My Sister

By Ella Mahler

[1]  My Sister -- When my baby sister came home from the hospital, I presented her with a bouquet of violets picked in the back yard. She was adorable. I hated her. She got the attention of my parents. The next picture I can drag to my memory is of her becoming cheerleader in the eleventh grade. That was a very big deal. They picked only two cheerleaders junior year, and the rest were picked senior year.  Next picture is her leaving for Berlin on the suggestion of her teacher Jan Veen to study modern dance.  She was only nineteen.

[2]  David -- Did I tell you Alma’s story about her son?  No. Let me tell you. She was 19 and went to Berlin. Just like that. She went to Berlin because Jan Veen even wanted her to study with the woman who invented modern dance.

Well, living in Berlin, she found she was pregnant. That’s ok. But who was the father?  An East German spy!  

So, being pregnant she thought of all the places she’d like to deliver in and decided Israel was it and she went there. In the summer when she was almost delivered she met the Belmont rabbi, Earl Grollman, who asked her who the father was. His wife kicked him before Alma got a chance to respond.

My father planned to go to Israel in September with his friend Rube, a doctor, and after the delivery, Alma wanted him to postpone his trip. She wrote to Rube c/o me since she didn’t know his address. When Rube got the letter, he went right to the phone, called my father, who was on the next flight to Israel.

Alma delivered, a boy, named him Yoray (meaning fall rain; later on, Alma took that as her last name). My father renamed him David Swartz and without her permission gave him to an Israeli adoption agency!

[3]  Rony Epstein -- Alma told me about a handsome Israeli guy named Rony Epstein. He traveled to Poland and introduced himself as her son. Rony said that his name on the birth certificate was David Swartz. Swartz was a name my father added. My sister had named him Yoray “Fall Rain.”  We all knew about the subsequent name change from Yoray to Swartz.

Alma said that Rony was coming to Boston to spend ten days with her. He was coming alone, leaving his two sons and his wife behind.  Alma said: “Do not tell anyone.” 
I told everyone who does not see Alma.

This story has a twist. In 2004, Alma told me that Rony could not get out of Israel because of some military business. I was terribly disappointed.
A few years later I told the story to Roblee Hoffmann, the man who pays my bills. I asked whether he could find Rony’s phone number. Rob called me on Monday, and besides getting the phone number, he found an article written by Rony about his search for Alma. 

The article was fantastic. But it had one strange part. It said: “We all went on a heritage trip to America. She [Alma] took us to Boston and showed us where she grew up and went to school; and then we went to New York and saw where she lived and performed; and of course, we went to Maine.”
Hmmm?  Alma had never told me or arranged for us to meet.

[4]  Letter to Rony -- April 15, 2009

Dear Rony,
Happy Pesach to you!  I went to a Seder presented by the Friends Society, the group of Quakers I belong to. It was very nice, and I go to a Seder there every year. The Quakers are a group that meets in silence for an hour. Their God ranges from an idea that God is just a spirit to an idea that God is here in the spirit of Jesus. I would like to talk with you about this, your having been brought up near where Jesus lived. I am an agnostic. I went to Harvard Divinity School for five years, mainly to aggravate my mother.
I thought you might like to read my autobiography. I have been working on it for about 15 years. I think you should read it and correct me where I have mistaken the facts.
Again, let me wish you a happy Pesach. It is Alma’s 68th year. I hope we can really meet some day.
Love, Ella

[5]  Letter to Rony

Dear Rony,
I saw Alma a year ago last fall when she was in Cambridge after the death of my mother-in-law. Clara died four days before Lev was born. I was shocked: Alma had lost weight, and when we embraced I felt her bones.
The separation that she imposed between us was tragic. We had planned to make things better since my mother’s death in 1991.
One woman who was my close friend at Wellesley College recently died after her lung cancer had spread. Alma said she does not know how large her cancer is. Do you know what type of cancer she has?
So that is my story.
Molly, my dachshund, and Jerry, age 79, say shalom. Jerry has climbed twice all forty of the 4000-foot mountains in New England and comes over once a week.
I am eagerly waiting to hear from you.
Love,  Aunt Ella