Never Forget…they’re still hereApril 29, 2014
In 3rd grade, we were given an assignment of creating a “Family Heritage” project – an opportunity for us to learn where we came from and share it with the rest of the class. Every day, a different student would come to the front of the class and share their findings. For one student, it led to a tracing their family lineage back to English royalty circa 1608 complete with a coat of arms. For another student, it meant sharing how they were related to Billy Crystal. For me, it was a homework assignment that forever would change my life.
I remember it like it was yesterday – sitting on the living room couch, flipping through photos in the name of research. After going through every photo album we had, I was disappointed and confused not to be able to find any trace of family beyond my grandparents. When I asked my parents, “why don’t we have any old pictures like my other classmates,” their answer was simple, “We don’t have anything – everyone and everything was lost in the Holocaust.” No pictures, no artifacts. Just names and stories…
Stories like my Grandfather Abe getting beaten by Nazis on the streets of Poland because of the yellow star he was forced to wear identifying him as a Jew. (To read his full story covered in a newspaper, click here for (part 1 and part 2)
Stories like when my Grandmother learned during her University’s spring break that the train she wanted to take to return to her hometown of Akkerman was no longer going in that direction, because Akkerman was overtaken by the Nazis. With one suitcase in hand, she boarded a different train that led her out of her country, never seeing her family again because she was the only one in her extended family who survived.
When I look at my 94 year old grandparents today, I find myself just as much in awe of them as when I first learned their story. With each passing day, as their minds and bodies become weaker, my respect and wonderment of their unbelievable strength and resilience grows stronger. There are no words to describe their incredibly strong spirit, but there are pictures!
I count my blessings everyday to have them in my life.
Today, as we remember those who so tragically perished in the Holocaust, let us not forget about the incredible survivors who are still here with us. There are an estimated 127,000 survivors in the US alone and many are in need of 24/7 support, kindness and special sensitivities to their care and well-being.
I hope you will all join me in commemorating Yom HaShoah both as a day to honor and remember those who are gone as well as honoring and remembering the many survivors who need our help. Whether it’s donating funds or volunteering to spend time with a survivor, never forget that they’re still here.
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