Tag Archives: heritage

Leaving Yad Va Shem

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Though in the background the shadow people linger,
six million and more of them,
Here we stand, three generations:
the present moving toward the future.

Evil did not triumph.
The Third Reich turned to dust.
Their empire in ashes,
As were their victims.

Goodness prevailed
Though the cost was beyond measure.
Who can comprehend the savage brutality?

Who can deny that it happened?
What is in a hand?
What is in a name?
The fingerprint of humanity.
The identity of a soul.

Once Upon A Time: Linking Generations

Three of our grandchildren have had Heritage projects this year. It was great for us to talk with them about our parents and grandparents and our growing up years. I appreciate the schools for creating assignments like this that open lines of communication that might not have been there otherwise.

Quinn’s project was quite extensive necessitating emails with cousins and friends who are into genealogy. I even tapped into Ancestry.com. Quinn and I had gone through old pictures last summer and she’d scanned two hundred of them into the computer. (I paid her $11 an hour—minimum wage, right?) Ten of the photos were from a Family Tree project that Jennifer, our daughter, had done in high school way back when. I’d dismantled the Family Tree poster but kept the photos and information about each person.

from the 1980's Family Tree project

from the 1980’s Family Tree project

Quinn’s project was centered around where her ancestors had immigrated from to America. Most of my grandparents came from Russia so that was the country she focused on.

Shtetl

Shtetl

I had to explain that because they were Jewish, some were forced to live in shtetls, Jewish towns away from cities. All my grandparents fled from religious persecution and made their ways to America.

 

Quinn's great-great grandparents

Quinn’s great-great grandparents

The culmination of Quinn’s project was a Heritage Fair in March. The students put on an hour presentation about their different countries of origin. I was fer klempt, of course, through the whole thing. It was very touching.

Eli’s project involved interviewing me on Skype. He asked me ten or twelve questions about my parents, who are both deceased. One of the questions was: Describe your mother and then your father in three sentences. That was interesting and not easy.

My parents are on the left. My grandparents are in the middle. My uncle and aunt are on the right. This is in the Fifties.

My parents are on the left. My grandparents are in the middle. My uncle and aunt are on the right. This is in the Fifties.

Another question was: If you could tell your parents three things about now, what would you say. I said, “I’d tell them that they have fabulous great-grandchildren who they’d have loved to know, and that they’d be so proud of them. I’d tell them about some of the new inventions—that I’d just texted from an airplane over the Pacific Ocean. I’d tell them about us Skyping! I’d tell them there were problems in the world that they could never have imagined.” After I’d answer his question, Eli would comment and then we’d talk a bit. I doubt I’d ever have told him these things if he hadn’t had the assignment.

Last week our oldest grandson interviewed my husband. Garrett is taking US History and they’ve actually made it through the Fifties and into the Sixties. (My US History classes barely made it past the Industrial Revolution.) Garrett wanted to know what it was really like to grow up in the Fifties.

Cool fraternity guys in the early 60's.

Cool guys in the Fifties.

Garrett also wanted to know if Daddo had served during the Vietnam War so Moe got to tell his Air Force Reserve stories—the ones that are funny and cool.

Moe in the Air Force National Guard.

Moe in the Air Force National Guard.

As I said, it’s been wonderful sharing our experiences with the grandchildren. They seem to like hearing about them, too. Yesterday I took Quinn to lunch and during the conversation I ended up telling her about the time the Black Panthers set Meany on fire when I was teaching there. Her eyes got round with astonishment. I felt a little like Sally Field: Quinn liked my story—she really liked my story!!!

Classic Fifties pose.

Classic Fifties pose.

I remember hearing that old people liked to reminisce. It’s true—I’m loving it. And loving the grandchildren for caring to listen!

 

The Jewish New Year: 5775

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Rosh Hashana is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It translates from the Hebrew into Head of the Year. Several people have asked me what the holiday is like. For our family, we will have a big dinner at our house tonight and tomorrow we will go to the synagogue. At our dinner, we have a mini-service and eat the traditional foods from the recipes handed down through the generations. Apples and honey play a prominent part, symbolizing the sweet things of life. The shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown, signalling the ancients’ way of announcing the beginning of the holiday. At my house (once a teacher always a teacher) we will fill out a worksheet that asks, what can I do for my family, my community, and the world to make it a better place?

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Every year I write a little something. I will share with you this year’s.

 Rosh Hashanah   5775

Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5775.

We celebrate

our love for family and all humanity,

our desire to help our fellow man,

our hope to be the best people we can be,

our prayers for peace in the world.

We celebrate by reflecting on our past year. We remember the good things we have done, and the bad things we have done. We make a pledge to be better people—to do more good things—to put our words into action. Life is not a game of perfect. Just like golf, we will make some mistakes. But we never give up.

We have ten days to think about who we are and who we want to be. We search our inner selves We slow down for a day to take stock. This is something our great-grandmothers and grandfathers did, as well. We carry on the heritage and connect with the generations before us.. In these Ten Days of Awe, we center ourselves by remembering we are not the sum of our accomplishments or the amount of our possessions. No, we are human beings who are moral at our core. We remember also to be grateful for what we have, especially our families and good health.

On Yom Kippur we ask for guidance and forgiveness of ourselves and of those who have wronged us. Every year we pray that all people can learn to do this so that hatred and prejudice will disappear. We pray that war will be no more—that people will not be power hungry and greedy. This year, we have seen the opposite. In Syria and in Gaza we saw that children were used as human shields. We saw many people cut down in war. We saw anti-semitism rear its ugly head. We saw ISIS emerge with its desire to control the world and destroy all people who do not believe exactly as they do. We saw prejudice and hatred against Blacks, Jews, Muslims and other minorities right here in our country. All this is troubling and frightening.

This year:

Our prayers for peace are even more important.

Our courage to stand up and be counted is even more important.

Our connection to each other is even more important.

Our commitment to learning the facts and not falling for stereotypes is even more important.

Life is a series of contrasts—the bitter and the sweet. Tonight, at the beginning of the year, we won’t worry about the bitter.

Tonight, it is all sweetness: HONEY and APPLES.