Click on the cartoon to make it larger. It was sent out in a Passover email from All Generations, which is a group of Holocaust survivors and their families who share information. I read it over a few times, and was more and more devastated by it each time. In the past few years, I've been very sentimental about certain Jewish holidays. I've said many times that I am not a believer in God, but the importance of my heritage is very, very strong to me. When I was growing up, Passover was a huge event in our family. We went to my grandparents' apartment and were joined by their friends, who were also often Holocaust survivors. These were full meals (although not full Seders), held by people who suffered enumerable losses but were determined to start over and go on with life.
Of course, time changes everything. As my sister and I grew up, our Passover meals became smaller, more intimate affairs. Friendships ended (my grandparents are/were hot tempered people who hold mega grudges, not that I would know anything about this...), people passed on, and (best case scenario) others went to different Seders as their own families expanded with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Then I went to college, and a year later, my grandfather died. My sister moved to Iowa; my cousin to a variety of other places. I've only been home for Passover once since 1994, and the loss of the way things were was devastating. (Also it did not help that I was on my way back from India and emotionally and physically exhausted from the trip.)
This year, I went to a Passover Seder through my work. It was conducted by an organization that provides social services to Jewish Nazi victims in the New York area. The Seder was in a large room at a synagogue. As dozens of Holocaust survivors filled the room, chatting, joking, and complaining, it reminded me of the times I was at my grandparents' apartment. A frail woman went to light the candles (this year the first night of Passover is on Shabbat) and she said a prayer, then seemed to forget where she was. For a horrifying moment, she stood still and stared at us. Then, from somewhere in the back of the room, someone shouted out the words, and more and more voices joined in a wave, until the whole room seemed to be speaking as one. The woman still looked confused, but relieved. My eyes filled with tears.
A cantor came and sped through the Seder (just like we had always done - a few prayers here, a song or two there, voila, it's over - time for the gefilte fish!) and words that I had not uttered in more than a decade (OK, let's be real - probably two decades, going back to Hebrew school) flowed from my lips, surprising me. I ate my delicious meal (not, of course, as delicious as my bubbe's, but pretty darn tasty). When I left, I remembered, again, how much I've lost, but how much I was given in the first place.