Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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A Los Angeles Childhood - Revisiting the Past - Deli Goldenberg, Paris, France
Sunday, 27 November 2011 22:31

In 1989, after visiting Marais, the Jewish sector of Paris, I wrote a poem. It came to me stacatto style, one word at a time. I just had lunch at Deli Goldenberg. This part of Marais, which housed Deli Goldenberg was known as the Pletzi, which means little place in Yiddish, is a section of Paris since the 13th Century, with the fifth largest population of Jews in the world. France has this honor and a center street of the area, Rue de Rosier, houses many delis. Deli Goldenberg, the name also of my adoptive mother, has been there for fifty years founded by Jo Goldenberg who lost his parents and all of his sisters in Auschwitz. It became a symbol of resistance and revival, a place where Holocaust survivors and resistance fighters could meet. In August 11, 1982 it was the target of an attack by terrorists who threw a grenade into the main room and opened fire on passersby killing six people.

It was closed about five years ago. The new enterprise, a fashion boutique kept the tile facade of the historic deli as well as their name on the awning. The neighborhood is very much now in vogue.

The Jewish District shrinks as such every year.

As a salute to the tattered past and my love/hate relationship with Paris, I am posting my poem entitled Marais, dedicated to my adoptive mother's family name Goldenberg and the memory of all of those Jews taken to the camps from Paris and that district. Taken but never forgotten.  


What is this that whispers to me 

on a still day in Marais?

I detest Paris                                                                                                                        

for this smallest part of her

frayed like a prayer shawl,

crushed together and seized.

My mother yells don't go to Marais                                                                            

there are bombs at Deli Goldenberg.                                                                               

I go anyway. 

I'm Russian, Jewish,  

from the Crimea.

I worry about gathering                                                                                                

from my grandparents,                                                                                            

this part of me                                                                                                              

I can't understand. 

Goldenberg:  the rabbi, the grocer                                                                                

with working cat;                                                                                              

prowling downstairs, sleeping up                                                                            

just like grandpa.                                                                                                  

After Schrachrit                                                                                                        

he writes prayers for sabbath                                                                                              

bar mitzvah and weddings. 

Stoic and solid                                                                                                                  

queens of France freeze                                                                                      

encircling gardens                                                                                            

sixteenth century vestige,                                                                                

markers, icons.

Yet just blocks away                                                                                                  

not even fifty years                                                                                                      

of rains coming down                                                                                              

can efface blood;                                                                                                  

where screams are herded                                                                                            

into streets                                                                                                              

toward boxcars of slaughter.


I will capture what I crave                                                                                        

and exorcise camps,                                                                                          

dragging of bodies,                                                                                          

burning of dreams.

Give me back more                                                                                                      

than those names                                                                                                          

written on walls,                                                                                                  

memorial of rows                                                                                                        

in a mosque                                                                                                                  

hidden behind                                                                                                      

Notre Dame.

I catch a sign:                                                                                                              

Goldenberg in neon;                                                                                  

Goldenberg in paint.                                                                                                    

I soothe that voice echoing,                                                                                      

my mother telling the past                                                                                          

a gypsy playing all her cards.

I honor all of those names and thank you for sharing Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.