I’ll come right out and say it. I don’t think there are any cousins in the entire world more close and loving to one another than me and my cousin Binyamin. More than being cousins we are closer than twin brothers joined at the hip.
Today he celebrates his 87th birthday (ad 120). I am 6 months older than he. We both suffered the loss of our beloved wives… me, 4 years ago and Binyamin, 4 months ago. We grieve together.
He has 3 wonderful children and I have 3 wonderful children. He has 7 beautiful grandchildren and I have 3 beautiful grandchildren.
Binyamin and I do not live close to one another but we speak on the telephone every day. Not a day passes by when we don’t share the pleasure of hearing our voices on the telephone.
We are also telepathic. We think the same thoughts at the same time. It’s all a question of who gets to the telephone first to reveal the thought.
When we meet each other we do not shake hands. That is a cold custom. Instead we embrace and hug each other with many kisses on both cheeks. Coming and going is always with hugs and kisses.
His grandfather and my grandfather were brothers, both devoted religious Jews. The love from our paternal families flows into the hearts of our children. There is great love among all of them with many hugs and kisses for all.
I know many families who have cousins but I have not heard from any how close and devoted each is to the other.
The love for Binyamin and me is magical. It is as if God was watching us and smiling as we run to one another to hug and to kiss and to share together stories of our mutual family from long ago and far away.
His side of the family arrived in Palestine from Dereczyn in Czarist Russia in 1910. My side of the family arrived in America from Dereczyn in 1911. From that time the two brothers were separated and neither of them knew how to contact the other. Not until a miracle in 1959.
I was living in Rishon Lezion at the time and happened to hear on the radio one day a program in which separated families, mainly holocaust survivors, could locate one another by sending family information to the radio studio which would then be broadcast on the radio.
Since I had heard so often from my father about his childhood visits to his father’s brother in Dereczyn I remembered the name my father spoke of often, his “fetter Yirami” and I contacted the radio studio with the full family name .
The next day while I happened to be away from the house, I learned upon my return that a man and his son came looking for me, stating that they were the family I was seeking.
Immediately, without so much as stopping even for a glass of water to drink, I ran to the bus station for the fastest bus to central Tel-Aviv and from there I found my way to the address the man had left for me.
I climbed up a dark staircase and found the door with the family name attached to it. Eagerly, I rang the bell and knocked on the door both at the same time.
Within seconds the door was opened and a man standing there pulled me inside and hugged and kissed me so hard I had to catch my breath. How could he know who I was? He might have been hugging and kissing a delivery boy. Yet something in his heart told him that he was hugging and kissing a family member “lost” 59 years ago.
His wife joined him with warm embraces and kisses, sat me down at their table and ran to the kitchen to bring me a plate of food. While she was in the kitchen, the man who was now my cousin Mordechai went into the bedroom and came out with a small paper box.
Thumbing through it he found the photo he wanted and took it out to show me. And lo and behold I saw my father as a young 10 year old boy standing with his father, my beloved zaideh, in Dereczyn.
I cried as I saw the photo and took it in my hands and pressed it against my heart. I cried and cousin Mordechai cried. We had found our family after a separation of almost 60 years.
We were now two hearts re-united together.
A few minutes later, his son returned home from work .He appeared to be the same age as me. Guessing who I must have been, he ran over to me and smothered me with hugs and kisses as his father had done a few minutes earlier.
This was my cousin Binyamin. And we have remained loving and devoted cousins to one another ever since.
Today Binyamin celebrates his 87th birthday and I hope he will enjoy the many cakes and bottles of champagne set upon his table, surrounded by 3 children, 3 spouses and 7 grandchildren together.
A story of great love and devotion. A story of two hearts and two souls bound together forever.
Yom huledet samayach Binyamin. Happy birthday Binyamin. Stay well. Keep safe. And rejoice.