Sunday, May 11, 2008

Absence From Blogging....Passover and Yom Ha'Shoah

I haven't blogged since Passover. It has not been for lack of thinking about it. What happened was.......I had a BIG idea, something I really wanted to write about......except, when I sat down to write it, I didn't.

Fortunately, I have had some time to mull over my excuses and LEARN. Here's what I learned......

If an idea is uncomfortable and painful, it's worth addressing.

If you think you are unworthy of speaking about something, not only are you wrong, but it's precisely the reason you should speak.

If a project seems too big, break it into smaller pieces and START.

The thing worse than imperfect writing is NO writing.

As stated at the end of my Passover post, what I wanted to write about was the connection between Passover and Yom Ha'Shoah.


Yom Ha'Shoah is a "holiday" of relatively recent vintage. Essentially, it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here is the Wikipedic version I never was too aware of it, but during the past few years I have attended Yom HaShoah programs. The last two years I attended programs at the Brandeis Association, a Jewish lawyers group in Queens. Both years they had speakers talking about the dismantling of the German legal system as a prelude to the Holocaust. This year, a professor showed a documentary "Hitler's Courts" documenting how Hitler realized that a vital step in the genocidal process was to eliminate civil rights by co-opting the Courts and the Judges. Fascinating material, and timely, considering that the presentation provoked a spirited discussion about respect for the "rule of law" as it applies to Guantanamo. This was three weeks before the Supreme Court ruling on the legal rights of the Guantanamo prisoners.

Yom HaShoah follows soon after Passover. On Passover we are directed to tell and retell the story of the exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom. There is emphasis on telling the children, and having them tell their children. It seems to have worked. We are still telling, people still know.

The generation of actual Holocaust survivors is ending. There has been some telling, but many of them did not tell....could not tell. A generation later, there are Holocaust deniers. The President of Iran is in the club too

Thankfully, this has all been studied and documented. It should NEVER be trivialized, or relegated to some "pages in history". There is one way for that not to happen. The story should be told and re-told, from generation to generation. The materials should be discussed. The applicability to modern times is "life and death" relevant.

Tomorrow - some re-telling....what I know about my mother as Holocaust escapee/survivor.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Passover's Field of Dreams

The annual telling of the Passover story, an unbroken oral history spanning countless generations, is a marvel. I can safely say I have a 51 year streak. I generally spend Passover with people who have similar streaks, usually going way back on both sides of their family. I blogged a little about this last year.

This year we hosted 17 friends for Seder night one, and 20 family members on night two. For the second straight year, on the second night we had my mother's cousin's and their children. All my Seders growing up were with these cousins, and their parents, all German-Jewish Holocaust escapees. (I will blog tomorrow about the term "escapees" as opposed to "survivors", though niether denotation should diminish the other). At Uncle Max and Aunt Rose's house, and at Gusti & Freddy's, Brian and I were always the little kids. Now, Mom's cousins are my fellow grown-ups, and there are new kids experiencing Passover (though some of the "kids" are in fact adults). They are part of something important, and I know they will come to know that.

My Dad (Manny, of the renowned Weekend With Manny series) was in from Florida and spent both nights with us. He enjoyed spending time with his ex-extended family. He shares a lot of history with them, and if he has an 82 year seder streak, he had at least 20 with them. I arranged the seating so Manny sat next to me, and he did not notice that I placed my Mom's photo behind him,

(Mom in 1986 with grand-daughters Robin and Emilie)

looking out over the festivities. At some point during dinner I looked at him, and Mom's photo over his shoulder, and said,
"I'm sure glad we're sitting here talking, and that if we ever had problems we fixed them. We never had a broken father-son relationship, like in Field of Dreams."
Manny said, "I never saw it."
This surprised me, because he's seen most movies, and we enjoy talking about them.
"Dad, a movie about baseball, fathers, and sons, and you never saw it?"
"I dunno, I've seen parts on TV and it looked stupid, a guy builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield."

Naturally, I had to give him a brief synopsis.....essentially....."An idealistic man and his wife grow up from hippie life and have a farm in Iowa. Things are good, but the man feels some things in his life are not right. One day, he hears a voice, saying 'if you build it, HE will come'. Long story short, he plows under his cornfield and builds a baseball diamond, so the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, and other dead baseball legends, can come to play. Only he and his wife and daughter can see them. Meanwhile, he is not making any money, his brother-in-law thinks he's nuts, and the farm may be foreclosed. He hears more voices, telling him to find a particular writer (who no longer writes) and a baseball player who played one inning in the majors in 1918 (before becoming a doctor in Minnesota) and bring them to Iowa. So he does. As he is driving back to Iowa with the writer, we learn that the man has suffered a great loss, a broken relationship with his father, who died with the relationship unrepaired. During the whole movie the man does not question any of things the voices told him to do, and finally, Shoeless Joe Jackson tells him what it's REALLY about. Note..... if you have never seen Field of Dreams and are inspired to watch it by my synopsis, don't watch this clip. If you have seen it, you know the drill, the thing makes me cry every time "

I made Manny promise to watch the movie with me next time he's in town.

Three of my favorite movie lines are in this clip....
"Is this heaven?" "It's Iowa."
"Heaven is the place dreams come true" He looks at wife and child swinging on porch and says "maybe this IS heaven."
and of course...."Hey Dad, wanna have a catch?"

Field of Dreams is all about connecting with the past and trying to make things right. All the main characters (Ray, Doc Graham and Terrance Mann) have unfinished business, things from their past they need to make right. I am thankful I don't need to plow my cornfield to make things right with my Dad, and grateful to live in freedom with my family (maybe this IS heaven)

On Passover we seek to connect our collective memory chain back to a defining moment of faith and deliverance. We need the next generations to know, and for the story to be told.

Tomorrow....Passover and Yom HaShoah.