A Wedding Reflection: Paula and Hymie
STYLE MagazineWeddings

A Wedding Reflection: Paula and Hymie

Hymie and Paula met in a tiny hamlet in Poland in 1937. Hitler and his army would soon be on the move.

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Everyone has a story of how they met their bashert (soulmate). I met my bashert at Kinderland summer camp in Hopewell Junction, N. Y. One of my sisters met her bashert at a party given by mutual friends. My other sister met her bashert as participants in a political movement.

Hymie and Paula met in a tiny hamlet in Poland, which in and of itself, doesn’t sound too romantic. Read on and you will find a beautiful romance, fraught with just a bit of drama, love and lust. The year was 1937. Hitler and his army would soon be on the move, marching into Poland, headed toward Hymie’s hamlet.

At the same time, here in the Goldeneh Medinah (the golden land) of the United States of America, Paula, who had arrived in the Bronx at age 15, along with her mom, dad, two sisters and her baby brother, was busy building a life for herself. She was working full time, attending night school, busy going to dances with her girlfriends on the weekends, hosted by various Jewish organizations. At one of these events, she met and developed a close friendship with a man named Morris. These greeneh (new immigrant) young people traveled in groups, enjoying the American way of life.

Slowly, the unimaginable horrors Hitler unleashed on the world became a painful disruption of their new way of life.

At one of these dance events, Paula and her friends were having heated discussions with Morris, his cousin and some of their friends. It was then that Paula learned that Morris’s entire family, including his parents, brother Hymie, and sisters were in grave danger of being annihilated by Hitler.

In New York at the time, there was a secret organization that helped men and women cross the ocean to meet and marry Jews, with the intent of bringing these saved souls to America. After a period of three months, they would annul the marriage, having completed the mitzvah of saving a Jewish life.

Based on this organization’s mission, a plan was hatched by Morris, Paula and others. It so happened that, Paula, who was a natural beauty inside and out, was dating and became engaged to a prize catch of a man. Steve — perfect American name, not a name given to a greeneh — was American born, and best of all, held down a good steady job. He was not crazy about his fiancé traipsing off by herself, to a country under fire, to meet and marry a stranger. Anything could easily go wrong.

Paula was a descendant of Lillith (the demonic figure in Jewish mythology) and carried with her Lillith’s streak of independence and fearlessness. Off she sailed from the New York harbor to Paris, carrying a new wardrobe for her and new clothes for Hymie for their betrothal and eventual journey to the U.S. Paula was in for the first shock of her life when she arrived in Paris, where she believed the plan would be to travel by train to Morris’s family’s hometown. Instead, she was a “fare” in an old broken-down vehicle, which took her to a crossroads where she was to wait for her next mode of transportation, for the last leg of her long and arduous journey.

The second shock of her life occurred when an old buggy and an even older driver with an even older horse galloped up to where she waited. The driver called her name in Polish and explained that he was to be her ride to her destination. She looked around her with a huge degree of skepticism, realizing no one could make this up. So, she boarded the horse-drawn cart, and they slowly made their way deeper and deeper into the country, further and further away from a city or town, finally arriving at a small hamlet.

Morris’s family was dirt poor. Literally! Their home was built on a dirt floor, where chickens and other livestock lived in harmony with their humans. This was not to be the last shock of Paula’s mitzvah journey. His brother Hymie turned out to be quite handsome, in a rugged Jewish kind of way, and this threw Paula for a loop. It was not at all what she was expecting, and not at all how his brother had described him.

Paula met Hymie’s family, which consisted of his mom, dad, five sisters and one adorable niece. Their connection was immediate. After spending some quality time with the family, it was time to get down to the business of the mitzvah.

The yellow stars the family was ordered to wear caused Paula to become overwhelmed with emotion and fear. Time was running out to make their escape.

The pair was married in a small town near their hamlet. Hymie wore a wedding ring passed down from his great-grandfather to each male upon their nuptials. This gold wedding band was supposed to stay in the family, with his mom, for the next male to use. Instead, handing a blue box to Paula, Hymie’s mom begged her to take this ring back to America, since she was so sure the family would not survive Hitler’s invasion.

Finally, it was time to make their long trip to Paris and on to the USA. Difficult and emotional goodbyes were exchanged, with Hymie promising to come back and rescue the rest of his family after the mandatory three months of the marriage had elapsed.

The drivers of the horse and buggy, or the old truck carrying them to Paris, were oblivious to the sparks flying between Hymie and Paula. Finally, aboard the ship to Ellis Island, the sparks took over and lust led them to consummate their marriage.

If you are wondering about Steve, well, he soon realized, as he saw the newlyweds hurrying down the runway to their new lives, that he was likely “on the market” once again.

The gold band lay hidden and forgotten until my mom Paula died, and my sisters and I were charged with helping my dad Hymie sort through her belongings. At the bottom of a dresser drawer, filled with beautiful hankies (mom loved the lacy kind best) was the blue box with the ring.

Years later, when my sisters and I hoped it would be less painful a memory, I asked my dad about the ring, and the love story was revealed. Confirming what we already knew, their love story spanned nearly 60 years. And this very story, which began as a mitzvah, would light up the lives of my sisters and myself.

And the rest, as it is said, is history.

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