box camera

My father's parents were Syrian Jewish refugees from Aleppo who settled in Bensonhurst Brooklyn 100 years ago. My dad, the first born, was raised speaking Arabic, Hebrew and English. Their custom was not to celebrate birthdays with parties or presents except at the bar mitvah when there would be a single gift. When my dad turned 13 in 1936 his family included his 4 younger siblings his parents and his grandmother, 8 people in a small 2 bedroom apartment, in which all the kids had been born at home. They were dirt poor. Nonetheless he was given this box camera (but no film), his first and only birthday present, at his bar mitvah, and likely the first gift of any sort made in his family. Maybe it was a symbol of having survived and the beginning of assimilation. It was certainly a symbol of hard work. It was cherished though NEVER USED until my dad returned home from the War, got married and left home, when it became the source, via my mother, of all of my families  childhood photos. My father never did get around to figuring it out, having become permanently intimidated by the thing from the very first. I can't look at it without seeing the whole story of my grandparents journey laid out before me. I keep it as a reminder of the stories that still need to be told and passed on.

Year: 1917

– Robert Dweck

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant