By Kim Banaji, Jewish Federation’s Program and
Community Outreach Coordinator
I grew up on an Ashkenazi kibbutz at the foot of the Jerusalem Mountains. Most of the people in my kibbutz were of Polish origin, so it was not surprising that the Holocaust was very present in our upbringing.
As a 17-year-old high school student, I joined my classmates on the journey to Poland, to visit the camps. My school chose to take this trip in the winter so that we could experience the harsh reality of survival in the freezing European cold. From all the memories I have from that trip, the one that was etched into me the most was sitting in a dark room, lit by candles, while my teachers and friends read the names of their family members who were murdered in the Holocaust. Each one lit a candle after reading the names. We all sobbed while reading, even the boys who were conveniently blanketed by the darkness.
There was something symbolic about lighting a candle. The room grew brighter as we read …and although we were grieving, and remembering, we were also celebrating a victory. There we were—descendants of Jews who made it out… who survived!
David Grossman writes about the duality of grief. In his book Falling Out of Time, he writes — “I want to learn how to separate the memory from the pain, or at least some of it. So that the past would not be entirely tainted by pain.” [Translation]. I feel that the Every Person Has A Name program similarly reflects that duality. As we come together to remember our people, and grieve for them, we also celebrate their lives. And I am so deeply grateful for the way our community unites around this event, so quietly and with such power!
Every year after we conclude the reading, all I want to do is go home and hug my boys. I marvel at my incredible luck to have a safe place for them. In my mind, the action of reading the name of a child my son’s age, is the action of surrounding that boy with warmth and safety. I honor his memory by acknowledging him and remembering that he was loved the same way I love my child.
In the past two years, we have collaborated with Yad VaShem to include an exhibition in our Holocaust program. Unfortunately, we could not incorporate it into this year’s virtual event. Instead, we decided to showcase it here in JLife SGPV. The exhibition is called “They Say There is A Land” and it shows the longing for Eretz Israel during the Holocaust. I chose it as a symbol of the term “Shoa VeTkuma” – Holocaust and Revival. As Israel is the ultimate victory on the Nazis.