Dad’s Story – Harry Benjamin Rosenberg by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג - Ourboox.com
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Dad’s Story – Harry Benjamin Rosenberg

I'm also a scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am co-founder of Ourboox. In the evening I Read More
Member Since
Oct 2013
Published Books
1447

Our Dad (that is, the Dad of me and my siblings Rena Rosenberg, Miriam Duanis and David Aaron Rosenberg) was born in Winnipeg, Canada in November, 1926. I would like to tell you the exact date, but no one knows for sure. Dad’s Mom (Bayla or Bella Rosenberg, nee Hollenberg) was sure that he was born on November 24th, but the birth certificate of the province of Manitoba states the 23rd. That way Dad has always had the benefit of two back-to-back birthdays each year.

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Dad was born in Canada (the “new country”) because his folks, Max and Bella had immigrated around 1911. Uncle Irving (Bella’s brother) had this to say in 1992: My sister Bella was 22 years old and she married Max. They had a little grocery store but could not make a living. They moved to New York around 1911-12 and Max worked in a sweatshop, During that time Moshe Hollenberg was in Winnipeg, and when he heard the Rosenbergs were in New York (or perhaps Bella contacted him), he brought them to Winnipeg, around 1912. Max became a manufacturer…

 

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The Moshe Hollenberg that Irving referred to was Dad’s great uncle, in other words the brother of Dad’s grandfather, Nehemiah. Here is a picture of Moshe and his wife. Moshe was the father of the five famous Hollenberg doctors, but that is another story. If you think that Moshe has a somewhat Eastern (I mean far-Eastern) facial character, then you are not the only one. Our blood lines may be more interesting that we think!!

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In the old country (somewhere between Galicia and Austria), Max Rosenberg (Dad’s Dad) was a Hebrew tutor, and was brought in by Nehemiah and his wife Miriam (nee Switzer) to tutor their children. They lived in a small village with only three Jewish families. Dad used to tell us that on Friday evenings, when they had their Shabbat dinner in the village, they used to close all the windows and shutters of the house, so that the Gentiles could not see them with the silver candelabras and decent food (at least that is what I inferred). My cousins tell me that this is a picture from 1958 of Dad’s mom Bella and grandmother Miriam.

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So Dad’s Dad Max (Elimelech) was a Hebrew tutor and his Mom Bella was Max’s student. They fell in love and married. Max was about 21, Bella about 22. Oh, and one more important item. Their home in the village had a ‘krechma’, a kind of rural bar. That explains why we are so good at holding our liquor.

Here is an example of my brother David and I holding our liquor. Whenever I talk about the kretchma scene in Fiddler on the Roof, I think about my own family.

 

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They had eight kids who survived childhood. Dad was the baby of the family.

They grew up on Manitoba Avenue. There were a lot of Jews in the neighbourhood, but also Ukrainians and Poles, who often had it in for the Jews. It was a rough neighborhood. One of Dad’s school mates turned out to be a murderer. Dad was a very good (3rd out of 48) student, although he must have been impish. One favorite story: Dad’s teacher caught him chewing gum in class and said, “Rosenberg, out!!!”.  Dad replied, “The chewing gum or me sir?”. The teacher quickly answered “Both!!”.

 

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When Dad was about thirteen he had his appendix out and missed two weeks of school.

The next year the Second World War began. And then in 1940 his Dad Max died suddenly.  Dad worked hard at a variety of jobs. As a youngster he set up bowling pins, worked as a delivery boy, and a waiter. It was during the depression and they were very poor. Dad told us that he used to walk a great distance to buy yesterday’s bread, which was one penny cheaper. All the kids wore hand-me-downs.

 

 

 

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Dad worked hard to support himself at university. He studied engineering. The work and the studies took their toll and according to one account Dad (one of the smartest people I ever met) had to repeat first year. Dad studied engineering by ‘default’ (he dissed all the other options).

 

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During the summers he would work in far-flung scenarios – One summer he worked at a zinc and copper mine. One day underground he heard explosions and thought he was in a war…not knowing what to expect. Dad also worked on the railroad in the kitchens (once arrived in Montreal penniless), in the North of Canada exploring (he has a creek named after him, Harry Creek). He used to tell us of the kind landlady up North who fried kosher meat from a tin he had found, but in butter.

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Around 1946 Dad met Mom (Faigel nee Gorelick), and that changed everything. More in Part Two.

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