To Every Face There is a Name
The last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday
morning ended up changing the way I look at life. I did not want to go
with my dad to lead Shabbat services at Heritage Manor, the Jewish Home
for the Aged. I wanted nothing to do with old people and could not
understand why having a young member of the Jewish community lead prayer
was so important. Even after being forced to go, it seemed not one
person paid attention to me or the service, which made the experience
even more meaningless. I was resistant to going back to my inattentive
audience, but my parents were persistent with their pleas. Eventually my
presence at Heritage Manor became a regular occurrence. A layer was
beginning to develop within myself, a fourth dimension of spirituality.
My thought process began to change from apathy to empathy. Each one of
these people, despite their ages and illnesses, had a story to tell.
They were Holocaust survivors, war heroes, fathers, mothers, lovers, and
above all, teachers. They are the people who have taught young people
what is truly meant to remember the Holocaust with sadness, yet allow
hope flourish in our hearts. As it is written in the Torah, L’dor V’dor,
from generation to generation; passing along the remembrance, the
history and the lessons of the Holocaust from old to young is vital in
keeping hope alive.
There were millions of names, millions of faces, millions of hearts, innumerable lives destroyed, it seems almost impossible to remember them all; but to every person there is an unforgettable story. The memories remain written in diaries and etched in minds. Retelling those stories of family, loss, and love serve as a reminder, “never again”. Never again shall a people be persecuted because of religion, never again shall millions be murdered at the hands of one. These lessons of history and remembrance must be passed on in order to prevent another massacre, but they should also be handed to a new generation to ensure that the faith, not only of the Jewish people, but of all races, creeds, and ethnicities; is kept alive, is sustained. Mourning brutality and grief, celebrating liberation, and accepting differences are imperative when recalling the anguish of the Holocaust. Younger generations must heed the lessons of their elders and realize that no matter how dire the circumstance, no matter how hard the fight to be heard, no matter how long the struggle; with hope, with G-d, with love, obstacles can be overcome. The Jewish people believe the terror of one generation shall never be forgotten, and the lessons taught shall always be remembered.
A Holocaust memorial stands at the
Greater Youngstown Jewish Community Center that reads, “I believe in the
sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when feeling it
not. I believe in G-d even when he is silent” (Weiss). It should never
be overlooked that belief brought one generation out of the greatest
struggle of their time.
As a teenager, it is hard to appreciate the brevity of life. So much activity is going on that it is difficult to realize how precious one simple moment can be. The residents at Heritage Manor are seeing the end of their days. They are a generation of Jews who witnessed tragedy and triumph, a generation of ordinary people, some with undying faith, and some with none. Even when it seemed to me that no one was paying attention to prayers, I later realized that although they were not responding, they were listening. The prayers are significant because they have been handed down from generation to generation, L'Dor V'Dor, as it is said in Hebrew. I realize now that this legacy has been offered to me, and the gift of time that I gave allowed me to see and feel other people that were very different, but yet not that far apart. I am them and they are me. A link between those who are finishing their lives, and those who are just beginning. The smallest challenge for me was walking through the doors at the nursing home, but the bigger challenge was understanding different views from different people. We all look at life through our own eyes and too often think about what we personally are going to gain from an experience, not how our interactions might affect other people. Before this, I never realized how much time I have left to live, and how much time I wasted, until I saw each resident living one day at a time. I no longer see these people as old and nameless, to me they are teachers who made me view life from a unique perspective.
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