I am a 40 year old divorced mother of 3, living in New York and doing the best that I can. Long ago, I chose to forgo the lucrative paychecks that my education and connections could have afforded me. Instead, I chose to become a mother and a teacher. Here’s why.
Growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors is not an easy thing. There are silent shadows that lurk about the house, daring you to ask what they have seen. But you don’t ask, because you don’t really want to know. You see your father squint his eyes in disapproval when you fail to finish all the food on your plate. You hear him scream in the middle of the night as the horrific events of his past visit him again and again. You see your parents cry silent tears as they murmur the Yizkor prayer in shul. It seems to take them a long time to finish, perhaps because there are so many departed souls for them to pray for. And many of your childish questions go unanswered: “Daddy, what was it like when you lived in Europe? Why did you come to America? Why haven’t I ever seen any of your relatives?”
When you grow up that way, eventually you come to understand that you are more than simply a child. You, like your parents, are a survivor. And being a survivor carries with it an enormous amount of guilt, and a compulsion to prove that you are worthy of having been chosen.
And so you try your best to rebuild what was lost. You have children, and you teach them the traditions that are almost gone, and you become a teacher so that the message will reach even more children. You do the best you can to ingrain in them the same sense of responsibility that was ingrained in you: to learn the traditions of those who are gone, to embrace them and fulfill them and make them come alive once more. You are helped along this path by a whole community of Jews who, like you, are trying to justify their survival by passing on the ways of their fathers. Is it enough? Of course not. There is no way that you can ever bring back what was lost. But it’s all you have, so it’s what you do.
It is not too late to take part in this project; feel free to send your own contribution.