Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The tallit is coming along nicely with special thanks to the expert sewing skills of my awesome stepmother . Her stint sewing costumes for drag queens left her absolutely fearless when it comes to sewing shiny, slippery, silky fabrics. What took me hours and caused tears of frustration she handled with utter aplomb.
All that remains now is a bit more handwork. I've put in quite a few hours already, much of it in front of the TV which is about the only way I can sit still long enough to get anything accomplished. Without that anchor I tend to flit from one thing to another getting exactly nothing done. My child comes by his ADD tendencies quite honestly.
Anyway....here's the thing that I wanted to write about because it was just a brief moment, but it was huge. I was watching a fascinating PBS documentary the other night. The Jewish Americans documents the history of the Jews in the US in classic PBS style with interviews, old photos, music and so on. The episode I was watching covered World War II and the post-war period. I thought a lot about my great uncle, a WWII veteran, when the narrator mentioned WWII being the first experience many American Jews had living among non-Jews.
At one point a veteran began to speak about his experience as a Jewish solider liberating the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1945. My great uncle was also a US soldier present at the liberation of Mauthausen and I've never forgotten his haunting stories. With horrifying images floating across the screen I looked down at the work in my hands, the tallit for my son's bar mitzvah, and I became simply overwhelmed.
I'm occasionally struck by the twist of fate that sent my relatives across an ocean while others stayed behind. Many of my Jewish relatives left Europe well before the madness started but I've always wondered about those who remained in Russia, Hungary, and Romania; distant relatives forgotten by the American immigrants. How easily I and my children might have simply never lived or worse, died a horrible death simply because we are Jewish. I don't spend a lot of time entertaining such thoughts but sometimes there they are.
And suddenly it seemed almost miraculous that here we are in 2008, about to celebrate another bar mitzvah in our family. I've gotten caught up in details like invitations and recipes and who's wearing what but there's a whole other facet to this. I don't think I'm putting this into words at all eloquently but the fact that there are still Jewish children coming of age in this world is a huge and wonderful thing.