Friday, July 31, 2009

Tisha B'av at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Today we went to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. This was quite fitting as today is not only Tisha B'av, when we mourn for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, but also the 18th yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of my father, Mayer, a holocaust survivor.
I don't usually "do" holocaust if I can avoid it. I know nobody enjoys it but ever since I've been old enough to equate those atrocities happening to people I love, I try not to see Holocaust themed movies, read books about the Holocaust, etc. But I really wanted to see the Holocaust Museum in Washington and it was so fitting to do so today.
I was really surprised at how crowded the museum was and what a wide variety of people seemed to be visiting. From young children to older adults and many different nationalities. There was a group of young adults wearing GYLC tags, which I googled once I got back to the hotel in order to learn that the "Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) is a unique leadership development program that brings together outstanding young people from around the world to build critical leadership skills in a global context." I find it amazing that all these people chose to spend a day (or some hours) learning about the Holocaust.
The museum is organized chronologically, from the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party through the creation of the state of Israel. It doesn't mince words when relating America's refusal to help the Jews during the Holocaust and also relays the military course of the war. There are audio recollections of Auschwitz survivors discussing life in the camp, stories of the uprisings and partisans, and the rightgeous who helped save Jews. Also remembered are the political dissidents, gypsies (or Roma as they apparently prefer to be called), and other groups targeted by the Nazis.
At the end of the permanent exhibition there is a registry of survivors. I found an aunt and uncle but not my father. Maor and I filled out the form for my father and two of my aunts and when we handed it in the staff member glanced at it and said, "Buchenwald. We have extensive records for people from Buchenwald." [My father was liberated from Buchenwald] When he was done helping someone else he searched for my father and found my father's records from Buchenwald which includes information about when he arrived, from where (Auschwitz), prisoner ID number, and more. He explained some of it since it's written in German. One of the pages is stamped "liberated by US army." There is also his DP registration record. Interestingly, his Buchenwald record and his DP record each have different birthdays, neither of which were the ones we celebrated. The museum staff member explained that it was common in the camps for people to make themselves older so they would be deemed old enough to work and to make themselves younger on the DP records because kids got better placements. So on the Buchenwald records his birthday is Nov 6, 1927 and on the DP records Oct 6, 1929. I always thought his birthday was Oct 6, 1928. Anyway, as you can imagine, it's pretty incredible to have copies of these documents and I can't wait to get to NY and Israel to show them to my cousin and aunt, respectively.
We left the museum and walked to the White House since this would be our only opportunity to get a glance and Maor really wanted to see it. We were standing not directly by the fence but across the street which meant we didn't have to move when the police cleared all the people away from the fence. Why? Because the Obamas came out to walk Bo, on the lawn. Maor says it was the whole family together but I could only clearly see the girls (both wearing red). Of course Arthur did not have his camera (and zoom lens) so we missed our chance to get a great picture to sell to People magazine for big bucks. Another opportunity lost.
In any case, it was definitely a full day and we are now waiting for the fast to end back in our hotel room. Tomorrow we take the train to NY.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Packing day (part 1)

Once again, we have packed up our house (ok, apartment) to move across the ocean (our stuff will go across the Pacific, we'll go cross-Atlantic) to Israel. I CANNOT believe I am doing this again. I'd like to say I'm never moving again but I know I said that emphatically when we moved into our house on Zufim and obviously, I didn't stick to it.
The movers came to pack up our stuff and though Arthur thinks we don't have a lot of things it looks like a lot to me. It's amazing how fast the junk accumulates. Tomorrow they will finish packing and load it onto the container. And then we'll be "stuffless" for a while.
We'll be staying with friends in San Jose till Sunday and then begin our journey East.
I am internetless (currently using the wifi at the library - have I mentioned lately how much I'm going to miss the libraries? I have?! I'm sure I'll mention it again.) so not sure how much posting and Facebook updating I'll be doing.
Will try to keep writing from California, Florida, Washington, NY, Israel, and wherever else I wind up.
Take care and l'hitraot!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The final countdown...

The final countdown has begun! Not to the new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which opens Wednesday July 15th, though I am looking foward to that. In 7 days (for the exact count see the sidebar) we will be leaving San Jose after 3 years.
The shippers come on Tuesday to pack up our stuff (I cannot believe that I am moving again, and from the US to Israel for the second time). We'll stay with friends for a few days including our last Shabbat in San Jose.
Contrary to my previous post, Arthur will be coming home with us after all. After some more soul searching we've decided that this is the best route to take and even though we are both going home without jobs, we have confidence that with Hashem's help and the help of our friends (hint, hint - if you know of any job opportunities, pass them along) things will work out for the best.
We've finally solidified our vacation plans and though we won't be doing the cross country trip we had hoped to do (Maor REFUSES to be in the car with us for that long) we will be visiting a few places and people before our return. Next Sunday, we fly to Orlando for a Walt Disney World visit. We were there 14 years ago when Liam was 6 and Maor was a baby and Maor has yet to forgive us for taking her when she could not experience the Disney magic. And for those of you who know Maor, she never lets you forget a thing! Two trips to Disneyland in the past 3 years have not eroded her belief that she's been wronged!
After Disney (which will be a boot camp experience so we can see as much as possible), we will head to Washington D.C. We'll spend Shabbat at my cousin in Maryland and then try to cram in as much of Washington as we can. Maor knows that Washington museums are the price she must pay for Disney fun (theoretically, anyway).
After Washington we head to NY to visit friends and family and do some touristy things. We head back to Israel on August 10th.
I have to say that in all honesty I am not incredibly sad to be leaving San Jose or America. After living in Israel for 18 years, and Brooklyn before that, I've definitely been spoiled and have found being orthodox in San Jose to be challenging at times. I will miss the San Jose community and the good friends I've made here. I didn't think when we came that I would get close to people but they have a way of worming themselves into your affection (you know who you are!).
Despite northern California's wackiness, there are definitely things the rest of the world can learn from the tree-hugging PC crowd. You can be nice and friendly to people (though, please, less hugging folks!). It's okay to let people into your lane on the highway. It's very rare to hear honking in Northern California (I'm actually very nervous, ok terrified, about driving in Israel again). Recycling is not a dirty word and once you get used to it, it's not such a big deal.
I'll try to keep you updated on our vacation but for now, signing off.
To our Israeli friends and family, see you soon. To our American family and friends, l'hitraot!