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Paul Golin | Yurika Golin
Oral history interview conducted by Abigail Ettelman
August 06, 2013
Call number: 2011.019.052
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: So, now we're recording. It is August 16th, 2013. My name isAbigail Ettelman. And this is an oral history interview for Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations. We are at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont Street, and it's probably about 10:20 in the morning.
PAUL GOLIN: Mm-hmm.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: The narrator is Paul Scott Golin, and Yurika Golin, maidenname Mizuno, is going to be joining us later. So, if you could introduce yourself, and then say your birthday, and just give me -- start telling me a childhood memory.
PAUL GOLIN: Sure, my name is Paul Golin. And my birth date is [date redactedfor privacy] I was born on Staten Island, New York. And a childhood memory is my first Halloween costume was Bugs Bunny, and something that younger folks may 1:00not know is that Halloween costumes back then -- so, this was like 1971 or '2, were just plas-- hard plastic face masks with an elastic band around it. And then, just a plastic smock that you wore over your neck like a little poncho. And that was it. And every -- and they came in a box. And it was exciting, because there was nothing better. And it got incredibly hot inside that mask, because it didn't breathe. So, your breath -- the condensation of your breath would cool in the chin part of the mask, and every so often you'd have to, like, lift it and let the condensation kind of drip out. So, (laughter) that -- I don't know why that's my first childhood memory, but that's what it is.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: That was pretty gross. (laughter)
PAUL GOLIN: (laughter) And, you know, I'm sure -- I have a one-year-old now, andI'm sure when he's ready for Halloween, he'll have some kind of advanced 2:00costume. But I'll be nostalgic for those old costumes. And there's probably a whole market for them eBay, frankly. I should check that out.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: I definitely remember those, even though I'm not -- I was notborn when you were born. I definitely remember having one of those around the house, and them being just so uncomfortable to wear.
PAUL GOLIN: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: So, we're on Halloween. So, let's talk about your family at Halloween.
PAUL GOLIN: Sure, well, it wasn't really a family celebration. But you want to-- you want me to talk about my family a little bit?
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: What would they be doing?
PAUL GOLIN: Oh, I think because my mom was first-generation American, and reallynot even born in America -- she came over when she was one -- Halloween was not a holiday that had a tradition in my family. So it, basically, started with me. 3:00So, they did not wear a costume. It was just something that I did because it was what's -- what was going on in my neighborhood with other kids. So, it was a way of, I guess, Americanizing, but it wasn't done in that -- in a conscious way. It's simply, OK, this is a holiday. Everyone around it is celebrating it in this way, so we will also.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: So, where was your mother from?
PAUL GOLIN: My mom was born in a displaced persons camp in Berlin, in 1946. Andshe was in a displaced persons camp because my grandparents -- her parents -- had survived the Holocaust in Poland. They were from Białystok, Poland, and have, kind of, a terrible survival story, as do all survivors of the Holocaust. And lost all of their family on both sides, and as with many survivors in the 4:00displaced persons camp, immediately began a new family, because that was a way to recreate the family that they had lost. And they had had the option of going immediately to Palestine, or get on a waiting list for the US. And my grandmother felt that they had just survived a war, and why would they go to another war zone? So, she wanted to come to the US. So, they had to wait a couple of years in this displaced persons camp. And then, they came over when my mom was one. And then, they had a boy when they were here -- when they got here.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: So, what was your mother's name?
PAUL GOLIN: My mother's name is Susan.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: [00:05:00] And her brother?
PAUL GOLIN: Alan. And he passed away at the much-too-early age of 52.5:00
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: Wow.
PAUL GOLIN: Yeah. So, my grandmother actually lost three children -- becauseshe died after him, yeah -- one right when the war was starting; one during the war; and then, one as an adult, years later. So, it was very tough for her.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: Did you mom talk a lot about this, when you were young?
PAUL GOLIN: No. My mom never really discussed it. And I don't know how muchshe knew. My grandmother brought it up pretty frequently, but only very specific things. She didn't speak about it in depth. And at a certain point, I did sit down with her, with a video camera, and asked her to tell her story, which she did, which I have yet to watch and transcribe. But I still have it. And, you know, hope to get to that, especially now that I have a child. That's something I want to be able to share with him one day. 6:00
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: Absolutely. So, that's all right. So, that's your mother'sfamily. And that's a really intense, amazing history.
PAUL GOLIN: Yeah.
ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: So, thank you for sharing that. What about your father's sideof the family?
PAUL GOLIN: So, my parents split up when I was very young. I don't remember mydad ever even living with us. So, I know him, though. I knew him, and I knew his parents. And his -- my s-- my dad's side of the family came to America in the 1880s from Kiev, Ukraine, in the big wave of Jewish immigration -- the first really big wave of Jewish immigration. And so, in a lot of ways, even though 7:00both my parents were Ashkenazi Jewish, theirs was a kind of intermarriage, I always think, because my dad's family was so established already. And his dad -- my grandfather -- owned part of a dry-cleaner business. And they were upper middle class. And my mom's parents got to the US with basically nothing. Both my mom's parents went to work as tailors. They were in the union, and just saved. You know, didn't spend any money on themselves, ever. Saved up, sent their kids to college, and got their family into the upper middle class within one generation. But they, themselves, certainly, were very old-world. And my dad's grandparents were very new world. And so, I don't -- I don't know if that's what led to their breakup or not. Probably not. But I always felt a 8:00very big contrast between my sets of grandparents.
