This week, one of my children will be visiting Poland, and the school he attends asked the parents to write a letter, to be read while they are there. Here’s what I wrote to my son:
Your planned trip to Poland fills me with tremendous emotion. I wonder if an average person, off the street, anywhere in the world, would know what Poland means to Jews. Would they think it odd that a post-high school trip would be to visit Poland, rather than frolicking on the beaches in southern California? As the Holocaust is so prevalent to Jews worldwide, and even more so to our family, the idea of you visiting Poland seems so relevant.
As a great-grandchild of survivors, you had the very special privilege of knowing your great-grandmother. She wasn’t the type to regale you with her personal story, she was much better at cooking and encouraging fulfilling eating habits – which probably came as a result of her internment in Aushwitz.
Why Would Any Jew Go BACK to Poland?
One summer, I wanted to be a participant with March of the Living, I remember my grandmother being quite mortified by the idea. She couldn’t understand why would someone want to go BACK. Back to the very place that was her living nightmare. She couldn’t imagine spending a dime and putting it into the Polish economy. Something else came up that summer and I missed the opportunity. Although her reasons were valid, I have regret until this day….and was secretly hoping that I would get a last-minute call asking for a chaperone….I’d sign up!
As the first male great-grandchild in the family, you had a special bond with your great-grandmother. You were also blessed to have met her brother and her sister, all survivors of Aushwitz.
Although your experience in Poland will always be personally tied with family, is it so much more than that.
The Jewish people have been, and unfortunately will continued to be, persecuted – for no other reason than their heritage. What have we done to cause anti-Semitism? Have you every tried to explain or understand it? I certainly can’t…..can it be narrowed to a simplistic reason? Is it even explainable?
As you enter adulthood, take with you the blessing of being a member of the chosen people. Know that sometimes it is hard to be Jewish. Know that it is hard to be a committed Jew. But also know that you have a special value to give the world. Know that sometimes, it’s painful to be a Jew. But know, deep down in your heart, that being a member of the Jewish People is not a burden. It’s a lifestyle, it’s pride, it’s connection, it’s commitment, it’s love, it’s Shabbat, it’s honesty, it’s the unifying factor that will make the rest of the nations grow to love the Jewish people, which will only come if we can make the daily effort to bring the Redemption speedily in our times.
May your experience in Poland give you perspective on how significant you are and how you have tremendous power to stand proud as a member of the Jewish People.