So…..I’m pretty sure I’m Jewish….

This is my family history, as told to me by various members.

My family came to the United States in 1908, from a German ethnic enclave located somewhere in Russia. The town, called Dinkel, no longer exists as far as I can find. The German ethnic enclave still exists, within Germany. They are German by heritage, but Russian in language. These “Germans from Russia” number in the hundreds and are believed to be one of the smallest distinct ethnic groups in the world. They live now in Germany, in the South, and are generally impoverished, due to their refusal to accept public assistance and difficulty in learning the German language. In Germany, they are generally regarded as “white gypsies.” The American equivalent would be trailer trash. They are also all Jewish. For some reason when I was being told my family history, this part was conveniently left out.

My great-grandmother’s family came to this country in 1908. My great grandmother’s married name was Bien (“Bean”). I do not recall her first name or her maiden name. The name Bien is a Jewish name. Again, while asking about this part of my history, the Jewishness was left out. Photos of the family show a large group of Jews. There are even yamulkes in some of the pictures. Great-grandmother Bien’s daugher married a man named Snyder, who’s family in pictures also appears to be of the Hebrew persuasion.

I was brought up thinking I was of German ancestry.

On two separate trips to Germany, I was asked, by Germans, whether I was Jewish. I have a prominent nose, easily tanned skin, and what I am discovering is wavy brown hair. This past Passover, people kept asking me if I was “allowed” to eat certain things. There migt be something to this.

At a business meeting with a Spaniard, we exchanged ID cards from our respective provinces, and he remarked, “Snyder, that’s a Jew name.” His English was poor and he really meant no harm, but he had made his point.

Am I Jewish? Does it matter? Could it really be that the world looks at me and sees a Jew, and when I look in the mirror I see nothing?

My surviving Grandmother, Bien’s daughter, Snyder’s wife, might know for sure. I’ll call her on Monday.


~ by jamiesnydertv on April 25, 2009.

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