A step backward
Many years ago, the board of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, with the support of the Holocaust Survivors Organization, worked very hard on a plan to get the center out of Oakland to a Squirrel Hill location where its mission to educate the western Pennsylvania community could be fulfilled. Many hours were spent to plan a site that would display the fine artwork, house the valuable library collection and archives, and have an audio-visual system in a classroom where the videos could be viewed and survivor witnesses could share their stories.
Over the years, thousands of students and teachers have sat in those chairs, participated in the arts and writing competitions, and much more. It was a place to go for information, for reactions to anti-Semitic events as well as the social events for the survivors.
To read that the new generation of leadership has voted to go backward (“Holocaust Center moves to Oakland as staff board plan for its future” April 5) is devastating to me, but I will tell you that it fulfills the prediction of many of the survivors I worked with in the past that [Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh] will close the center entirely when all the survivors are gone. Congratulations on completing the second step in that direction … the first was not hiring a permanent director for over a year.
Shame on you [Jewish Federation] for not understanding the importance of remembering the past to avoid repeating it. … Perhaps if the board would actually read the mission statement it would realize that this giant leap backwards does not fulfill its responsibility to the Holocaust Center.
‘The Gefilte Fish Chronicles’
I was watching “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles” on PBS the other day.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a narration of the Dubroff family and how they celebrated the Passover holiday. Eighty-six-year-old twin sisters Peppy and Rosie talk about making the horseradish, gefilte fish and matza brie. We see the entire family — with many first, second and third cousins — reading the hagada, singing and praying. It is a beautiful documentary of memories, love and joy.
It brings back memories of seders long ago, of grandparents leading seders with a sense of history and tradition.
It was not about the food (although food is important). It was about connection. The seder connects us to our past and to each other.
“In every generation, a person must see themselves as if they personally had come out of Egypt”, says the hagada. My grandparents had a sense of that. They were emigrants from Eastern Europe and although they rarely spoke of the “old country,” they definitely knew what it meant to search for freedom and opportunity. They also understood that in the “new world,” holding onto their heritage would take effort and sacrifice.
We need to work harder than they did to see ourselves in the story of the exodus from Egypt. Few of us have had the experience of fleeing from persecution. But on the level of the Jewish people, we certainly have had the experience of standing up to those who want to “wipe us off the map.” As a group, we feel the pain of every terror attack and anti-Semitism.
“The Geflite Fish Chronicles” can teach us that we need to make our Yiddishkeit an integral part of us. Not just at holidays, but every day. The older generation of the Dubroff family moves aside for the younger generation. They are trained and ready to continue the traditions.
May you enjoy the Passover season. And may we all be able to live authentic Jewish lives and find profound meaning in all of our holy times. Chag sameach!
Rabbi Eli Seidman