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Fostering Humanity: Honoring Survivors of the Holocaust in our Care at Hebrew SeniorLife

Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, seventh from left, in Germany with fellow trip participants.

There are a number of survivors of the Holocaust and victims of Nazi persecution among the many seniors who live and are cared for throughout HSL.

Last month, the Boston German Consulate hosted a group of twelve Boston-area rabbis on a trip to Germany. The trip was entitled, “Remembrance and Hope.” It began in Munich at the Dachau Concentration Camp and concluded in a suburb of Berlin at a refugee settlement organization, followed by Shabbat in the community.

We met with government officials, educators, students, and Jewish community leaders. We visited the neighborhoods and memorials of the German Jews who emigrated, fled, or were murdered, and also memorials to the six million who perished. During a tour of Jewish Berlin we stood where the old Jewish nursing home once was situated next to the cemetery where Moses Mendelssohn, the father of the Jewish Enlightenment was buried. This home operated at a time when Hebrew Rehabilitation Center was already serving elders here in Dorchester.

Our survivors sometimes tell stories of their childhoods before the traumatic disturbances of the war. At times, they are filled with the pain and loss as if it were yesterday. Sometimes they share wartime memories, but often stay away from those thoughts entirely. They are growing older and soon there will no longer be people who were themselves witnesses to life before, and to the Holocaust.

This trip made me realize how - together with our elders – we are still the Holocaust generation and we are also the next generation, empowered to act in new ways. It is up to us to continue to remember and to build empathy and compassion into our lives and into the world around us.

This September, HSL will welcome two German volunteers for a year of service sponsored by Action Reconciliation Service for Peace. One will work at Roslindale and one at Center Communities in Brookline. With a focus on service and giving to those who once were persecuted, these volunteers contribute a full year of work to the care of our residents. Amazing friendships and new understandings grow.

For the survivors and staff at Hebrew SeniorLife, it is not about forgetting or forgiveness, but rather working today and every day to fully honor each person in our care, and in that way build peace and wholeness in the present, rectifying the future.

Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow's picture

About the Blogger

Director of Spiritual Care

Sara Paasche-Orlow is the Director of Spiritual Care at Hebrew SeniorLife. In this position, she established the nation's only Jewish geriatric clinical pastoral education (CPE) program accredited by ACPE, Inc. and has placed chaplains and CPE students throughout the HSL system. Rabbi Sara was ordained in the Conservative Movement at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and has focused her work on serving Jews of all backgrounds and denominations.

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I am a resident at NewBridgeontheCharles, Independent Living, and just read the article in today's Metro Section of the Boston Globe (8/21/16) entltled "Postcards from GERMANY." Thought you might be interested that my family and I made a trip to Themar, Thuringia, Germany this past December (1915) to lay down Stolbersteine for my family in front of my former home. I am the only one now in my family who was actually born in the town. My mother and I (6 yrs. old) managed to leave Europe via Lisbon, Portugal in 1941 for New York. My father having to leave Germany for England in 1939 after a short time in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. In 1942, we were reunited with my father. My uncle, mother's brother got to England in 1939 where he became a permanent resident. My grandmother who never received a sponsor from the U.S. was killed in the Riga Concentration Camp. Much of the December trip and the laying of the Stolbersteine was recorded. Carole Karlsruher GWK508@aol.com
Thank you for sharing your story, Carole. It sounds like a truly incredible and meaningful trip. - Erica, Hebrew SeniorLife blog team

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