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!