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Sunday, September 04, 2011

A message to our children in Poland

As I mentioned last week, both of our older children are in Poland at the moment with their spectate high school classes.

Both schools asked the parents to write a letter to their children... and asked that the existence of the letter be kept a secret so that they could be passed out on Shabbat - the midpoint of their trip - to help them through the remainder of their time in Poland.

Strangely, I was completely at a loss for words. The enormity of what I wanted to tell them completely silenced me.

Fortunately, my eloquent wife was equal to the task, and penned the following to Ariella and Gilad (the awkward references to 'your sibling' are my way of presenting a letter that was modified for each of them).

As this site is as much a repository of family lore as it is a public blog, I am including it here:

My Dearest Child:
I am writing this letter for both Abba and me. You have now completed more than half of your trip to Poland. I have no doubt that by this point, you have shed many tears and been appalled by what you have seen. This letter is intended to replace the huge hugs, the cascade of kisses, and the personal comfort we wish we could offer you at this time…..
Abba and I are both so terribly proud of you. You and your sibling have accomplished so very much in the past 8 years. You have embraced and learned a new language, a new culture, and have begun to navigate life in the world as Jewish adults. Your decision to take the Heritage trip with your school to Poland reflects maturity, and it makes us both very proud. Many of the great men and women of history have rightly pointed out that the lessons of the past are valuable tools in ensuring a better future.
Part of our decision to make aliyah was influenced by the Polish ancestry on both sides of our families. Though none of our immediate family were victim to the horrors of the third Reich or the cowardice of the countries and people they conquered, we none-the-less grew up in the shadows of this horrific chapter of world history. Both Abba and I were lucky enough to know and love some of the heroes who served in the US armed forces, and who bore witness to the genocide, and whose lives were forever altered by their experience.
Growing up, Israel – her valiant struggle to exist; her fierce courage in the face of overwhelming odds; her tenacious vitality – was a hero of mythical proportions. I can’t even imagine a world where learning about the Shoah did not end with the rebirth of our nation. It is a thought too horrible to contemplate.
Your “return” to Poland as free, proud, intelligent, and strong Israelis is a moving way to honor the memories of the six million Jews who were murdered by the Germans and their supporters. But it is your willingness and eagerness to accept the responsibilities of being an Israeli citizen that honor the present and prepare the path for a brighter future. The fact that you and your sibling – at such a young age – understand and (even more importantly) value your role as a link in the historical chain of the Jewish people – makes our hearts swell love and with pride.
We know that you have already crossed the border of childhood into young adulthood, and that you no longer need for us to shelter you completely from the scarier realities of this mortal world. This trip in and of itself represents the very worst of mankind. Both Abba and I hope that you will be able to put the purpose and lessons of this trip into the proper context of your life. We know that the trip is intended to instill a sense of responsibility and pride into the next generation of Israelis. But we also know that you already fully grasp this idea.

We hope that you use Shabbat and the remainder of the trip to reflect on the many small-but-wondrous stories of “miracle” that with some survived the atrocities. That so many survivors came out of the Shoah with hope, faith and the ability to retain their own humanity – this too is vital.
Those sparks of hope and faith – they may at the moment seem small and futile against the magnitude of what you have seen. But remember that even the tiniest speck of light is far more powerful than the dark -- even the tiniest speck of light illuminates, while the tiniest speck of dark can only dim rather than extinguish.
As you enter the glow of Shabbat, remember that you are our light. You are our hope and our love. We are with you in spirit, hugging you, loving you, and offering you understanding and support.
We miss you.
All our love,
Ima and Abba

Posted by David Bogner on September 4, 2011 | Permalink


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Wow, couldn't you have posted this last week when I was trying to figure out what to write to my daughter?

Posted by: Mona | Sep 4, 2011 5:55:54 PM

This is a beautiful letter Zahava. Like David, I would have found it difficult to write it.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Sep 4, 2011 7:09:55 PM

This is a beautiful letter Zahava. Like David, I would have found it difficult to write it.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Sep 4, 2011 7:09:55 PM

This is a beautiful letter Zahava. Like David, I would have found it difficult to write it.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Sep 4, 2011 7:09:55 PM

Thank you for sharing the letter. Having recently visited Poland as well, I'm very curious about what the various Jewish and Israeli trips there are like, particularly for young adults. What have your children seen while there? Are there any opportunities for them to interact with members of the Polish Jewish community? Do they spend any time with young non-Jewish Poles?


Posted by: Friar Yid | Sep 4, 2011 9:29:39 PM

Beautiful letter Zahava.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Sep 4, 2011 9:44:24 PM

In tears - needed a paper tissue warning for this one.

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Sep 4, 2011 10:14:57 PM

Well done, mama...

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Sep 5, 2011 5:52:42 AM


Posted by: Ellis | Sep 5, 2011 10:33:51 AM

So, so beautiful. Thanks for sharing. You have amazing kids because you are terrific parents.

Posted by: SaraK | Sep 5, 2011 11:10:51 PM


Posted by: roberti | Sep 6, 2011 5:23:28 PM

Beautifully put. Very eloquent indeed.

Posted by: bratschegirl | Sep 7, 2011 3:32:51 AM

Oh jeez, you made me cry. That was beautiful.

Posted by: Alissa | Sep 8, 2011 2:45:14 PM

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