It’s Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and I find myself delving into my family’s past. Via 23andme I’ve discovered an entire branch of my father’s family that has been in the US since the late 1800s, astonishing to me as someone who believed every gene of my family that weren’t survivors had been decimated during the Holocaust, when the bulk of my family were murdered. At the same time an inquiry that I’d long forgotten to the keepers of Auschwitz documents was responded to, giving me the incredible proof of my mother’s stamina as a young teen who was in the first transport…among the first 100 young women…to be sent to Auschwitz from Slovakia. She was there — and then as the allies closed in on them, in Ravensbruck and the Death March — for over 3-1/2 years.
It seems appropriate during this time of introspection and atonement to look to the past. To the incredible strength of the family members who went through unimaginable horrors. To the amazing ability of these survivors to maintain a semblance of normalcy throughout their lives despite what they’d gone through.
We are living in sad and dangerous times. The specter of racism, anti-semitism, and other forms of intolerance grows stronger with each election in many countries. Madmen call each other names and threaten the world with terrorism and nuclear holocaust. Unknown forces in Cuba targeting Americans with sonic waves. Atrocities grow in Myanmar and other places. Nature seems to have run amuck, with earthquakes and monster storms and volcanoes erupting.
And yet…at the same time…people are rising to the occasion. Neighbor helping neighbor in times of flooding and devastation. Citizens in countries across the globe coming out to speak for truth and compassion and what is right.
As I contemplate the past, and the past year, despite all I am heartened. Because what I’ve learned and continue to learn is that we humans are resilient. And despite what may happen we have the capacity to have compassion and fortitude. To not only survive, but to thrive and help one another.
To all, regardless of religion, beliefs, orientations or geography, I wish you a year ahead of peace, prosperity and joy. Let us all work together to make it so.