100th Reflections

After five years of searching for a gathering site, the Isabella Freedman Center was a beautiful location that the family essentially had to itself, to enjoy the scenery, hike, talk, play ball, swim, talk, laugh and learn,

One of the most pleasant of surprises was getting to know the next generation of young Cantors and to see them participating, leading and most of all, enjoying each other’s company. We recall 25, 30 and 35 years ago, at earlier weekends at Catskill hotels, our elders invested in these weekends at least in part so that our generation could get to know and enjoy our more distant cousins in addition to our first cousins. To be here at the 100th anniversary with those cousins and to see the next generation enjoying each other was a great pleasure.

Sandy and Linda Hornick
Brooklyn, NY


Both Sheila and I enjoyed the camaraderie with our cousins. It was a weekend that we will always remember. We enjoyed all of the events especially Ethan’s bit in understanding “3rd cousin twice removed.”

I enjoyed hiking to the top Mt Everest…there were times when I thought I wouldn’t make it, but perseverance prevailed.

Stan Gilman
Plainview, NY


The site was appropriate. My accommodations were new and fresh. I found it unusual to sit at a table with “strangers” who were actually my relatives! The evening events were well planned, as were the sporting ones. I was a professional umpire (ASA) softball but retired about 10 years ago, so I had fun umping again.

Learning more about the family history was great. I explained it to my children and grandchildren. I told Mady that I really knew your parents because my Father would visit with them in Levittown and I was with him. I was about 13-16 at the time.

Stephen Cantor
Cheshire, CT


The weekend was extremely enjoyable and informative as we had an opportunity to meet new relatives and learn more about our family’s genealogy. We came from Denver, so it was a pretty good schlep for us but well worth the trip. We thought the committee did a terrific job in planning the entire weekend. We really didn’t do much during the day other than visit with as many people as we could (except for a brief time on Saturday afternoon when one of us participated in the Qi Gong class and the other went out on the roads to jog). Ron Jordan’s wine tasting was especially enjoyable and we might add tasty. The evenings turned out to be special and everyone learned about how we were related and more about the entire cantor clan. We had the opportunity to spread the wealth at casino night, and we also were able to increase the the size, the length and the number of persons on the family tree. We can’t imagine anyone not having a great time. hopefully we will be able to attend many more such reunions. 100 years was certainly a milestone but there is no reason the icfs can’t go on in perpetuity.

Janet and Sheldon Fisher
Denver, CO


I would like to say that it was a fabulous weekend, I came all the way from Los Angeles but was glad that I did. It was a chance to reconnect with family that I don’t get to see otherwise. It was especially meaningful for my daughter Elizabeth to find out that she is part of a big family with a lot of history. Being an only child, and her Mom is an only child, she did not always feel like she was part of something much bigger. I was happy that she had the opportunity to meet all her cousins again.

Phil Cantor
Los Angeles


We came from Boston. It was a warm and comforting weekend to be with all the family. I am glad that you asked us to try to sit with different people at meals, and I got to speak with many more people than I usually would have. I also liked getting to know cousins from different generations.

I used the pool, took the garden walk, played scrabble, went to the wine tasting, bonfire, game night, and all of the evening activities.

Roz Davidoff
Brighton, MA


Favorite moments:

The Casino Night, complete with a brilliant soundtrack (including Guys & Dolls) that led a few of us to break into spontaneous dancing.

The hike up the mountains with constantly chattering relatives (someone wondered aloud if there are bears in the woods here…not with this noise level) and the unexpectedly open vista at the top. I think we shut up a little there.

The peanut galleries at the volleyball and softball games. No shortage of commentary.

Mikhail’s talk on his life in Belarus.

Phil Cantor’s opening remarks

Madeline Cantor
Philadelphia, PA

The ICFS weekend was great. It was a great opportunity to spend extended time with family members and meet others who we may not have met before. I felt it was a loss for those who didn’t attend.

I especially enjoyed learning how the first five Cantors actually never came to NY, but instead found their way to Lafayette, Indiana. I didn’t realize we had such a Hoosier connection.

The Saturday night events were really well done, thanks in no small part to the “next generation” Cantors. The entertainment part was cute and informative, especially the demonstration on how the Cantors are “related” by generation.

