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Posts Tagged ‘auschwitz’

Yesterday was an emotional day. My 2nd son returned from a week-long trip called March of the Living in Poland. As I have written before, the March of the Living is an educational trip for Jewish youth to teach them about their heritage and about the horrors that occurred in the Holocaust up close by visiting the concentration camps.

The parents of all the students were asked by the school to come and meet their children at the Kotel (also known as the Western or Wailing Wall). Our kids traveled directly from the airport to the Western Wall. The reason for that is because for Jews, the Western Wall is our most holy site. The sharp contrast the kids feel from standing one day in Auschwitz at the site of the concentration camp where hundreds of thousands out of the 6,000,000 Jews were annihilated, and the next day to be standing at the Western Wall, the most holy of all Jewish sites is surreal.

I hadn’t seen my son for a week. Even though I knew it was an emotional trip, I didn’t think that I was going to be emotional when I first saw him. In the past I have gone periods of time longer than a week without him being home or seeing him, so this wasn’t so unusual.

We waited patiently until the students proudly came down the steps singing and carrying the Israeli flag into the courtyard in front of the Western Wall. I saw the flag, heard the singing, saw my son and I was a fountain of emotions.

I felt a rush of love for my son, for my people and my country. I realized how nice it was to see my son even though during the past week his absence at home was not that pronounced. I became acutely aware of how much I actually had missed him despite not realizing it.

This trip really drove home to my son what it means to be Jewish and how important his history and heritage is. It reminded him of how lucky he is and how important it is for us to have a country to be proud of and call our own.

For me the colors of blue and white represent love and pride. The colors of the Israeli flag are the same colors as the resplendent sea and the gossamer white clouds floating against the backdrop of a blue sky.

Blue and white reminds me of the sky and the sea. At times it can be tranquil and peaceful. At other times it can be tempestuous. But like the sea and the sky it is always beautiful.

No matter what, blue and white is in my heart and makes be feel proud and at home. Proud to be Jewish and proud to live in my country.

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This post was inspired by the prompt of color at Gallery Week 3 run by Tara at Sticky Fingers.

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Writing.
(Photo courtesy of Caitlin Regan )

We always think there is going to be time to ask questions, time to hear answers. Somehow we don’t seem to make the time to delve a bit more deeply into our parents’ and grandparents’ childhood, youth and adulthood, all those years before we met them.

We always think there will be time for questions. We think that until we realize there is no more time. We think there will be time until someone is abruptly taken from us, or until their memory is slowly robbed by dementia.

My 18 year old son is leaving in a few days on a trip to Poland called March of the Living. It is an educational trip for Jewish youth to teach them about their heritage and about the horrors that occurred in the Holocaust up close by visiting the concentration camps.

As part of the preparation for the trip, the youth are encouraged to ask their relatives who lived through the Holocaust about their experiences. I specifically invited my grandmother for the Sabbath this weekend so that we would have an opportunity to talk to her about her experiences in the concentration camp.

It was not easy asking her questions. Not so much because of the emotions (which did surprise me), but because there was so much she didn’t remember or that she was confused about. As we were sitting at the Sabbath table at lunch I started asking questions. She could not remember. When I asked her the same question a few minutes later, she would give me the answer. I had my 18 year old a bit confused because I asked the same question over and over and he did not understand why I kept repeating myself.

My grandmother ended up recalling the line ups early every morning no matter what the weather. She told us about her mother being yanked away from her and never seeing her ever again. She told us about the Russian with the big curly moustache who liberated them and told them the war was over and they were free. We learned that she had been in Birkenau not Auschwitz like we had thought. She told us that those two camps were one next to another.

So we learned some, but it was evident to me about how much of her history we would never know, how much is lost in her memory and how much information would die with her. As a child I remember doing a report about my grandparents. I am upset I didn’t redo it again as an adult. A few years ago I tried going through my grandmother’s albums with her because there where many people I didn’t recognize. By the time I asked it was really too late. She didn’t know to tell me about many of the pictures.

Through my blogging I have started writing about my experiences these days. I am now thinking that I should sit down and write an autobiography of sorts. Something that my kids can read when they are older and have questions. As an ER nurse I am all too aware of the fact that you never know when your time will be up. How many times have I heard relatives wail over the death of a family member and say “But she was just on her way to work.”

What I want everyone to do is to remember there isn’t always time. Take the time now to ask your parents and grandparents lots of question. Videotape them, write about their experiences, ask them about the old photos in their albums.

