No. 2: Jewish Geography

In 1989, I was a "nice Jewish girl" "from Brooklyn" with "no father" who was going to be a "big screenwriter"

In 1989, I was a “nice Jewish girl” “from Brooklyn” with “no father” who was going to be a “big screenwriter”

I’ve started to fill out my Application for Naturalization According to Article 116 (2) Basic Law.  It’s a few months since Casper Fleming and I sat on the set of COLD CASE and kibbitzed my way into action.

The Federal Republic wants to know all about me, as well as information on my son, my parents, and my grandparents.

Where was everybody born?

When did everybody land?

Where and when did my parents get married and divorced?

What about my grandparents, where did they live in Berlin?

What were they wearing?

What color was their parachute?

Is it true that Orthodox Jewish girls give the best head?

I know that my paternal grandparents, Richard Kaufmann Ebel and Anna Salomon Ebel, left Berlin in 1938, and came to New York thereafter, possibly traveling through London, where family members put up a large sum of money to help them.  But that’s pretty much all I got.

Occasionally I suffer from poor reading comprehension, an offshoot of my impatience that’s rooted in my chronic rage, and yet I swear to you the National Archives told me to look at the State Archives to find naturalization records after 1906, and the State Archives sent me back to the National Archives.  The next thing I knew, three hours have gone by.

Jesus, research is so annoying and time-consuming.  I could be here all day on the archival merry-go-round, I could be here all year, I could write a PhD.  Can’t the Federal Republic of Germany just hand me my papers and send me on my way to Berlin Gay Pride?  I want Esquire magazine to pay me to party to Turkish hip-hop, goddammit!  Isn’t this what I deserve?  If Hitler hadn’t ruined everything I could be there right now.

Bottom line: Just another plot against the Jews.

I don’t even think a wildly functional family group has all this info on one another, which brings to mind existential questions about how fleetingly each generation stays in the mind, let alone the files, of the next.  We’re here so very briefly, and only maybe, maybe are our grandchildren going to have a clue about the tracks we left, even if we do a great job as parents.

Do you have the address where your grandparents were living when they got married?

This supports my general argument that all children should be given family names.  Unless you want to accelerate the process by which you unload and reject the past, in which case Cody and Madison are perfect choices.

So now I am asking my mother to help me fill in the blanks.  What does she remember?

It seems unfair that I am asking my mother to help me make sense of my father, a man she divorced 39 years prior.  He was the one who left while she provided the food, shelter, clothing, holidays, reading list, bat mitzvah invitations, and the terrific pots and pans she gave my husband and me on our wedding day.  On the other hand, if I blog about Henry then she’s off the hook where some of the darker chapters are concerned, at least for now.

This could be a good thing for the whole family.

My mother is concerned about the tax implications if I become a New German Jewess.  She wants me to contact her tax attorney to discuss.  This is maternal advice I will be ignoring.  On the other hand, my mother also tells me that I have a distant cousin, a young Israeli photographer living in Berlin, and that he has asked her about doing an apartment swap.  Maybe he would like to swap apartments with my family in Los Angeles?  Yes, please, mother dear, work that Jewish Geography and let’s cook up a little cultural exchange.

Then I find out from my dear friend Haley, a comedy writer (not her real name)  that a friend of hers, a prolific film and TV director (see today’s image for a hint), is also first-generation German Jewish, and he got his dual citizenship, and in fact if McCain had won he’d be there now, hitting the Berlin party circuit with Brad Pitt while I sit here being given the high hard one by the National Archive.

So I dash off a little note to him:

Hey [Haley’s Besty]:

I’m a writer and a first-generation German Jewess trying to address all sorts of deep-seated personal issues by applying for German citizenship through the Federal Republic’s “We’re Sorry About The Holocaust Please Come Home” Program, which I understand from Haley you know a thing or two about.

This is a long-procrastinated personal project that I even decided to start a blog about, despite my blog ambivalence, or blence, as I think they’re now calling it.

If you have any time to share with me your own process of pursuing dual citizenship, I’d be very interested to hear about it.  The main piece of advice I’d like to ask (before even hearing if you have any time to share on this, but, you know, ask and ye shall receive), is how much geneological research and leg-work you did in advance of submitting your application.  I’m neck deep in naturalization records, because I’m not sure of the exact date that my father and his family landed in NYC (and there are other holes in the story that I might be able to supply the bureaucratic process if I search diligently enough), and I’m not sure if I need to be.

I would be utterly delighted to come to your neck of the woods for some face-time and provide caffeine, alcohol, pretty much any mood-altering substance if you give me enough heads-up, or perhaps a pile of marzipan (did you grow up on the stuff as I did?) so that I’m not just take-take-take.  Or a phone chat would be splendid, too.

Thanks for the possibility of penciling me in,

Kathy Ebel

 

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One thought on “No. 2: Jewish Geography

  1. I’m already hooked on this quest, and not just because of the small, pseudonymous role I play in it. Upon seeing this iconic family photo for the first time, however, I have to mention that the crazy-eyed stare clearly goes two-ways. That baby may only be a few days old, but she appears to be ready for a throw-down.

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