I WASN’T QUITE sure what to expect when I walked into the crowded room on that hot Wednesday afternoon. Gathered together for an afternoon of lunch and Israeli dancing were 30 16-year-old soccer players and almost twice that many Holocaust survivors. I thought there would be some nervous laughs from the boys, some uncertain anticipation from the seniors, but what I saw was a scene that made me smile—and what a sight it was! Young and old were lined up together, learning Israeli dances, and simply enjoying each other’s company.
That afternoon was one of the many activities put together for the teen Maccabi athletes and artists as part of the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest. It was a combined Café Europa and Russian Tea event (both social services provided through the Jewish Federation & Family Services’ Holocaust Survivor program and generously funded by the Claims Conference) with three of the boys’ soccer teams representing JCCs from all over the country.
It was very clear as I watched those 60 or so survivors joking, laughing, and dancing with an equally engaged group of Maccabi teens that there was something very special going on there. In between the dances, the teens had the opportunity to talk to the survivors, learn about their stories, and witness firsthand how they put a courageous face on a terrible piece of our Jewish past.
For many of these teens, if not all, the Holocaust is a terrible story from history class, but it has never touched them in any real way. Now they would have another meaningful memory to take home with them in addition to their fabulous memories of their week in Orange County, California—a memory that would add dimension to their personal understanding of what it means to be Jewish.
We talk a lot in Judaism about l’dor v’dor—from generation to generation—and what this sense of continuity means for us as a culture, as a people, as a religion. I think that all of us who are connected to our Jewish roots in any way think about how best to pass on our collective past to our children and to their children. This is an especially frequent consideration during the recent High Holidays, and definitely one of the things I think about daily in the work I do for the community.
Watching these very different generations interact on a dance floor reinforced for me why I do what I do every single day. Watching the students gave me hope for the future. I believe we have a responsibility to build bridges across the generations, and over that bridge we pass down our traditions, our culture, our wisdom, and our philanthropy. This is our legacy to our children, to our grandchildren, to our nieces and nephews. It is our legacy to our community.
As part of this legacy, Jewish Federation & Family Services is proud to be Presenting Sponsor for Pacific Symphony’s performance of Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín next spring, thanks to a bequest from the Albert Weissman and Rhoda Yvette Weissman Estate. This powerful, dramatic, and unforgettable concert-drama—featuring Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale, operatic soloists, and video testimony from Holocaust survivors—pays tribute to the courageous Jewish prisoners at Theresienstadt (Terezín) during the Shoah, and their use of artistic expression as a form of resistance. The performance takes place on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at pacificsymphony.org and are selling quickly. I invite you to join us for what promises to be a truly memorable evening.