Several weeks ago, when Gary Hyman received an e-mail from his cousin Baruch Axelrod in Tel Aviv, it was the first time he had heard from him in 40 years.
“I was very pleasantly surprised,” Hyman, an accountant from Freehold, said. “I was very excited to hear from him. I was kind of shocked that he was able to locate me.”
In the e-mail, he said, Axelrod wrote: “‘Is this Gary Hyman, the son of Aaron and Bela?’ I wrote back saying, ‘Oh, wow. I can’t believe we’ve reconnected. It’s wonderful to hear from you.’”
The two men are first cousins. Aaron Hyman, Gary’s father, fled his home in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1938. Aaron’s sister Yehudit, Baruch’s mother, had left Frankfurt for Israel three years earlier.
Although brother and sister managed to stay in touch over the decades, their sons met face-to-face only once in the early 1970s, when the Hyman family visited Israel.
Now 70, Axelrod decided to make every effort to reconnect with his 67-year-old American cousin. So the retired chemical engineer went to the Internet for help, but search engines turned up listings for eight “Gary Hymans” in New Jersey alone.
Axelrod honed his hunt with the aid of an Israeli radio program, Hamador L’hipus Krovim (The Searching for Relatives).
Two weeks later, a listener helped locate the correct Gary Hyman in Freehold.
That led the two men to start communicating by e-mail as they renew their relationship gradually, Hyman told NJ Jewish News in a July 22 phone interview.
“I’m hoping we can continue to stay in touch,” said Hyman. “If we go to Israel or they come to the United States, I would love to get together.”
If they do meet again, “more than likely it will be if Baruch comes here, not me going over there,” said Hyman. “It might be a little difficult to recognize him, because, like I said, it’s been 40 years. So I’ll hold up a sign at the airport.”
Hyman is already imagining what the reunion with his cousin will be like.
“It will be nice. We will be reminiscing and hopefully I will have pictures to show him and maybe he’ll bring some pictures to show me, too.”
But in the meantime, they have joined forces to mount a search for another long-lost relative, a cousin named Nadia — the daughter of Moshe, a brother of Aaron and Yehudit — who they believe moved from London to Washington, DC. They believe she is married but don’t know her last name.
“I am an only child, so this is my family,” said Hyman. “It is nice to be in contact with family.”