Your parents and grandparents are part of your heritage. In Judaism there is a saying that says:
“The deeds of our ancestors are a model for future generations.”
I think that holds true for everyone. There is much to be learned from our parents and grandparents. From their trials, successes and even mistakes. We just have to remember to ask for the information before it is too late. Hopefully you will even be lucky and still have decades to learn and experience even more with your parents and grandparents. That would be an added bonus.

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P.S. This was not meant to be a depressing sad post. It was just to make us realize that some things should just not be pushed off.

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Word To Mother
(Photo courtesy of Paolo )

Never and Always. Two words that are hardly ever accurate. I say hardly ever, because of course I can’t possibly say they are never accurate. That would just be a bit of an ironic twist.

Back in my younger years, (you know, like 5 years ago) when I was sufficiently naive and not yet jaded aware of how life really works, I still believed in the words always and never. I had complete faith in myself about my convictions and I had complete faith in my opinion of other people’s personalities and strengths. Nothing could change my opinions and the things I believed to be true would always be so. Or so I thought at the time.

Sadly, the world has changed. Not just for myself but in general. With new scandals right and left by people you can’t believe would or could ever have done the things attributed to them, you kind of lose your faith. You start to see that in essence, you cannot completely trust anyone or anything.

Never and always are two words that are just about impossible to use correctly or honestly. I have been racking my brains to see if there was any instance that they can be used correctly and the only thing I came up with was a sentence similar to the following one.

I have never eaten Pork. I know that to be true because I am Jewish and keep kosher. So to the best of my knowledge as long as no one pulled a fast one on me at some point during my life, I can honestly say that as far as I know I have never eaten Pork. (Hmm, even there I had to qualify my use of never.)

I also do tend to have a chuckle when some women use the word always in a sentence like this one: I always have great pregnancies. Lots of times I have heard that from women after only two pregnancies. Okay….so always in your two pregnancies you felt fine. Even with my 5 pregnancies, I don’t really think always is the right word. To me at least, it seems that always is a word you use after hundreds of times of doing something and even then I don’t like it because maybe the next time will be different. Next time may be the one to change your mind about how things are done and it won’t be always anymore.

Or maybe it is just me. My actual problem with the words are more in the context of sentences like: I will always….or he would never….

I used to believe that you could say with certainty about certain people that they would never do a specific thing or that someone would always love you. Over the years, I have changed my mind.

Mind you, I am not in any way saying that I have lost all hope for humanity or that I think the world is a horrible place. Not at all. I am just being realistic because I have realized that faced with certain situations, anyone can be capable of anything.

I hear the gasps of disbelief. No way! I would never kill anyone! I will always love my kids and spouse. For most of us, I believe that will probably be true. What I am saying though is that there may be some of us who for some reason or another are pushed into a corner and make decisions we thought we would never be capable of making.

Just for the sake of argument, if you had to kill someone to protect your child, I am sure most of us would have a hard time letting our child die when we could have taken some action. I hope none of us ever need to make that decision.

I started pondering this topic because my 18 year old son is leaving next week on a school trip to Poland called March of the Living. It is an educational program that brings Jewish youth from all over the world to Poland where they visit different concentration camps. There is a march of the living which takes place on the actual route many Jews were forced on a march of death into the gas chambers. The goal of the March of the Living is to lead these Jewish youth into the future vowing NEVER AGAIN. While as a Jew I truly hope this will be the case, history has shown us otherwise. Never is a word with really big shoes that are hard to fill.

I have two grandmothers who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. I grew up hearing both at school and at home, many horror stories of what went on during the Holocaust. The stories that stuck with me the most were the stories of mothers who were forced to choose between their children. They were faced with the impossible choice of deciding who would stay with them and live and who would be taken from them and be killed. That is a choice any parent would say they could never make. Yet parents did make the choice when faced with losing all their children if they did not.

Auschwitz
(Photo courtesy of Bill Hunt )

My point in all of this was not to detail all the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust or that happen in the world these days. It was to point out that we cannot be certain about anything we might do or feel or say in this life. I don’t think anyone honestly knows for certain what they would never do or if they can be certain they will always do or feel something.

I believe that we can and should lead our lives with certain rules and choices. Obviously we should aim high and set high moral standards for ourselves. What I am also saying is that there really is nothing certain in this life except for death.

I personally have been trying very hard to keep never and always out of my vocabulary. I think we all need to face the fact that 100% certainty about anything in life is non existent. I think people would not fail in general and not fail us personally quite as much if we stop holding them to the impossible standard set by the use of the words always and never.

I know this post has been a deep and a bit somber one but my point was that we really should be careful with the words we chose, the generalizations we make and the people we put on pillars.

I would be curious to know how many of us have had a never or always belief shattered. I know I have.

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