• נטע שרם

Stowaways and Geneology


[originally published on the NLI blog: read in Hebrew]

Traveling without a ticket. Are you a crook, or are you pennyless? Perhaps you are fleeing one crumbling home, hoping for a new life? In the 19th and early 20th centuries, great literary minds used the Jewish stowaway trope for dramatic and comic effects. Freud retold stowaway jokes in Interpretation of Dreams; Mendele Mocher Sforim described the Jews who “had made themselves scarce” when the ticket master came arouned and then “popped up again (in the usual way) from under the benches.” It may be funny in prose, but in life, the stowaway is on the wrong side of the law and perhaps on the wrong side of history. My great grandfather fled the 1905 revolution, leaving Riga with only an apple in his coat pocket. I won't give away the punch line just yet; however, I am acutely aware that my family story could only be passed down to me because it has a happy, safe-in-Boston ending.

Image: Josef Weinrebe, Boston 1905(?)




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