So -- and because we're talking about Brooklyn, both of my grandparents lived inBrooklyn when I was growing up. And my dad's parents moved to Florida when I was fairly young. And both my parents grew up in Brooklyn, and met in Brooklyn. And so, you know -- so I don't have a ton of memories. But I -- you know, the memories I have of my dad's side of the family were from my childhood. And so, for example, we had these massive Passover Seders at my grandmother's brother's house -- my dad's mom's brother -- in Westchester. And, you know, I certainly have vivid memories of those. And it was old-school. Like, they took the 9:00Haggadah -- the Passover Seder book -- and went through it line by line. So, it was like an hour and a half before anybody ate anything, and it was pretty torturous. So -- but, you know-- (laughter) So, now, when we do our 20-minute abbreviated Passover Seders, I think back to those long Seders. And it wasn't just that it felt really long because I was a kid. I mean, I would -- they literally went through it line by line.
And so, I have memories of Brooklyn as a child also, particularly of mygrandmother -- my mom's mom's house, because once parents split up and I was raised by my mom, she, at a certain point, wanted to start dating again. So, every Saturday night my sister and I would sleep over my grandmother's house. 10:00So, I have pretty vivid memories of those, and my grandmother spoiling us. And just, you know, I believe that she lived on East 55th Street in Flatbush. And so, this was the '70s, and when her neighborhood flipped, she fled. She was part of the massive white flight that took place there, and she moved to Staten Island. And it's something that I think about, actually, because -- in part because of my work. And in general, I do think about -- and because I'm interracially married I think about the issues of race and that, you know, my family is part of that white-flight legacy of Brooklyn. And it's just -- you know, I'm just conflicted about it. Because it was based on racial fears, no 11:00question, but also, you know-- And there are, and were, a couple of older Jewish folks who held out and continue to live there, as there are still, to this day. But, you know, it -- my grandmother came from a time and a place. And she was -- suffered as much as anybody ever for -- from a type of hatred -- anti-Semitism. And yet, the -- that -- God, I don't want to say milieu, but that whole environment of racial or ethnic hatred was absorbed by her, because that's just what existed, and that's what she grew up in. And so, she still had it. And so, even though she suffered the worst out of anybody for it, you know, 12:00and still lived -- obviously people who died suffered worse, but she survived. She still had it, and she was a product of that society. And so, when one person or two people on her block sold their houses to black families, she was out of there immediately. And, of course, she sold to a black family. Like, that's how entire neighborhoods just flipped. And, you know, should she have been, like principled and remained on the block as the only white, elderly Jew? You know, I can't say that. That was her life, and that's a kind of a big thing to ask. So, when I think about the whole dynamics of white flight, it's just a very complicated situation. And it's easier to sit back and say, "How could that have happened? How could you have let that happen? What was the big deal?" And it's another thing to actually be that person, be from that time, 13:00and make the decision that "I'm going to stay."
But, since I'm rambling toward -- rambling on a theme, my stepfather-- So, mymom remarried also, when I was still fairly young -- I was in fifth grade when she remarried, and they had been dating already for several years. So, my stepdad came into my life by the time I was in first grade. And he was also born and raised in Brooklyn, but he was almost a decade older than my mom. So, he's very much from a different generation. He was born in '39. His name -- his name is Jack Bender. And he -- it took a really long time before he really became my dad. But now he's absolutely -- you know, he's my dad, even though I call him Jack. So, he is a dentist, and was working -- living in Brooklyn, 14:00working in Coney -- Canarsie. And the neighborhood flipped also from all white Jews to black. I believe now there's a lot of folks from the Caribbean. And he stayed. His office -- he stayed in his office. And that -- I don't know. You know, I don't think that was a principled choice either. I think -- I don't know. I haven't spoken to him about why he stayed and not -- and didn't, like, move his practice to Staten Island and serve a bunch of folks who would have probably -- you know, he probably could have made more money that way. But he stayed. And he's still there today. And I see his interaction with the community there, and he's beloved, I think. You know, from what I see with his patients, they absolutely love him. And he treats everyone as individuals. And 15:00I'm proud of that. But also he, then, drives home to his white, Staten Island suburb. So, it is and it isn't a success story, I guess, of racial integration. But he stayed. And the neighborhood flipped. And he became a part of that community. So-- ABIGAIL ETTELMAN: That i 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00 21:00 22:00 23:00 24:00 25:00 26:00 27:00 28:00 29:00 30:00 31:00 32:00 33:00 34:00 35:00 36:00 37:00 38:00 39:00 40:00 41:00 42:00 43:00 44:00 45:00 46:00 47:00 48:00 49:00 50:00 51:00 52:00 53:00 54:00 55:00 56:00 57:00 58:00 59:00 60:00 61:00 62:00 63:00 64:00 65:00 66:00 67:00 68:00 69:00 70:00 71:00 72:00 73:00 74:00 75:00 76:00 77:00 78:00 79:00 80:00 81:00 82:00 83:00 84:00 85:00 86:00 87:00 88:00 89:00 90:00 91:00 92:00 93:00 94:00 95:00 96:00 97:00 98:00 99:00 100:00 101:00 102:00 103:00 104:00 105:00 106:00 107:00 108:00 109:00 110:00 111:00 112:00 113:00 114:00 115:00 116:00 117:00 118:00 119:00 120:00 121:00 122:00 123:00 124:00 125:00 126:00 127:00 128:00 129:00 130:00 131:00 132:00 133:00 134:00 135:00 136:00 137:00 138:00 139:00 140:00 141:00 142:00 143:00 144:00 145:00 146:00 147:00 148:00 149:00 150:00 151:00 152:00 153:00 154:00 155:00 156:00 157:00
