Grandpa Joe was an immigrant

Joseph Steinhart in his orphanage uniform. Undated photo.

My grandfather, Joseph Steinhart, arrived at Ellis Island October 6, 1920. He was 16 years old. He loved the Unites States despite the anti-semitic discrimination that he faced throughout his entire life. Unable to attend the college of his choice. Unable to be an engineer in the Navy. And, witness to many acts of enthocentlrism towards others during his life before dying in April 1994.

Were it not for my grandfather’s stay at a Warsaw orphanage before coming to the United States, the world might never know parts of the amazing story of the institution’s founder, Dr. Janusz Korczak. Survivor accounts describe Korczak leading a column of orphans from the Warsaw ghetto to the death camp at Treblinka. My grandfather’s memories and drawings have informed generations of historians writing about the Holocaust and Korczak biographers.

Orphanage. Undated sketch by Joseph Steinhart.

I would like to think of my grandfather as a hero for what he gave me — a thirst for knowledge and a drive to fight for what’s right — but that would be insufficient. My grandfather is a hero for bearing witness to the worst and best of humanity. If he were alive today, he would be sitting at his desk with a stack of white typing paper composing by hand in his distinctive engineer’s block script letters to the editor and letters to government officials decrying the inhumane and un-American actions by the new American president. I desperately wish he were here today to share his wisdom, his courage, and to be a witness yet again to the best and worst humanity has to offer.

1978 St. Petersburg Times photo of my grandparents showing some of his memorabilia related to Janysz Korczak.

Joseph Steinhart’s clipping binder.

Trigger warning

White planners and preservationists see one thing when looking at this bridge. Longtime African American Lyttonsville residents see something else.

White planners and preservationists see one thing when looking at this bridge. Longtime African American Lyttonsville residents see something else.

A small Silver Spring, Maryland, neighborhood called Lyttonsville has been getting a lot of attention lately. Some local bloggers have been writing about the changes that a proposed light rail line will bring to the historically African American community. And, they have written about changes coming if the Montgomery County Council approves a new master plan for the area.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post published an article about the proposed demolition of a historic bridge linking Lyttonsville with historically white neighborhoods. The Post article was inspired by an article in this blog and it dovetails with the issues about which the bloggers were writing. Continue reading

Goodbye Elmer

Elmer Blue died in July and we never knew.

We lived just a few houses away from Elmer in Silver Spring’s Northwood Park subdivision. We first met Elmer shortly after we moved into our house in late 2002. Elmer used to walk his aging pudgy terrier past our house and he would always stop by and talk to our basset hounds. My wife soon learned that Elmer liked our hounds because he once had a basset. Continue reading

Internet Autobiography: History & Prehistory

This morning I attended a blogging workshop at American University (#tbdau). Sponsored by TBD, the topic was finding your blogging voice and it gave me a chance to think about this blog and its antecedents. Continue reading