Last week, the American flag was raised outside of the US Embassy in Cuba ending more than 50 years of estrangement between the two neighboring countries. Richard Blanco, a Cuban-American poet, who delivered the inaugural poem for President Obama’s second inauguration, was invited to read a poem at the Embassy ceremony.
In an interview prior to the ceremony, the poet used words that triggered a powerful association for me. Blanco said: …our charge is in some ways to honor our past and our parents’ stories and bring them forward…” Blanco went on to reflect on his artistic work –“ …in some ways I feel that much of my body of work has been, in a way …to heal my mother…” Those words grabbed me by the throat and brought tears to my eyes. For me, and I’m sure for those of us who are children of Holocaust survivors, Blanco’s words stir powerful emotions.
The dozen or so children of survivors who are helping to preserve Temple Beth Israel in Danielson, Connecticut can easily relate to honoring the past and our parents’ stories. That is our mission at the Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society (TBIPS). By caring for this special stone and glass building where our parents experienced freedom for the first time, found happiness and began new lives, we honor them and their memories. But Blanco teaches us that we are doing more. By working to preserve and maintain this building and fill it with programs that preserve their stories and celebrate their spirit, we, in some small way, have a chance to heal our parents who suffered so greatly, to soothe their pain and to reassure them that we remember them and that we love them and that the new chapters of their lives that they wrote in this beautiful building were worthy and admirable.
Norman Berman, president of TBIPS, a child of Holocaust survivors, was born in Camp Fohrenwald, a Displaced Persons Camp south of Munich, Germany.