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.