Jerusalem, 1901 (below): My father’s father, Shlomo Zalmon Solomon, is the five year old boy at lower left wearing a hat, with his left arm on his side. At the center of the table are his parents who ran this ‘soup kitchen.’ His family was poor; the people around them, more so. When he came of age, my grandfather Zalmon was forced into the Axis army during the Great War. He escaped after shooting himself in the leg when sent to the front in Europe. He returned to Jerusalem, a city in chaos during the early years of British occupation, then emigrated to the US in 1923. Zalmon sent for his wife, (my grandmother, Tillie), and two sons, (my father, Emanuel, and my uncle, Lou), within a year. My grandfather was a rabbi, a cantor; a shochet (a slaughterer certified to kill animals according to laws of kashrut); and a labor union organizer.
Our many times great-grandfather, Rabbi Avram Shlomo Zalman (Wikipedia) returned to Jerusalem from Diaspora Lithuania in 1811. He walked with his wife and young children from Keidaniai, Lithuania to Constantinople. From there they eventually found a ship and sailed to Akko. After a sojourn in Tzfat, they progressed, with great difficulty to Jerusalem where after many years he succeeded in rebuilding the Askenazi community there, and leading the work of constructing the Hurva synagogue (Wikipedia) before being killed by an Arab man in 1851. In 2011 my son Ari Solomon and I represented the United States branch of the Solomon family at a celebration marking 200th anniversary of the family’s return to Jerusalem. Over 900 members of the family gathered for the celebration.
My family’s history on my father, and on mother’s side, significantly influences my work as an artist and teacher.
Additional links to the story of Rabbi Avram Shlomo Zalman, the rebuilding of the Hurva Synagogue, and more: The Encyclopedia of the Builders and Pioneers of the Yishuv Yizkor Book; and Solomon Family 200 Year In Israel website.