Yom Kippur

Chaim-Hersh WEIS-Chaim-Hersh ben Sruel-Dov[1]

I have heard it said that we need to know where we’ve been in order to know where we are going.  For the Jews, today is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar—a day where tradition holds that the lives (and deaths) for the year are sealed.  I am not particularly religious, and I am interested in all different faiths (as well as bold atheism) and in how whatever truth may exist contains such diverse perspectives.  Still, I need to know where I have been, and today’s post is partly about that—about a family history that had been like a tattered page of erased smudges and then out of the night and the fog, appeared Eva Blanket.

As the sun set over Hollywood last Friday evening,Eva stepped out of the elevator of the Mondrian hotel, having travelled from Australia, and in that moment two drops of one mutual great-grandfather’s blood were reintroduced in the flesh.  As my wife and kids, and her husband and son, wandered amongst the groovesters by the pool in a scene that was way too cool for schul, I wondered if Chaim’s spirit was more pleased or circumspect.  Just as Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas anymore once she landed in Oz, Eva was not in Oz any more now that she’d landed in La La Land… and none of us where in Hukliva… the tiny crossroads town where it had all began, and been all but erased completely. 

Now I grew up with a rather small family:  on my father’s side, my dad’s mother died weeks before I was born and my dad’s father died just weeks after my birth (happy times to enter the world).  My dad’s family had emigrated from Russia and my father knew nothing of his grandparents.  As for my mother, her mom was my only surviving grandparent (a woman who emigrated from Austria-Hungary as a teenager—having watched some of World War I fought literally out the window the very farm where she had lived, dying soldiers falling between trees where she’d  picked berries in the forest).  My mother’s dad was the oldest of nine kids and, after fighting in World War I, emigrated to America where he later died when my mom was fourteen, of a heart-attack prompted by smuggled pictures of the Nazi concentration camps—pictures that forced him to confront the fact that all eight of his brothers and sisters had been killed there.

As for my grandfather’s parents, I knew nothing about them… until I got an email from a woman living in Australia who had been researching her own history and thought she’d pieced together a link with me.  While it turned out that all of my grandfather’s siblings had indeed been killed, along with their spouses and most of the children, one of the kids, a woman then about twenty, survived Auchwitz where her mom and dad were killed, and a forced death march to Ravensbruck & Neustadt-Glewe concentration camps, and then fell in love (or at least took refuge in a relationship) in a displaced persons camp near Prague.  From there she went to Israel, where Eva was born, and then on to Australia where they lived in Sidney.  Eva’s mom gave testimonial to the Spielberg holocaust project, but Eva couldn’t bring herself to watch it.  And then after her mom passed, feeling rather alone, she started her quest for any possible remnants of her family… or at least information on who they were.

Eva proved a wealth of information.  She knew the name of the towns where my Buby and my grandfather had come from, she found the a picture of our great grandfather who neither of us had known anything about.  Eva knew the names of all the siblings and their spouses and their children, and when I read them I was moved to tears of pathos and horror.  These formerly abstract deaths now had names (at first glance “Fiddler on the Roof” sorts of names, foreign and weird to my American eyes, but once-living, breathing, loving and finally tormented human beings:  Baruch (or Benjamin who got out), then Mendel, Rachel, Rosia, Moishe, Eleya, Charne, Shulem, Yossel and their husbands, wives and children—all names that Eva put in bright blue (but for my grandfather), the blue denoting killed in the holocaust.

It turned out that Eva has two children:  a daughter, Natalie, and a son, Jordan.  In a bit of synchronicity, my older son is Nate (from Nathaniel) and my brother’s name in Jordan.

P1020264_2While I detested going to temple as a kid (and rarely go as an adult), today I will be sitting next to Eva Blanket in a tiny temple on Yom Kippur (Kippur is a Hebrew word that means payment or ransom for a life, Yom is “day”).  And I plan to be in gratitude for the blessing of simply existing, hard as that may be for all of us sometimes, and I hope that enough ransom has been paid to whatever light and dark forces care for the smoke of burnt offerings, in the hope that some sort of greater unity consciousness might be dawning on our little pulsing planet.

And I place my gratitude in the service of my family, my children—and all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

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4 Responses to “Yom Kippur”

  1. Mwa Says:

    Speechless but here. And thankful that you exist, too.

  2. indyretreats Says:

    now that you have eva’s story to help fill in your family’s history, might you consider sharing it in long form or as a short story? i’d be privileged to share it on my blog Never Again!


  3. privilegeofparenting Says:

    Perhaps Eva would be better qualified for that task, but thanks for taking a passionate stand on encouraging humanity amongst all us humans.

  4. krk Says:

    I value the stories and the wisdom you share with all of us.
    Thank you

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