The Isabella Friedman retreat was certainly different. Rustic, definitely. I thought it was at first a retreat for lost 1960s Jewish hippies, who just woke up in the 21st century.

No doubt a major highlight was the Sunday baseball game. Lots of fun. Watching with great pride as 6 year old Ari Berman (perhaps the next Hank Greenberg) got 5 consecutive hits off of Grandpa David Berman, that’s before daddy, Scott Berman, came in as a relief pitcher and struck Ari out.

Great time, look forward to attending the 200th.

David & Sara Berman
Oceanside, NY


I’m Eran Hornick, son of Marc Hornick, son of Florence Adele Cantor Hornick, daughter of Anna Cantor (and Shloime Cantor), daughter of Shmeryl (Shmaryahu) Cantor, brother of Israel Aaron Cantor and son of Yechiel Michl.

I was born in 1987 so the first Anniversary I went to was the 75th in 1988, then the 80th in 1993 (whose T-shirt I still have), 85th in 1998, 90th in 2003, and missed the boat ride 95th in 2008, though now I really regret having missed it. I guess I’ve been to a good number of the big events plus a dozen handfuls of the lunches at Ben’s Deli and other here-and-there semiannual meetings in Brooklyn at Sandy Hornick’s or Danny Cantor’s. I even remember the water gun fight between my Grandpa Joe and Herb Cantor.

But this time, in 2013, was really the first time that I felt present as my own entity rather than just a tag-along to my parents or my immediate family. I really had a meaningful time at the hundredth anniversary weekend.

It began with me arriving late to the Friday night services which I was scheduled to lead. In the shul I noticed something familiar about the windows and the Aron Hakodesh and the lay of the room, and when I saw the stage room and the dining hall, I knew for sure. I’d eaten under these rafters before, 13 years earlier, when my day school took all the 6th graders for a week to Camp Tevah, a nature and Judaism retreat for youngsters. So in addition to reconnecting with huge swaths of my extended family, the entire weekend and grounds carried with it an awakening nostalgia for some deep formative nature experiences I’d had half my life ago.

I tried to follow Phil Cantor’s exhortation to sit with different family members for every meal. The first meal I dined with our relatives Mikhail and Sofia and Gary Kivovich, and Boris and Igor and Sam Liokumovich. I visited Mikhail and Sofia in Chicago in 2005, and speak to them on the phone every now and then. It was great to finally see them again in person and to get to know their son Gary. We talked about languages and use of Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, and English, and about literature and conversation in each of these. Sam told me about what his school is like and a class trip he took, Igor told me about his studies in math at Harvard, and Boris told me about his work in computers. Gary told me about his children Ben and Maya. Sofia and Mikhail told me about the relatives we still have in Minsk, Velvel and Tanya, who they visited a year ago. It brings history alive to hear stories about the old country today and our family who still speak and breathe the Belarussian atmosphere.

I sat for a few minutes with my brother Jonathan Hornick and my father’s cousins Burt & Carole and Stanley & Sheila Gilman. I hadn’t seen Burt and Carole since I visited them two years ago in Montreal, and it was the first time I got to talk a bit with Sheila and Stanley in a long while. Stanley asked me about work, girls, and dreams, and I told him bits of my story.

Soon we all got shepherded out of the dining hall to play an ice breaker thought up by Mady Cantor, where we all grabbed the edges of a big 30-ft.-diameter parachute and stood around it. The idea of the game was Mady would shout something, like “Trade places if you went to Brooklyn College!” and anyone who fit the ticket would dart under the parachute which everyone would raise for a coupla seconds over their heads, and try to make it to the vacant spot of someone else who’d run across, in time before the chute came down. Each time Mady called out a different experience, like “Came from Colorado or Wyoming!” or “Retired this year!” or “graduated this year!” One of the things she yelled was “Has written a book!” and Alice Markham Cantor and Laura Markham ran across, and I was thinking to myself that all my stories accrued together would be like a book, but since I had never actually collected them into a legit bound or published book, I wasn’t sure. By then the chute was already falling and it was too late. Except that in the coupla weeks since the weekend, I actually did publish a book, which can be found here: http://www.andthenthereiseverything.com/ Among those racing across at breakneck speeds under the raised chute was Annette Kaplan, widow of Joe Kaplan, first cousin to my grandfather Joseph Hornick. I hadn’t seen Annette in a number of years, and every chance I got to talk with her was a pleasure and a delight

