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My Turn: Being 'there' for one another for 60 years and counting

I thought what better time than now, during a pandemic, for me to share the wonderful journey that my family has had for the past 60 years? It was shortly after the passing of my grandmother, who was predeceased by my grandfather, that the cousins, aunts and uncles got together to talk about what we could do to honor the memory of our grandparents.

First, I must tell you of the struggles my grandparents encountered coming to America from Poland. Not knowing the language and having little money and with three small children, their biggest goal in life in this new land was to give their children a better life than what they had. In later years, my grandparents made each of their seven grandchildren a special birthday party and made sure that each of the grandchildren attended. They said that after all the struggles they had endured in coming to the United States, we all needed to "be there" for one another throughout the years.

That thought re-emerged after my grandmother’s death as we said to one another, why don’t we start a "Cousins Club" to honor their memory?

And so the J. Rosenberg’s Cousins Club was formed. Its members spanning five countries (the United States, England, France, Australia and Israel), the Cousins Club is more vital than ever. We met every other month for the first 40 years and now plan to meet five times a year.

We started our own newspaper in 1975 with different family members writing columns so we could keep up with one another; it's published six times a years. We are now in our fourth generation, and everyone knows all their cousins. Most of the cousins from Australia, France and England have even attended meetings.

In 2019, we had an in-person Seder, with 44 cousins from all over driving or flying in to gather at a restaurant in Huntington. It was definitely a happening! We’ve also had weekends away, picnics and even this year — during the COVID-19 pandemic — held a Passover Seder on Zoom with 56 people participating.

We are "there" for one another in celebration and in sadness, when we experience losses.

At our Nov. 8 Zoom meeting, we welcomed our new co-presidents, cousins in their 20s who will bring fresh ideas and innovations as the Cousins Club welcomes its 61st year. The meeting was attended by 46 family members in two countries — what a thrill it was to see everyone! — including a cousin who joined us from her hospital bed. We also had a tribute my sister Rosalie Lester, who just died; she had served as secretary for more than 20 years.

We have a family tree spanning back 510 years and a historian to keep it growing into the future. I know for sure my grandparents are looking down at us knowing that their legacy is one that will live on.

Sheila Kwitkin Zimmerman,

Plainview

YOUR STORY Letters and essays for My Turn are original works (of up to 600 words) by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email act2@newsday.com. Include name, address, phone numbers and photos if available. Edited stories may be republished in any format.

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