By: Joseph Geliebter, Ph.D. –
Yizkereim’s Lo Tishkach campaign, which took place on Taanis Esther, accomplished its central goal of making people aware that for the generation of those who survived the Holocaust the final moments of ne’ilah are approaching.
When, from now on, those who were touched by this campaign will meet a survivor, they will be cognizant that they are beholding a treasure, as these last witnesses are the final link to a generation and a world that was brutally destroyed. Each is a trove of memories, events, and people – of a period when humanity went astray.
Initially, the survivors had to focus on the future without being distracted by the past. This began as early as the DP (Displaced Persons) camps, where survivors became close friends and afterwards acted as aunts and uncles to each other’s children. Bereft of living relatives, the survivors bonded closely with their friends and adopted them as family. Had they allowed themselves to dwell on their devastation and loss, they would have been unable to face their new reality. Only after they had built a new foundation—married or re-married, reestablished identities, found productive means of support, and somewhat attended to their emotional and social healing—could they feel secure in their new lives.
These efforts to reconnect with a society or community were further hindered and intensified by the fact that many survivors felt that the American Jews with whom they tried to share their experiences could sympathize, but could not relate and often viewed them as outsiders, greenhorns, or even damaged people. As a result, they formed an insular community, networking with other survivors, depending solely on each other, making close friends only with those who had undergone similar experiences, suffered similar losses and shared their sense of displacement and disorientation.
And yet, they willfully embarked on rebuilding. Starting with the foundation of family, they used their past to design and transmit the genetic code for the rebirth, survival and thriving of the rich Yiddishkeit of European Jewry onto new shores. It is due to their indomitable will that the current generation was able to reconstruct and pass on—to the best of their ability—this culture to the next generation and onward.
Those who were touched by Yizkereim’s Lo Tishkach program on Taanis Esther will hopefully better appreciate the significance of these accomplishments—personal, cultural and spiritual – and to realize the extent to which the Jewish community is deeply indebted to these survivors and obligated to assist them during their waning days in every way possible.
Today is a spiritual day. It is the culmination of months of effort to bring the message of Lo Tishkach—“Do Not Forget!”—to all Jews. We should take comfort in the knowledge that our orphaned generation has reached maturity and has succeeded in building on the foundations of hope, rather than despair.
Dr. Joseph Geliebter is the founder and director of the Rabbi Leib Geliebter Memorial Foundation/Yizkereim.