The perks of revisiting the storyboard of The Day Before Creation is that surprising new folk have started to inhabit the landscape, if only in our dreams. In this way, the spirit of my union-organizing rabble-rousing grandfather entered our script, if only for a moment, formless except for his cantankerous character. He had what my father-in-law called “lots of principles and no dough.” Yakov Kimchi —anglicized when he arrived in America to Jack Camhi— from Manastir (that’s what the local Sephardim called it even long after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire). After the fall in 1912, the town came under the jurisdiction of Yugoslavia, and now it’s part of Macedonia. Manastir, like my grandfather, got a name update. The town is now called Bitola. Maybe you’ve been there. Why go on and on about the town? Manastir was a diplomatic town, also called ‘the city of consuls.’ And I think it likely that this influenced my grandfather’s notions of diplomacy, equality, and fairness. He carried the woes and injustices of the world on his shoulders, even at the Sephardi kehila in Los Angeles, when he finally moved even further west. He did refuse, it should be noted, to grow the glorious beard that Josh depicts above because it would have grown in red. And if someone was going to call him a ‘red’ he wanted it to be for the right reasons.
—Mira Z Amiras