Monday, May 16, 2011

Turbulent Souls: A Catholic’s Son’s Return to his Jewish Family by Stephen J. Dubner 1998 (re-issued as Choosing My Religion: A Memoir of a Family Beyond Belief 2006)

"I think readers of this wonderful book will rather hope that a continued measure of unsettlement inspires him to write more." from a review by Jonathan Wilson in the New York Times 11/8/1998

Stephen J. Dubner (b. 1963), the youngest of eight children, was born into a family whose parents, Paul Dubner and Veronica Greenglass Dubner, had converted to Catholicism before they married. It wasn’t until Dubner, a writer, was a young adult that he really began to question and investigate his parents’ backgrounds and their motives for converting.  He divides this very interesting memoir into three parts.

In part I Dubner describes the result of his research into his parents’ early lives in Brooklyn and their converting to Catholicism. His mother had been born Florence Greenglass. When she converted to Catholicism she took the name Veronica. His father, born Saul, began looking beyond his Jewish upbringing before he met his future wife, but didn’t officially convert until after he met Veronica at which point he changed his name to Paul. Abandoned by their families, they married and eventually moved to upstate New York where they raised eight children and became very active in a local Catholic church.

Part II’s focus is on the author’s early and young adult life. He remembers large happy family meals, constant exciting chaos, and devotion to church and religion. But life diminished after Dubner’s father died of a heart attack when the author was ten. By then many of his siblings had moved away from home and away from the church. Dubner, who had been an altar boy, had his own questions brewing, despite or maybe because of his mother’s insistent and absolute religious beliefs and practice.  After college when he moved to New York he found himself ready and eager to explore his Jewish heritage. 

In Part III Dubner describes his investigation into his parents’ lives in order to understand them better and in turn to gain better insights into his own feelings about them and their devout Catholicism. He interviewed his mother, his siblings, and many members of his father’s family - a large family he never knew existed, we are scattered around the globe. The entire time he was investigating the life of his parents he was on an emotional roller-coaster, exploring his own feelings about his upbringing, about his parents having converted, about his own emotional pull toward Judaism.

Dubner’s memoir raises interesting questions about spiritual and religious inheritance, spiritual and religious experience, and family connection. In his quest to understand his parents, he talked to rabbis and priests who helped him come to terms with his parents’ decisions as well as his own.

To read the original 1996 New York Times Sunday magazine article that Dubner wrote that became the seed for the memoir click here.

People
Author’s mother’s family
    Harry (Herschel) Greenglass – married Esther Bernstein (first cousins)
        Della Greenglass – daughter of Harry and Esther
        Florence Greenglass – daughter of Harry and Esther ( changed her last name to Winters); married Paul Dubner (see below); changed 1st name to Veronica
            Joseph Louis Dubner – son of Paul and Veronica
            Mary (Mona) Rose Dubner – daughter of Paul and Veronica
            Martha Mary Dubner – daughter of Paul and Veronica
            Ann Stella Maris Dubner – daughter of Paul and Veronica
            Peter Harry Joseph Dubner – son of Paul and Veronica
            David Gerard Joseph Dubner – son of Paul and Veronica
            Elizabeth (Beth) Mary Dubner – daughter of Paul and Veronica
                Lauren and Danny – Beth’s children
            Stephen Joseph Dubner – son of Paul and Veronica; author
    Barney Greenglass – brother of Harry; married to Tessie
        Ethel Greenglass – daughter of Barney and Tessie; married Julius Rosenberg
            Michael and Robert – sons of Ethel and Julius
        David Greenglass – son of Barney and Tessie; married Ruth Printz
        Bernie Greenglass – son of Barney and Tessie

Moishe and Sorah-Rukhel – Esther’s parents; uncle and aunt of Harry Greenglass (above)

Author’s father’s family
David Dubner – married Shayna Frayda Rozenowicz
    Gittel Dubner – daughter of David and Shayna Frayda; married Shepsel Dubner (they were cousins with the same last name)
        Nat (Nachman) Dubner – son of Shepsel and Gittel; married Dottie Lautenschlager
            Mickey Dubner –son of Nat and Dottie; married to Harriet Telson
                Vicki and Matthew Dubner – children of Mickey and Harriet
           
        Fannie (Fageh) Dubner – daughter of Shepsel and Gittel
        Morris (Moishe) Dubner – son of Shepsel and Gittel
        Bess (Peshe) Dubner – daughter of Shepsel and Gittel; married Sam Einbinder
            Gloria, Carol, and Harriet Einbinder
        Solomon (Schloime, Paul) Dubner – son of Shepsel and Gittel; married Florence Greenglass (see above)
        Martin (Mottel) Dubner – son of Shepsel and Gittel; married Irene Domber
            Kevin Dubner – son of Martin and Irene
        Bernard (Baruch) Dubner – son of Shepsel and Gittel
    Liba Dubner – daughter of David and Shayna
    Shepsel Dubner – son of David and Shayna
    Peshe Dubner – daughter of David and Shayna; married Avraham Kalb
        Lou (Leibl), Sarah, and Rose Kalb – children of Peshe and Avraham
     Yidis Dubner – daughter of David and Shayna
    Chaya Dubner – daughter of David and Shayna

Moishe Silberman – distant relative, relationship not clear; Montreal branch
Martin Dubner – cousin, relationship not clear
Reba Tarkoff Dubner – distant cousin; relationship not clear
Moti Cooper – distant cousin; relationship not clear; Israel branch
Elana Eden – distant cousin; sister of Moti Cooper
Odi (Cooper) Dori – distant cousin; relationship not clear
Nimrod Dore – relationship not clear
Solomon Dibner – distant cousin; relationship not clear; Buenos Aires branc
    Nora Dibner – Solomon’s daughter
Barbara Koltuv – relationship not clear

Friends and Acquaintances
Ellen Binder
Simon Jacobson
Ivan Kronenfeld
Adam Reingold
Jonathan Rosen
Ilene Rosenzweig
Barry Singer
Mychal Springer
Jankel Syzc

Places
Dubno, Poland
Sedletz, Poland
Pultusk, Poland
Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY
Midwood, Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn, NY
Northport, NY
Duanesberg, NY

       
   

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