MISSING THE BOAT

MISSING THE BOAT

From Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

Missing the Boat

Coins are round: Sometimes they roll to you, sometimes to others.

Folk Saying

In 1910, Abraham Bank, my great-grandfather, was impressed into the Russian army. At the time, he was twenty-one years old and had lived near Vilna in Latvia for his entire life. He was a qualified rabbi, shochet, and mohel.

The prospect of twenty-five years of mandatory military service was unthinkable to Abraham. So he decided to pack a few clothes and personal belongings and leave his hometown during the night. He promised his girlfriend, Rebecca, that he would write.

Abraham traveled via Finland to Stockholm, Sweden, where he worked for a while as a stevedore. He earned his passage to London where he continued to work. His goal was to earn enough money to follow in the footsteps of his brother, who had already emigrated to America.

Two years after leaving his home in Latvia, Abraham was finally able to buy a ticket on a ship leaving from Southampton that would take him from England to America.

Abraham ran into two difficulties. The first was the knowledge that he would not be able to get kosher food in the steerage class of the ship. The second was the trouble he would have in getting from London to Southampton over Passover, as the holiday ended on the night before the ship would be boarding.

Finally, Abraham decided not to use his ticket. He remained in London for a few months and then emigrated to South Africa, where eight years later Rebecca joined him. It was not until 1987 that Abraham’s descendants— his grandson (my father) and his family—made the move to America that Abraham had come so close to making seventy-five years earlier.

I have good cause to be grateful to Zeida for deciding not to use that ticket all those years ago. In fact, it might well have been the best decision he ever made. The name of the ship that steamed into the Atlantic that day was the Titanic.

Tanya Bank

More stories from our partners