Monday, September 6, 2010

A Happy, Sweet New Year - שנה טובה ומתוקה

A friend of mine happens to be in Poland on business. When he originally told me the name of the town in which the trade show is being held, it didn’t ring any bells. Later, though, when I thought about it again, I realized I did know the name of this town: Kielce. And not for good reasons. I asked what he knew about the town, and he came back, almost immediately with, “there was a massacre there.” Actually, there were two massacres there: a massacre of children during the war, and then a pogrom (yes, a pogrom)  after the war. Not a nice town. Someplace you would rather be from, and even then, you'd probably not want to admit it.

Anyway, he emailed to tell me he was driving through the town, came upon the memorial to the Jews of Kielce…those who died in the liquidation of the Ghetto, the massacre of the children, and finally the pogrom... and took a picture. I was very touched, and told him he’d performed the mitzvah of kever avot, visiting the graves, an important thing during this week leading up to the Yamim Nora’im. 

I’m not sure he fully understood the importance of what he’d done.

Lots of people know what happened in Kielce, but I am equally certain that those who have direct memories of the children who were murdered in 1943 as well the those who were murdered in the death camps, and in the pogrom of 1946 are fewer and fewer every year. That my gentile friend knew that there had even been a massacre there was almost a relief…that we were not the only ones to remember. That he’d stopped because he knew what had happened in that town, that he stopped to take a photo and send it to me were acts of kindness and remembrance for those who have no one left to remember, either collectively or individually. Jews touring the camps and monuments are not enough; the events need to be remembered by everyone who is repulsed by acts of genocide and wholesale destruction of cities, towns, and communities.

This week, I will perform the mitzvah of kever avot when I go to my husband’s grave. I will say El Moleh Rachamim, and I will place a little rock upon the headstone to show I’ve been there. I’ll probably catch him up on the news, and I’ll be sure to mention Favre is back in purple. And while I’ll listen closely to hear if he says, “F*#king Vikings, they’re just gonna break my heart again,” I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ll hear is the breeze in the trees, and the sound of my own heart breaking all over again. 

When we take a moment to recall those who came before us, they live again in that moment. Whether it’s the children of the Kielce massacre, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, they all take another breath as we invoke their names. In that moment they are more than memories; we hear their voices, see their smiles, and feel the hole they’ve left on our souls.

I will go on missing the salty sound of Steve’s running commentary on life. And I will go on, one ear cocked, just in case he has an opinion he’d like to share.

Tip o' the Week 
Take a moment to think on those who have gone on,
and remember that without them, you wouldn't be who you are. 

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