So much about life is choices. We make them all day long. What shoes should I wear? What should I eat for breakfast? What are we doing this weekend? These kinds of choices are insignificant. This week my oldest son, Matan, made an important decision. He finally decided where he is going to college.
For him, this was a very difficult decision. He was agonizing over two schools: one was a childhood dream to attend and the other could help him realize his future dreams. There was much angst and deliberating and talking. There were some tears - mine and his. There was some heartbreak as he decided that he should go with the university that is about his future. He made a very adult and mature decision. I was proud and a little sad for him as he gave up on a childhood vision.
I sent him a copy of Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken.
"...two Roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
As I reflected on Matan's mature decision that he made at the not so ripe age of 18, I couldn't help being struck by just how incredibly fortunate he was to be in a position to make this choice. It was not simply about having two great options.
We live in a day and age when young adult Jews can go to school anywhere. As Jews in the United States we are the most free and highly accomplished Jewish community in our long history. How we live as Jewish Americans is unprecedented.
This image of freedom that we just celebrated over Passover is tempered by times when Jews did not enjoy such freedoms of choice. Sadly, this is not such a distant memory for us.
This Sunday evening, April 23, we begin the observance of Yom HaShoah. This marks the somber commemoration of the 6 million Jews lost in the Holocaust. These Jews, 2 million of whom were children, were murdered by the Nazis. Their freedoms were brutally taken from them in the quintessential genocide of our time. For our community of survivors, for their families, for so many of us, the wounds of the Shoah are still raw.
On Sunday, when we memorialize all of the millions of people that we lost, we will also be recognizing Holocaust survivors, many of whom are no longer with us. Those who ultimately survived this terrible time in history were often part of life saving and truly heroic and courageous choices. During these times of unspeakable horror, on occasion, there was a glimmer of light that created a circumstance that allowed people to survive. Each of these survivors has a miraculous story to share.
At our community Yom HaShoah observance on Sunday evening, coordinated by Federation's CHAI (Center for Holocaust Awareness and Information) committee, we will be launching a brand new community resource, the history-making web archive of Rochester area survivors of the Holocaust. This archive was a project of the Rochester Holocaust Survivor Committee of the Louis S. Wolk JCC, under the volunteer leadership of Rose Bernstein.
Here are two pieces from our local press this week about this groundbreaking project.
Click for the D and C.
Click for Channel 8.
At our community Yom HaShoah ceremony, chaired by CHAI committee members Steven Gersz and Pauline Rosenberg, we will recognize all of those who perished and all who lived on to share their harrowing stories with us.
Throughout the week, there will be other important Yom HaShoah observances in our community that can be found by clicking here. WXXI TV, in partnership with Federation, will be rebroadcasting a special edition, on Thursday evening at 8:00 PM, of the documentary Safe Haven about the Oswego Displaced Persons (DP) camp, in commemoration of 30 years since the documentary was released.There are many excellent choices for all of us to honor the memories of those who were murdered in the Shoah.
We all face challenging and difficult choices in life and we are incredibly fortunate to live in an era when we have the freedom of choice. We must celebrate that freedom and live our lives to the fullest.
One of the best ways to honor the memory of our survivors and of those who died is to choose to live joyous, rich and fulfilling Jewish lives. That choice will carry their memory and legacy in building a strong Jewish future now and forever. Let us never forget.
Shabbat shalom -