Monday, April 28, 2014

Women of Valor

היום אחד שלשה עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד וששה ימים בעמר
Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days of the omer
יסוד שבגבורה
A day of foundation in a week of strength

I began my Yom HaShoah commemoration yesterday dealing with the global aspect of needing to continue this important remembrance. We need to take the reflections of this day and turn them into actions. And the news this past week of the words and actions of Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy shows how much work there is to combat racist hatred.

But today I honor two women who survived the Shoah with their souls intact. Neither had easy lives and suffered wounds often hidden but never completely healed. But they both lived long lives with a deep faith not so much in God but in the spirit, teachings, rituals, and traditions of Judaism.

My dear friend Mitzi Wilner survived by living as a Catholic nanny using her best friend's papers with her friend's maiden name. But her parents, her sisters, and much of her family were captured in the German "actions" in her Polish town. But she was able to keep her faith in a way seems unfathomable in the context of her experiences. As Rabbi Lew wrote upon hearing of her death: "Mitzi’s spirituality was irreducibly Jewish; a great light that she carried out of some of the darkest places the Jewish soul has ever seen, and into a world of hope and continuity."

And then there was Goldie Rassen, who rarely talked of her life in that dark time. She was in a concentration camp, and she made it through. But she felt so strongly that adherence to Jewish practice is what would keep Judaism alive for the generations to come. She wanted Jews to know Hebrew, to read the literature, the poetry, the teachings that Judaism has to give, both secular and sacred. Her life was dedicated to teaching others, and she was cherished by her students. While I don't have a photo of her, I have this poem I wrote in her memory to keep her in my heart

לגולדי  –  מורה שלי – חברה שלי
To Goldie - My Teacher - My Friend

אני זוכרת את הפנים שלך
I remember your face
אני זוכרת את הקול שלך
I remember your voice
אני זוכרת את הידיים שלך
I remember your hands
אני זוכרת שלמדתי איתך
I remember studying with you
אני זוכרת שדיברתי איתך
I remember speaking with you
אני זוכרת ששרתי איתך
I remember singing with you
אני זוכרת שהתפללתי איתך
I remember praying with you
את יושבת בלב שלי כל אזמן
You live in my heart forever
זכרונך לברכא לי
Your memory is a blessing to me

Zichronot L'vracha
The memories of these two strong, courageous women
are certainly a blessing to me. 

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