0:28 - Paul's introduction and parents' backgrounds
13:24 - Mother's remarriage and stepfather's background
17:31 - Cultural diversity and gentrification in Brooklyn
32:04 - Courtship with Yurika and marriage
46:26 - Religious and cultural upbringing of their son, Elliot
50:22 - Career and involvement with the Jewish community
55:48 - Familial and professional aspirations
62:13 - Yurika's introduction and childhood in Tokyo, Japan
65:41 - Travel to New York City and career in Japan
69:01 - Religious and cultural identity
71:08 - Courtship with Paul and attending college in Brooklyn
78:39 - Marriage to Paul and family dynamics
88:53 - Settling in Park Slope and raising Elliot in the Jewish faith
94:41 - Elliot's exposure to Japanese culture
101:53 - Participation in Jewish traditions, including Elliot's bris
107:13 - Moving to New York and September 11 terrorist attacks
113:44 - Paul and Yurika's courtship
120:24 - Paul's visit to Japan
123:55 - Paul's advocacy toward a diverse Jewish community
130:48 - Negotiating cultural and spiritual differences in their marriage
139:43 - Christmas celebrations in their Jewish household
154:35 - Interracial marriage and conclusion
Oral History Interview with Paul Golin and Yurika Golin
Yurika is from Tokyo, Japan, and Paul is from Staten Island, New York City, but his parents are from Brooklyn and they currently live in Park Slope. Paul is 44 and Yurika is 34, while their son Elliot is turning one soon. Yurika's family is Japanese and not religious, while Paul's family is Ashkenazic Jewish. Yurika works as a flight attendant, which she studied for at Baruch College in Brooklyn, while Paul went to the University of Michigan and is the associate executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute. Yurika is female and Paul is male.
In his individual interview, Paul talks about his family history. Both sides are Ashkenazic Jewish, but came to the United States under different circumstances. His father's family came in the 1880s during a great wave of Jewish immigration and thus were settled and middle class by the time his father met his mother. His mother's family was essentially just his grandparents in a refugee camp after living through the Holocaust, where his mother was born after the rest of their family had been killed. They came with nothing and built themselves up. His mother and father left Brooklyn for Staten Island when it was just farms, where he grew up. He returned to live in Manhattan after going to college in Michigan, where he met Yurika (after their second meeting, beginning a long distance relationship when she went back to Japan) and began to work in nonprofits that focuses on Jewish communal work. In her individual interview, Yurika talks about growing up in Tokyo and wanting to live in New York her whole life. She also wanted to be a flight attendant, so she studied tourism. When visiting NYC at 18 to improve her English, she met Paul in a bar across from his apartment. He was the only "normal" one there, so they talked and went on a date before she went back to Japan. She called him when she was in the city again, which led to their long distance relationship. She talks a lot about raising her son Elliot and how she wants him to feel a sense of her culture by spending time with her family in Japan and learning the language. She also discusses feeling like she doesn't know enough about Judaism to raise a Jewish child (or children), but also knowing that if she converted, it wouldn't change anything "in her soul." At the end of the interview, they know that they have in common a desire for their children to know and love the diversity within their family. Their interview together talks a great deal about this as well as touching on the differences between them that could be attributed to culture.
The recorder malfunctioned halfway through their shared interview, so what should have been an hour is actually around 33 minutes. Both of their individual interviews are fine.
CitationGoldin, Paul | Golin, Yurika, Oral history interview conducted by Abigail Ettelman, August 06, 2013, Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection, 2011.019.052; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Goldin, Paul
- Golin, Yurika
- Education, Higher
- Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
- Interfaith families
- Japanese Americans
- Jews, American -- New York (State) -- Kings County
- Racially mixed families
- September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)
- Tokyo (Japan)
- United States
Finding AidCrossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection