For a Blessing

Tonight I will attend a Sabbath service with the local Reform Jewish congregation for the first time. A friend of my mom’s who as a teenager survived Bergen-Belsen died last week, and her name will be on the list of those for whom the congregation will say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning.

I met Bella and her husband Henry once, and I vividly remember Henry saying, “Who could have imagined all of this,” waving his hand around to indicate the Red Robin where we were eating, his and Bella’s entire life in the U.S., children, a home, “when we were in the camps?”

At a symposium on climate change this week, a communications professor said that if you want people to change their behavior, you need to communicate a sense of concern and also a sense of hope. If only the dire effects of climate change are presented, people will not act. They will feel powerless against what seems to be an inevitable and bleak future.

Hope and uncertainty are intimately related.

I wonder how or whether people maintained hope in the concentration camps, in that place where they didn’t have the ability to make choices that would change their situation, with uncertainty about whether they would wake up in the morning but absolute certainty about what they would wake up to.

The Kaddish makes no mention of those who have died. It is a hymn of praise to God and a request for God’s peace. It must have been spoken thousands of times a day during the Holocaust.

Bella returned to Bergen-Belsen once and gave a public talk while she was there. I cannot imagine the strength either journey demanded—the journey of survival or the journey of return, but the latter must have required a deep sense of possibility.

May Bella’s memory be for a blessing. May our lives be blessed with hope.

3 thoughts on “For a Blessing

  1. Crying. Thank you. A beautiful tribute, expressing what I could not say. Would you print it out for me? I will send it to Craig and Robbie, unless you would like to send it yourself. And keep a copy for me. Love.

  2. Thank you Rachel. This filled me with peace – as I work on designing a retreat plan using my storytelling gifts (but not making it “workshop”-like, I was warned. Ha!). I’m smiling. Loved your learning about how we need that balance of HOPE while looking at how we must change because of how the earth is changing…..
    I also love feeling the connection between you and your mom. I was watching a taped PBS program about the young years of Frank Sinatra whom my mother admitted “adoring” during the 1930s and I began to cry thinking of her youth during the Depression, then all the difficulty of WWII (tho she was safely commuting to college while my Dad was in the Pacific). I really miss her sometimes when I hear of friends still connected to their moms. Thanks for the gift of your words. Love to your mom. I feel I deeply know you both, though only in cyber-land.

  3. Very moving. Who could imagine a journey from the concentration camps to ‘all of this’.
    I think of hope as taking, or envisioning action in the face of difficulties. That is the expression of hope.
    I’m interested in your experience of the Kaddish. It sounds so beautiful.

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