great time, but we missed you. Your daughter Amy represented you in fine style and had a chance to mingle and talk to all the members of the family."Beattie" was really overwhelmed by all the attention and was in all her glory because all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were with her to celebrate her 90th birthday. I will send you a group photo via email to use as you see fit.

By the way, you joked about our Bolshevik family connection and my Air Force security clearance. Fortunately, I did not know anything about this when I had to complete my security clearance forms.

We all appreciate all the family "memoirs" on your blog and they are the makings for a book. For all your blog fans, they can find more information about our genealogy on my web site:

Thanks again for making my Mom's birthday so special.

David fox

Saturday, September 30, 2006 8:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

What a lovely tribute...and I agree that your writings will be treasured by the family members. Have you thought about putting them into book form? I am doing that for my three children for this Christas (with the help of the gals at Staples!)

Sunday, October 01, 2006 8:33:00 AM  
Blogger Norma said...

"Their political views were based on the principle that the enemy of my enemy (the repressive Czarist Russian regime) is my friend."

Second time I've read that today. The other was in the blog of a Hollywood screenwriter telling why so many of his relatives were so fond of "Uncle Joe."

This was a delightful story--send Bea my best for a long(er) and happy life.

Sunday, October 01, 2006 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger saz said...

Happy 90th Birthday Beattie! Lovely tribute Mort. We're all sorry you couldn't be there with her.

Get cracking on learning to scan those photos as we want to see the family photo her son sends you of the party!!!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006 1:41:00 PM  

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