After the parachute game a bunch of people played ping pong, or chatted and got to know each other. I spent some time talking to Joan Thomas, the lovely woman who helps my Grandma Florence Hornick, and we discussed things like the importance of family heritage and family history, the roles of race in family and in fate, and God’s place in one’s family and in a people’s tribulations. At the table of ICFS artifacts I met Sheldon and Janet Fisher, whom I have a vague recollection of meeting ten years ago. We talked about preferences of parts of the country to live in, such as Denver or Boston (or further north, to which I aspire), and Janet told me about her father and his four siblings and their childhood stories of glee and also tragedy. It was intriguing to hear Janet’s tales told from the children’s faces in the 80-year-old photograph.

Also on Friday night were Alice Markham Cantor’s reading of the nachas-brimming speech from the Society’s 25th anniversary in 1938 (which my Grandma Florence attended of course). Earlier in the summer I’d begun the unfinished task of translating this same 1938 speech into Hebrew for our ICFS relatives in Israel, so it was lovely to hear these words echoing in the ears of the Cantors yet again. Nate Cantor led a family-wide mad-lib, in which, how could they not, many Yiddishisms abounded.

Mikhail Kivovich gave an report on what life was like in Minsk up until he came to America in 1990, and what life was like for his parents leading up to and during the War. They survived by traveling east and north into Russia, on little to no money and food.

Until about 3 in the morning I sat in the shul reading Watchmen while my father studied the week’s Torah Portion and my brother Jonathan studied as well. When I walked from the shul to my bunk the air was frigid, and it felt like beautiful mountainous hibernatory winter was coming.

On Shabbos morning, Meredith Hornick and her fiancé, Andrew Resnik, followed through with their promise to me and attempted to wake me for the morning hike led by Phil Cantor up to the more-than-breathtaking lookout on top of the hill. Instead of making it to the morning hike, however, I slept in, which was all for the better, since my father Marc Hornick soon arrived to rouse me to join the minyan. I took part in leading some of the services — Shachris was led spiritedly and melodiously by my dad. My brother Jonathan amazingly read the entire portion, having only reviewed the night before. His skills in reading the Torah and parsing its meaning would make our ancestors proud. It was particularly astounding how accurate his reading was, considering the rarity and obscurity of so many of the words in this portion. Nearly all ICFS members in attendance got aliyot. William Fenston, our cheerful and kind relative from Buffalo, led the song of Ashrei at the close of the Torah Service. My brother gave a brief speech of gratitude in lieu of a sermon, in which he remarked that all of our progenitors would be proud and elated to think that one hundred years down the road, their descendants would be gathering to celebrate their family and revive their history, and daven in a minyan and pray together.

At lunch I sat with Barbara and Mitch Greene, and their son and daughter Josh and Jamie, and Dovid Feld, Jamie’s fiancé, and Steve Cantor and Fran Greene-Mullin. Dovid told me that he’s a diamond dealer, and I told him about meeting someone who worked in the diamond mines in the Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, when I was traveling in northern Manitoba two years back. Fran told me about her work as a flirting and dating coach. Steve Cantor and I talked about short and long distance bicycling. As lunch ended I got to chat with Scott Berman about his work and his kids, Ari and Alyssa.

I joined Annette Kaplan on a hike around the lake. Annette and I found Tess Liebersohn, Barbara Paglione, Lizzy Cantor, Laura Markham and Max Liebersohn heading out on the walk. On the walk I learned that Barbara had attended Pratt Institute, my father’s alma mater, which I understood they bonded over for hours later on (turns out they were at the same high school and junior high as well, Tilden and Meyer Levin). I got to know my fourth cousins, Max and Lizzy (fourth cousins to each other also). I talked with Max about writing, writers, mystery and dystopian literature, and with Lizzy about our respective travels in Scandinavia (she for a semester in Denmark, and I for a month in Norway). Lizzy and I also shared similar feelings toward the environment, society and Judaism, and Max and I, who ten years ago bonded over the Simpsons, now bonded over similar aspirations in writing and our various encounters with things like fantasy or David Foster Wallace.

