October 22, 2019

Never Forget – The Victims and the Prevailers

One of the great honors of my life was being born into a family where all four of my grandparents survived and PREVAILED the Shoah (the Holocaust in Hebrew).  One can draw a straight line between my strong Jewish perspective today and their experience in Europe.

I remember growing up at a table where stories about the war were common and the Nazis weren’t just bad guys from the Indiana Jones movies.  I remember growing up in a family where my parents never knew their grandparents and we weren’t fazed by the numbers on my grandmother’s arm.  I remember growing up listening to Yiddish stories that often ended in tears.  I remember thinking it was all normal and that the people around that table would last forever.

Unfortunately, three of my grandparents have passed away.  And fortunately, I still have one grandmother alive and well.  My kids love talking to Gramma Fay and I love listening to my kids listening to her.  When my Gramma Fay speaks, my kids get to hear Torah directly from Sinai.  They gather wisdom from their ancestors.  And it always comes along with ice cream.

In some ways, Yom HaShoah for me is about memorializing my more than two hundred relatives who were murdered by the hands of the Nazis and their European accomplices.  In other ways, Yom HaShoah is a day when I can call Gramma Fay and listen.  I dread the day when that is no longer possible.

That is why I found it so troubling when I recently read an article (below) by Galia Glasner-Heled that stated that one out of every four survivors living today in Israel lives in poverty.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Then, I found another article from last year that said the same statistic was true for Prevailers in America as well.

How could that be true?!  One out of four living in poverty.  The Jewish People can do better.  We must do better.

On Yom HaShoah, many Jews concern themselves with lighting candles and attending memorials.  We cry about the past.  Judaism is not only a religion about remembering the past – It is also a call to action to honor the present.  Judaism is a system of mitzvot and acts of loving kindness and responsibilities.  Perhaps our time and efforts would be better spent actually taking care of those who prevailed and whose very existence prevented the total extinguishment of the flame of Judaism in Europe.  Let us use this Yom HaShoah as a call to action to improve the present for so many suffering Prevailers today.

Yom HaShoah is this Thursday April 16, 2015.  This year, after lighting your candle, please go do something kind for a Prevailer.  Bring them a meal, or introduce them to your children and listen to their story.  Take a picture of your children with a Prevailer.  Save it.  It’ll be a treasure.  They should all be treasured – not only as symbols, but as human beings.

Gramma Fay should be treasured.  Not only by my children, but by Jews everywhere.  I pray that my kids think of Gramma Fay with awe and appreciation – for her love, for her stories and for her ice cream.


To read the articles: