The Tale of Two Roses – Reflections for this time between Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut.
This week, I read a powerful Facebook post by Lori Palatnik, a local and national community leader, It read, “Jews have two memorial days: #YomHazikaron to remind us of the cost of having Israel, and #YomHashoah to remind of us the cost of not.”
I am a proud Jewish, Zionist woman. I wear this identity like a badge of honor. This pride is largely due to my greatest Jewish role models; my Bubba Rose Liebman and Grandma Rose Klein. When I was 5 years old, my very New York Bubba sat her grandchildren down in the living room. She said, “I want to tell you a story. Our cousins were part of the founding of the State of Israel. They live on a kibbutz. They wrote a letter to the family in America telling the American cousins that they needed a cow”. Bubba asked us, “How do you send a cow to Israel?” We were small children, coming up with creative answers… “On a boat” my brother said. “Make it a baby cow, it will be easier to travel since it’s small,” I said. My Bubba slammed her hand down on the table and shouted, “NO! You put it in an envelope!!” That was my first lesson in Zionism and philanthropy.
In 7th grade we did a Journey to America family history project. I interviewed my Grandma who grew up in Hungary and was a survivor of Auschwitz. She shared more detail with me during that interview than any of us had expected. In the years that followed, she wrote a short memoir of her experiences. I have her handwritten work. She taught us to be strong and not to crumble in the face of challenges. She emphasized the value of education reminding us all that people can take a lot away from you, but they can never take away your knowledge. This is what ensures Jewish continuity.
On my grandmother’s 16th birthday, her mother (my great grandmother) gave her a gold ring with a blue stone. When my grandmother was put into the ghetto by the nazis, she was wearing the ring. Her childhood friend and neighbor bribed a guard to let her into the ghetto. She smuggled in some bread for my grandmother. There in the ghetto, my grandma took off the ring from her mother and handed it to her non-jewish friend. She said, “I don’t think I need this where I’m going, you keep it. If it’s meant to be, one day, I will get it back from you.” Many, many years later, after the war, a cousin returned to Hungary and retrieved the ring. We now call it the Ring of Mazel. My mom had it for many years and this year, she gave it to me. It is a reminder not only of where we came from but of what we are capable of surviving.
Neither my Bubba or my Grandma were ‘religious’ but their identities were strong. Hard core Zionist beliefs and a value of self-determination were always present along with the idea that we are k’lal yisroel, one family, each responsible, one for the other.
Whether you are a Gesher parent dropping your child off at carpool this morning, or a Grandparent preparing to join us on May 17th for Grandparents Day, or a community member who is involved and supportive of our school in a myriad of ways, you know and understand that our Gesher JDS students are the next generation of Jewish continuity. They ensure that knowledge, Jewish passion, peoplehood, Zionism, and identity thrive long into the future. Your investment in Jewish day school not an investment in a single child, a single school, or a single community, it is an investment in k’lal yisroel, in our who collective Jewish family. May we each remember the past and use it to drive us into the future. Am Yisrael Chai!