By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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A living 5-generation family tree

Photos by David K. Yamamoto / Special to The Star Five generations of women in one family include, from left, great-grandmother Ronnie Greenberg, grandmother Debbie Blumenthal, mother Nicole "Nicki" Berk and great-great-grandmother Diane Steinberg, who holds Ellie Berk, 6 months. They are gathered at Blumenthal's residence in Newbury Park.

Women rely on each other for help, values

May 19, 2008/Ventura County Star

At 91, Diane Steinberg is honored to be the oldest of five generations of women in her family.

"It's incredible that there are five generations of women," said Steinberg, great-grandmother of eight and great-great-grandmother of one. "To even think of it brings the biggest smile on my face. I truly am blessed."

Steinberg is the matriarch of the five generations.

Her daughter Ronnie Greenberg, 70, is the mother-in-law of Debbie Blumenthal, 47; grandmother of Nicole "Nicki" Berk, 21; and great-grandmother of Berk's 6-month-old daughter, Ellie.

Steinberg and Greenberg, both New York natives, now live in Woodland Hills; the three younger generations, all California natives, live in the Conejo Valley.

Mother's Day, typically celebrated at a beach in Ventura with a potluck barbecue, is a beloved time for the family, Steinberg said.

Big picnics

"Our favorite is having a picnic in the park with all the children and their friends," said Steinberg, a retired bookkeeper. "It's a big, big picnic."

Greenberg said age is no factor when they all take part in family festivities throughout the year. "We just meld into being with each other," said the travel writer, who has eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

One thing they share is that each had her first child before age 21, "and to see the difference in each generation is beautiful," Greenberg said.

"It is incredible to see and be close to each other," she said. "Each generation was definitely supportive of the other generations and helped mold their futures. Today, the newer generation does the same for the older ones."

Blumenthal, of Newbury Park, early childhood education director at Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks, said having five generations of women in one family has its share of perks.

"After my granddaughter Ellie Rose was born, Rabbi (Richard) Spiegel invited our five generations to the synagogue for a very special baby-naming ceremony," recalled Blumenthal, an Agoura High graduate. "The entire congregation was in awe of all of us."

Naturally, they all look up to Steinberg, the "head mother" in their family, Blumenthal said.

"Nan is such an amazing role model for all of us; she is so smart," Blumenthal said. "We all call her for answers to our crossword puzzles. And she is definitely famous for her tuna fish. She never stops reminding all of us of the importance of family and how much we all depend on each other."

Holiday gatherings are a time when family members browse through old photographs and talk about past vacations, as well as other special moments they've experienced together.

Blessings counted

"Everyone knows that if you need to cry on a shoulder, ask advice or even tell something funny that has happened during your day, there is a mom or grandmother to talk to," Blumenthal said.

"We are thankful that we have our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents with us, and we count each day together as a blessing," she said. "The bonding of the women in this family is very special and very strong. We are always there for each other."

They also share the same Jewish values, family values and traditions, Blumenthal added.

"A huge part of what bonds us is our religion," she said.

The women in the family are responsible for coordinating all the holidays, celebrations and family events — most recently the Passover holiday and two Seders.

"Ronnie and Nan have taught me about following the Jewish traditions and holiday celebrations," Blumenthal said. "They have shared recipes and family stories. They have shown me how important these traditions are and how it helps to keep our family together."

Not many adults can say they have not only a grandma but a great-grandma, said Berk, whose daughter Ellie was born Nov. 10.

"All of them have impacted my life in some way or another," said the Newbury Park student, who graduated from Westlake High.

"They are all smart, strong, loving and kind people," she said. "We always find an event to celebrate together."

Her great-grandma is one of the smartest people she has ever met, Berk said.

"She insists on cooking us dinner without letting us help, she can answer any questions to crossword problems, and she isn't afraid to argue with you," Berk said. "The most important thing I've cherished from her, though, is that she's taught me about our family's history."

As Ellie grows up, "I hope that she treasures all the memories and special times she has spent with the family," Berk said.

"I will teach her the important value of family, just as I was taught."

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