Monday, August 28, 2006

My Grandmother Fannie Kaplan - 1965

In the summer my grandmother liked to sit out on her front porch in the evening after dinner. She was born in Poland around 1890, but only because her mother decided that she wanted to have her first born child "back home". When I shot this photo she'd already been widowed. She was fastidious about keeping kosher and lighting the Friday nite sabath candles. My grandfather Samuel had always gotten up early, put on his yarmulke, tallis, and tfillen, then stood by the bay window facing east in the living room saying the ritual prayers. They always walked, not drove, on the Jewish hoidays. By today's standards you could say they were pretty orthodox yet they belonged to the less rigid Conservative congregation in New Bedford.

A few years earlier the family was rocked by scandal when my oldest male cousin, Teddy, married a Catholic Italian girl. By the time I married out of the faith things had calmed down a bit and Grandma Fannie planned to teach Stephanie all her prized recipes. Stephanie had grown up with a lot of Jewish friends in Bethesda, MD, and already knew quite a bit about Jewish cooking and customs. It was more like an exchange of recipes.

A couple of years after I made this photograph I was in New Bedford one summer and visited my grandmother. She was now quite ill and living at the New Bedford Jewish Convalescent Home She showed me the room that she shared with another woman. On the wall between the two beds was a large crucifix! I remarked about it but Grandma calmly explained that since the home received government money they weren't allowed to discriminate on who got to stay there based on religion. They put the woman with Grandma because she was about the only one there who didn't seem to mind having a Catholic room mate. Grandma died in her sleep about a year later.


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