This is Vox Tablet, the weekly podcast of Tablet Magazine, the online Jewish arts and culture magazine that used to be known as Nextbook.org. Our archive of podcasts is available on our site, tablet2015.wpengine.com. Vox Tablet, hosted by Sara Ivry, varies widely in subject matter and sound -- one week it's a conversation with novelist Michael Chabon, theater critic Alisa Solomon, or anthropologist Ruth Behar. Another week brings the listener to "the etrog man" hocking his wares at a fruit-juice stand in a Jersualem market. Or into the hotel room with poet and rock musician David Berman an hour before he and his band, Silver Jews, head over to their next gig. Recent guests include Alex Ross, Shalom Auslander, Aline K. Crumb, Howard Jacobson, and the late Norman Mailer.
Poet and writer Rita Gabis grew up surrounded by grandparents with accents—Russian, Yiddish, Lithuanian. That makes it sound like a familiar Jewish immigrant tale, but it was far from that. While Gabis’s father came from a family of Russian Jews who immigrated to the United States well before WWII, her mother was born in Lithuania. She and her family emigrated in the 1950s. And they were Catholic.
As a child, Gabis was vaguely aware that these two different family backgrounds were at odds with each other. It was as an adult, however, that she came to understand that the divide went much deeper, and that her mother’s father, her beloved Senelis as she called him, had been the chief of security police under the Gestapo in a Lithuanian region that was the site of two massacres—one of Jews and one of Poles.
In A Guest at the Shooter’s Banquet, Rita Gabis describes her search to understand her grandfather’s role in the war. It was a journey that took her to Lithuania, Poland, and Israel. She joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss what piqued her curiosity about her grandfather’s past, the conflicting messages she got as a child about her identity, and why it was important to break the silence about her grandfather’s past.
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