I’m a fan of the NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are? Sounds like being told off, doesn’t it?
For those who don’t know the show, it traces celebrities families, looking for something interesting. Tonight, they profiled actress Rashida Jones, the daughter of musician Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton. (Yes, I watched the Mod Squad as a kid).
Quincy Jones’s roots and DNA were examined on Dr. Henry Louis Gates PBS show. I first remember watching Rashida Jones in the British show NYLon. As a native New Yorker, I recognized the New York City scenes of the Lower East Side and the East Village. (I once took a chance and read poems at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and I went to CBGB’s may times).
Tonight, Rashida Jones was tracing her mother’s ancestry. It was an interesting journey and had elements I can identify with. I am of Eastern European Jewish descent. I can identify with some of the stories. I learned about her grandmother, who came from Ireland and I learned what a Taxi Dancer was. (Rashida’s mothers family went from Latvia, then part of Russia to Manchester, England, then to Dublin. You don’t think of Ireland as a Jewish community, though Dublin did have a Jewish mayor once).
The surname Benson kept coming up. She thought, as with many Jews, the name was changed here. That would be logical. My mother’s dad was Joseph Israel. In Russia, he was Josef bin Israel, or Joseph, son of Israel. Rashida Jones found her ancestors in Latvia became Benson in roughly the same way.
My father told me not long before he died, he had relatives in Poland who were writing to his family until 1940. Read the Jonathan Kaufman book Hole in The Heart of the World to learn more about the Jewish communities that survived after World War II and the Holocaust. I’ve visited Auschwitz, (mandatory to learn about the worst in people), the main synagogue in Krakow and where the Warsaw Ghetto was.
I felt for Rashida and Peggy at the forest site outside Riga. It was powerful and for me close to home.