Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Sobel - September 8, 1998

Feeling Lonely

Did it bring up any memories of the war years? Did you start to think in those terms?

Not specifically. It brought up an enormous loneliness, and with the loneliness came the reality that in so many ways I am different than, than my friends. That I never talk to my friends uh, most of my friends are not European, not Euro-born. And there is a layer there in me that they probably don't understand or maybe I simply didn't give them the opportunity to understand that, that we are different. And, you know, some aspects of the European Jew, the ones that I meet here a lot, I don't appreciate and I don't identify with. And I don't mean to be snobbish. But a lot of individuals with very little education and very little sophistication who live still in the shtetl are a world apart. I visited a childhood friend with whom I was in the orphanage in the Soviet Union. He lives in New York. And I, on one of my flights out of New York--I, no, when I came to visit Naomi I once visited him. And he was saying to me--and we were just world apart. He still lived--he lived in Israel for a few years--and he lived with that mentality of the small city. He still ate like they eat in Israel. He still regretted that he never had an education, he still talked Yiddish with his wife and felt totally alienated from "the Americans." And he said to me, "You are the only one I know who became American." I said, "What does it mean?" Uh, and I had a sentiment of the experiences we shared when I was ten years old, but we were, lived in different worlds, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.

Was he religious?

No, he's not religious.

So that's not the issue.

So it's not the issue of religion. I can relate to a sophisticated religious Jew and, and keep that, his part or her part separate. But it kind of uh, the, the provincial mentality of some of the European Jews, I don't identify and I don't feel comfortable with it. Even when I was in Poland this is not, was my life. My parents were not shtetl people.

They were big city people.

They were big city people with kind of a broad issues. So I never seeked out the European Jew as a social circle. If I would meet someone whom I like. I have a very dear friend who was born in Poland. But what common interest we have is not based on our past. It's what we live now.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn