Hello dear readers! My name is Hanna, and I am a 17 yr. old college student. This spring semester, I enrolled in a class called Literature of the Holocaust. In the beginning, I felt slightly hesitant to take this class, knowing the horror, shock, and pain that would be brought with it. Now after more than 2 months since this class began, I know that this was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Studying the Holocaust has been a road of never-ending lessons, not simply of history, but of life, of truth, of justice, and of courage. Below is the first of many journal entries I will be sharing with you, leading up to the March of Remembrance. As I venture through this class, I cannot help but be thankful that we have a day of remembrance as the March of Remembrance to remember those who lived through the Holocaust- children, mothers, husbands, wives, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, lovers- and to put action to the words that say, “Never again, and may they never be forgotten.”
What does it mean to be Jewish? For thousands of years, wherever the Jewish people have sojourned and called home, civilizations and nations have always reminded us of our Jewish heritage and often at our expense. Born in the 1960’s of the Soviet Union, my mother and her family, her father, mother, and sister, considered themselves Soviets. After her grandfather had immigrated from Poland to Ukraine as a young Socialist (Bundt) in the 1920’s, the Friedgaim family had completely assimilated, and if it were not for the word “Jewish” written on the 5th line of my mother’s passport & the anti-Semitism directed toward her and all Jews, she would have forgotten her identity. My momma was not the only one to feel like this. Jewish people worldwide and throughout history were often proud to dawn the national identity of the country that had absorbed them and remained patriotic & loyal; oftentimes, they considered themselves more patriotic than Jewish. However, history has repeatedly shown us that the world will always remember our Jewish heritage and even more so than ourselves. In others’ eyes we will always be Jewish. I often ponder, “What does it mean to be Jewish?” Many would say: exiles, oppression, and Diasporas. Others would mindfully utter: intelligence, innovation, and talent. And some would include greed, status, and betrayal. To me, being Jewish is a responsibility and a covenant with G-d for it was approximately two thousand years ago when G-d called Abraham by his name and made a promise that would never fade away. In G-d’s eyes, we are His people and no one can take that from us.
“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declared the Lord, that…I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” –Genesis 22:15-18
“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you…” As a Hungarian-Jewish survivor recalled in her interview from the documentary The Last Days, as she strived to survive in the hell of Auschwitz, she had a premonition. She realized that the Nazis had taken everything they could from the Jewish people: their families, their friends, their homes, their belongings, etc. But the one thing that they desired most and could never obtain was the Jewish soul and our hope— the promise that Adonai gave us long ago and still remembers to this day. More than 6 million Jewish people, at least eighty of whom were my family, were savagely murdered in the Holocaust, and yet in this year of 2014 in the land of Israel, our promised land that G-d mercifully gave us, approximately 6,102,000 Jewish people are living, seven of whom are my family. No one can tell me that that is a coincidence.
The painting above is by Samuel Bak- “Star of David,” 1976
“The isolated ghetto was cast out of human space and just like its residents was marked with a badge of shame, the badge of ostracism, the yellow Jewish Badge shaped like a Star of David.”
To join me for the March of Remembrance and participate in this memorable, life-changing event, please click here.