Memories of Bygone Days—and Survival
New Hampshire Memories
Your report about Jewish New Hampshire brought tears to my eyes (“The Jewish Traveler,” April/May 2016). My grandfather, Abe Spiwack, was a founder of the Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation. My family and our partners owned and managed the Sinclair Hotel on Bethlehem’s Main Street for decades. In its day, the Sinclair was a landmark. A generation of Jewish boys, working as bellhops or busboys, paid their college tuition with Sinclair paychecks. A generation of Jewish leadership kibitzed around our pinochle tables. A generation of Borscht Belt talent sang, danced and invented the jokes still echoing in Hollywood.
The Sinclair entered history in 1944. At that time, the Mount Washington Hotel was hosting the international conference that founded the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and catering to 730 delegates from 44 nations. Unable to provide the traditional cuisine of some of the Asian and Middle Eastern delegates, the hotel transported them in a fleet of limousines to the Sinclair for their evening meals. While the Sinclair kosher dining room had always been formal (summer tuxes and long gowns were the rule), the delegates’ jeweled saris, embroidered Sikh turbans and exotic designs lit up the July nights.
The Sinclair enjoyed other brilliant moments over the next 30 years but finally succumbed to a cruel winter; it burned to the ground in 1978. Thank you for reminding me of those bygone years.
San Diego, Calif.
I was excited to see the travel article on New Hampshire, but disappointed that Claremont wasn’t discussed. Claremont is where I grew up and established a strong Jewish identity. From the 1940s to 1960s, we had about 50 families; our Jewish life centered around Temple Meyer-David, which still exists. My parents kept kosher for 30 years by ordering from a butcher in Chelsea, Mass. Many of the retail stores on Pleasant Street were owned by Jews, and there was one Jewish dentist and one doctor—my father.
Although we knew that local hotels were off limits to Jews, I never experienced any anti-Semitism and had many non-Jewish friends.
Janet Stearns Augenbraun
St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Side of Safety
Thank you for “Give Me Your Huddled Masses?” by Erica Brown (April/May 2016). In our haste to be welcoming to strangers, we must not forget the biblical precedents for being cautious of strangers who might compromise the integrity of our community and resist social integration. Some say to err on the side of compassion, but it is equally valid to err on the side of safety and concern about refugees who do not adapt to the culture and laws of their host country.
Gloria Golbert and Laurie Kurs
In the 76 years since my journey from Antwerp through France over the Pyrenees into Spain and then to Cuba before coming to the United States, I have often thought about that trip over the mountains. Until I read “Passage Over the Pyrenees” (April/May 2016), I did not realize how many others had taken similar journeys. I’m grateful to Patricia Giniger Snyder for enlightening me and bringing back those memories.