Papa’s Birthday

My grandfather, Martin Moses, was born on this day 132 years ago. He was the oldest of his generation in my family that I knew well growing up, my link to the 19th Century. As a toddler I called him “Papa” instead of the more appropriate German “Opa”, and the nickname stuck. I had hoped to be “Papa” when I became a grandfather, and in a similar fashion Rosa insisted on calling me “Pa”. But in every other way, he remains my model of what it is to be a grandfather.

He was born in a village, was conscripted into the German army for World War I, and after the war became an “entrepreneur” whose business ventures eventually brought him to Berlin. There he met my grandmother Rosel (Oma) and started a family. Just weeks before Kristallnacht they fled the Nazis and emigrated to Ventura, California. I was 40 years old before it sunk in that, when he was older than I was then, Papa started over in a new country, with few possessions and no English, and he and Oma managed to build the world of family and support I was born into.

He was a part of my life the whole time I was growing up, and I remember our times together often as I now play the role of grandfather. Here are some of the family photos I’ve collected from his life.

Papa and Oma on a walk in the woods. My guess is this is late 1925; they were married in June,
Uncle Jimmy was born in May 1926, and this looks like a maternity dress to me.
Papa with my Dad (L) and Uncle Jimmy, Germany, mid 1930s.
My arrival, September 1955.
Me and my brothers. I am now just shy of his age in this picture.
Papa would regularly host barbeques, which always felt like special occasions. Jerry and I
still use his seasonings and offer people “tasters” off the grill before serving.
This is from a local newspaper article about Passover. Early 60s.
Papa and Oma at their 50th wedding anniversary, 1975.

4 thoughts on “Papa’s Birthday

  1. these are amazeballs. How did they decide on Ventura I feel like I should know that (don’t remem) – did they get sponsored by a loc Jewish synagogue. You are the best grandpa ever, 2nd to your Papa of course. love you A


    1. My grandmother’s brother had landed in Ventura in the 20s, and sponsored them, as well as employing them. I got my middle name from him: George Zander. I’ve been trying to write out the whole story for ages; if I ever come up with a coherent version I’ll let you know (or maybe post it here). Thanks for reading!


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