Eliezer and Dvorah
In this picture is Eliezer Ben-Yehudah (see the link for his story, if you feel ambitious; he was an enormously important figure in Jewish history, notable for being instrumental in the formation of modern Hebrew), and his first wife, Dvorah. His second wife, Hemda, was Dvorah's sister. Yes, he married two sisters consecutively, and these two sisters were cousins of my Grandma Eva. Yet, cousins could mean anything at all really--and we wonder how exactly Dvorah and Hemda were related to us.
Eliezer and Hemda
Alas, this secret died with Grandma. Although she shared with us few specific details, it was an emotional topic for her. Apparently Eliezer, in his quest to rejuvenate Hebrew as a spoken language, was singleminded and harsh. My sister tells me that Grandma cried when she talked about it, describing how terribly abusive he became toward Dvorah when she continued to speak Yiddish, the language of her home. He demanded that his family speak only Hebrew.
But what strong connection made Grandma feel such empathy that she actually wept in the telling of a story that she could not have personally witnessed, as the Ben-Yehudah family settled in Jerusalem and she and her immediate family in Brooklyn? Had there been a closeness between her mother and this other branch of the family, had she overheard her mother's stories about the abusive tendencies of the charismatic Eliezer? Were there letters, now lost?
Although there is a great deal of information available about the famous Eliezer Ben-Yehudah, there isn't much told about the wives. I'm consumed with curiousity, and wish dearly that I could ask Grandma about Dvorah and Hemda.
photos from online archives