George's Guardian Angels

Sketch of George Ginsberg
Artist Unknown
My grandfather was watched over by angels. 

He was a natural story teller who had a remarkable life. I was always convinced that he had many guardian angels watching over him as he boarded a boat from Leningrad to America in 1910. He was 10 years old. 

Pop would tell stories about his photography business in Philadelphia (Quaker Photo), how much he loved making stuffed cabbage with my Grandma Fannie or his own saga leaving Russia as an orphan without 2 nickels to rub together.  His sense of humor was legendary as he would repeat the same jokes over and over yet he still would get us all to laugh. I can hear my father trying to hold back a giggle at a joke George had told repeatedly for over twenty years. 

One of Pop's Jokes
Did you ever speak to my friend Mike Sass who lived in Baltimore and worked in the peanut business? If you are ever in Baltimore you could look up Mike Sass for peanuts. (read it allowed and you'll get it) George was one of those people that if you met him you would never forget him. 

Pop and my daughter Sarah shared October 4th as a birthday so he has recently been on my mind. Lately, I have also been thinking about stories he used to tell about his sisters. Like most things from my life, I experience them on a personal and emotional level- but there is a fascination with what they can teach me about marketing.

My Great Aunts - the sisters of George Ginsberg from Russia
Elizabeth and Catherine (Kate) were two extraordinary woman of the 20th century. They were older than Pop by several years. When their parents died and they became orphans, his sisters and his remaining family felt that George should go to the U.S. and live with Uncle Henry who could help him get a new life in America. It is the classic immigrant story.

But these sisters were remarkable woman who Pop would honor by sharing stories of their lives with his grandchildren. We knew these great Aunts yet we didn’t have them in our daily lives. My sister did get to meet them on a trip to Russia with my grandparents, but Mitchell and I were not so fortunate.

These women, in the early 20th centuries lived in Russia. They were Jews, they were educated and both were doctors. Catherine was a dentist and Elizabeth was a practicing gynecologist and wrote books on the subject. I always marvel at how amazing it must have been for these woman to overcome such hurdles in life to achieve what they did in St.Petersberg in the early part of the 20th century. What was their daily life like and what type of persistence, hard work and self-confidence would it take for them to achieve such success?

Pop honored and memorialized other important woman in his life like his Aunt Pauline. She was the wife of Uncle Henry, the man who took care of my grandfather at age 10 when he arrived from Russia to Newark, New Jersey. In some respects, Aunt Pauline was like the mother who helped to raise him in his adopted homeland. 

I never really knew Aunt Pauline who died around 1958  when I was 4 years old but it was important for Pop to make sure that we knew about her beauty and sense of social consciousness as she raised funds for Beth Israel Hospital in the 1920 and 1930's in Newark, New Jersey. (the hospital I was born in in 1954). My brother's middle name - Paul- was named in memory of Pauline. 

Aunt Pauline - Uncle Henry's Wife 
My grandfather shared stories about the women in his life by keeping family scrapbooks and helping us know their biographies. Each story documented the life of some very special women who played an important role in his life.  He wanted us to remember them so that they could live on in the hearts of his family long after he was gone. Pop wanted us to celebrate their lives and to guarantee that we never forgot our heritage and female lineage. 

I often think about these women and that their blood runs through the veins of my own daughters Sarah and Fanny. These genes also run through my beautiful nieces Jamie and Georgia and my great niece Juliet named in memory of my father Jack. 

There is such strength baked into the DNA of our family lines that helps me know that my own children, nieces and great niece will have a little bit of these extraordinary woman in their bloodlines.

Pop loved my Grandma Fannie. 

You only had to watch him look at my grandmother to realize this which I got to witness regularly as a young boy. He celebrated her in so many ways both in public and private. In this extraordinary photograph in our albums, Pop wanted to show how much Grandma Fannie's father loved her. The picture tells the story of how my grandmother's father wore a button made from this image on his lapel. Here Grandma Fannie is 13 years old which would make this picture from roughly 1910; the same year my grandfather came to America. 

My grandma Fannie at age 13 circa 1910

Of course, there is another lesson in all of this too. Pop was a terrific marketer although I know he had no idea what marketing was in the traditional sense. What is the lesson from a marketing perspective that I learned about making things stick in the mind?

George Ginsberg

First, tell genuine and authentic stories about real people. It helps you to understand companies or brands by ringing true. The power of authenticity is an under appreciated strategy for marketers. 

Second, document and record with photographs, video, audio and anecdotes so that the stories come to life. Connecting on a visceral level makes you more closely bound when a brand or business touches you deeply and in a way that can be very relevant to your life. Unpacking the rich stories helps paint a vivid picture of people, places and things. 

Third, repeat the stories often so that they sink in and resonant as a core part of your brand and the heritage of your culture, your company or your brand’s DNA.  Make it come to life and show a connection.

George Ginsberg and his two older sisters Catherine and Elizabeth, his Aunt Pauline and his wife Fannie are constant reminders for me of my own family’s wonderful heritage. I love that Pop celebrated his love and admiration for these strong women.  And like George, I too have strong woman in my life who teach me lessons every day. My 85 year old mom Bea, my celestial wife Ra El, my loving sister Diane and my dazzling daughters Sarah and Fanny are all radiant lights in my constellation. 

Weaving other family bloodlines like my sister-in-law Leslie or niece Jessica adds to the rich fabric of my family that is comforted by the love of strong, smart and supportive women. And don't get me started on my nieces Jamie, Georgia and my great niece Juliet. And speaking of Aunts, I know I am starting to sound like my own beloved Aunt Annette. Forgive me.

The Dignity of Women
Sketch of George Ginsberg- artist unknown
Looking at these photographs makes me realize how a part of the message my grandfather was communicating to me and our family was about the dignity of women and how important it is to honor them. He wanted to share this wisdom with me so that I would help spread this message to our family long after he was gone. 

Pop, I hear you.

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