Another Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Memorial Day came and went last week, and I found myself unprepared to mark the day. In fact, today we are already on to Israel’s Independence Day — but I seem to be running a bit behind.
Back in high school, I probably read more Holocaust memoirs than was healthy and later I spent quality time at both the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Israel’s Yad Vashem. In those pre-mothering days, there was plenty of time for reflection. Now as a relatively new mother, museum visits and heavy reading have seriously fallen by the wayside.
Everything about becoming a mother shifted the ground beneath my feet. When I studied the Holocaust in the past, I always connected most directly to the stories of children and young people experiencing the war and the camps. My parents, grandparents and teachers did their best to help me make sense of it.
Now that my perspective has shifted, I am not sure I can bare the stories of parents losing their children. I know I cannot keep my distance from it for much longer though. I think my new mother exemption is wearing thin and I only have a few years before my children will start asking questions. Now that my generation is all grown up, I cannot wait for reminders from parents or community, it is my responsibility now, and it is daunting.
This is a moment when I long to be enmeshed in Jewish community. In Israel, you do not miss Yom HaShoah. Besides being all over the news there is the siren. The whole nation stops for two minutes while a siren plays to remember the victims. Cars actually pull onto the shoulder of highways and everything seems to stop. I never witnessed it but my husband remembers hearing the siren and as he stood outside his hostel in Jerusalem and here is a link to a video which gives a glimpse. Last week, I read this blog post on Kveller which describes the siren and it reminded me that sometimes it is hard to live outside Jewish community and outside of Israel. I need a community to stand with and lean on as I learn to face this history as a parent. I might be grown up, but I still need mentors and reminders. And once a year, I need a siren.