I played some frisbee and monkey fist (ball of rope slung on a string) with my cousins Aaron Hornick, Andrew Resnik, and Sara Laurentz, with whom I’d joined in a silly game of volleyball earlier before lunch too (Sandy and Linda and Meredith Hornick being present at the volleyball too). Aaron, Andrew and Sara attended the Qi Gong class, and I sat by the pool to hang out with my grandma and read some more Watchmen. Libby Paglione and I hiked into the hills in the hopes of finding where the Appalachian Trail intersected the trails of the Isabella Freedman retreat. Libby conquered the AT 8 years ago, though as Edmund Hillary said, it is not the mountain you conquer, but yourself. I was duly floored to learn that a cousin of mine had hiked the AT, and we had a lot to talk about. She regaled me with what her trip was like, how she dealt with tormenting stress fractures in her feet, and what her college experience was like. I told her about my own personal forays into the nature of Canada, and what school was like in Providence, Rhode Island. Libby works as a landscape architect in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where my family had visited in 2008, so it was exciting to hear about the Teton Mountains and the scenery that we’ve both enjoyed.

When we got back from the hike, I chilled with my grandma a bit more, then joined Ron Jordan to help set up for his stellar wine tasting performance. I had the fun task of helping Ron, his brother Mark, and partner Wendy pour the ten or so wines he’d selected to share with everyone at the Hundredth. My favorite was the Rosé from Provence. A lot of people joked about wine and had a merry time.

After the wine tasting I stumbled over to dinner, where I sat with my uncle and aunt Sandy and Linda Hornick and cousins Meredith, Aaron, Andrew and Sara. I attempted to help Annette decipher the Yiddish caption scrawled on the back of an old photograph, and in the end advised her to have my brother read it, since he was conversational in Yiddish. I talked again with Max Liebersohn about some of the metaphysical and quirky things that interested us, things literary and things scientific. Lizzy Cantor and I talked with the retreat center’s kashrut mashgiach, who said we looked alike (both have Feivel’s eyes, I guess).

Marc Hornick ran a 15-round game of Who Wants to Be a Cantor, with hand-collaged posterboards and difficulty-graded questions about the Society, life in Czarist Minsk province, and general family history and facts. The work and care that went into the Millionare/Cantor game perhaps recalled to some the giant Wheel-of-Fortune wheel my dad crafted decades ago, which used to reside in my grandma’s basement in Seagate, until came Hurricane Sandy.

Aaron Hornick ran a big casino extravaganza, with Andrew Resnik, Josh Berman, Eli Markham Cantor, Josh Greene, Nate Cantor, and Mark Jordan as dealers at the tables. I lost some chips at Texas Hold’ em (though my first hand was a winning full house), then lost more at Roulette, then lost even more at Blackjack. My Grandma Florence was having a blast gambling away her chips at Blackjack. Her strategy was to hit even when ill advised–I told her not to, but she explained she wanted to have fun and play it risky. I doubled my money in the second to last hand, which might’ve made up for all my losses, and then lost the whole pot on the final hand.

At close to 11 pm, we wandered outside to where a bonfire was raging in the retreat’s firepit. I taught Meredith how to spew a mouthful of flammable vodka into the fire, and everyone roasted marshmallows and made smores. I had a pretty deep heart to heart with Aaron Hornick and Sara Laurentz, and we traded tales of romantic woe and life dreams. Eventually the bonfire crowd thinned out. Nate Cantor and I lugged a 100 ice chest full of beer and drinks and then hung out for a while with Mark Jordan at the fire ring. Mark told us of the ways of life in Vermont. A mist filled the lake and blotted out the sky and the trees, and drenched the grass but not us since we were warm round the fire.

At the last meal, I sat with Mady Cantor and we traded ideas about prayer and our relationships to God. I talked Tess about her spiritual and ideological affinity to goats. I told her about the Ovine-oriented book I was reading, called A Wild Sheep Chase. On the way out of the compound, my mom, Rosalyn Davidoff, and I stopped to see the goats, which obligingly bleated and baahh’d and licked my hands and vied to get petted. They were adorable and frolicked from one patch of shrubs to another.

Eran Hornick
Brighton, MA