12 Tevet 5772 / January 6-7, 2012
“Israel said to Joseph: I never expected to see you again, and here the Divine has let me see your children as well.” – Genesis 48:11
This week’s portion, Vayechi, is the last portion in Genesis, and contains the death of both Jacob (aka “Israel”) and Joseph.
On his deathbed, Jacob calls Joseph and Joseph’s sons to his bedside so that he can bless his grandchildren. Filled with emotion, Jacob makes the statement shared in the verse above, grateful to have had the chance to participate in the lives of his descendants.
This verse strikes particularly close to home for me, given that my grandmothers are Holocaust survivors. In their own experiences, which consisted of being forcefully separated from their families and having to grow up far too soon, I can only assume that they had doubts as to whether they would live to see children of their own, let alone grandchildren.
The generation that survived the Holocaust has reached its dénouement. Survivors who are still alive and are old enough to recall the tragedies of WWII are well into their 80s, with some in their 90s. While some were able to create new life in the aftermath of the war, many survivors never had children of their own, and as a result, have none to share their stories or love with.
In your community, wherever you are, I assure you there is a Holocaust survivor who would welcome the opportunity to spend time with you. Those seeking to rewrite history are not shy about denying the well-documented atrocities committed against the Jews and others marked as “different” or “inferior.” It is essential that our generation internalize the stories of those who survived the war (and the stories we know of those who did not), both to develop perspective on our own perceived “problems,” as well as to combat those intent on propagating hate.
As we enter the year 2012, make the time to befriend a local Holocaust survivor. Whether listening to their stories, talking about sports or playing games, make sure that every survivor is given the honor that s/he deserves. Do everything in your power to help those survivors who we are still blessed enough to have here feel as if they, too, have had the opportunity to see their children and grandchildren and leave a lasting imprint, defying whatever doubts they may have had during the dark period in their lives.