Was cleaning out my closet a few days ago and found a ton of family pictures. I seem to now be the curator of anything “family tree”. It is a difficult position to be in because I didn’t know a lot of these people and hate to make assumptions of who they are and how we are related. I scanned and posted a picture the other day and the comments went wild. Made me think that maybe I should scan the rest of these pictures and make a Facebook page so people can add to it and pull the pictures for themselves as they want/need them. It also helps with the “who is who” in the family. I have 2700+people now in the Weitz-Katz Family tree. I try to attach pictures of the people in the tree when I have them. I listen to Howard Stern and they always have a commercial for printing pictures, “why have those pictures create digital dust when you can print them for everyone to see” So… here they are. Feldman’s-Freeman’s-Weitz’s-Soloff’s-etc…, check out the FB page and please post.
It seems like yesterday that we visited Poland. Watching the survivors come back today for the 70th anniversary of liberation was incredible. I don’t know how they survived the horrors of losing their families and friends. Today, I posted a picture that showed some of these survivors who are pointing to themselves in a photograph of when they were liberated. When my mom and I took the 5 hr. tour, they started us out on the bus with a video. They were talking about the liberation of Auschwitz. They said that the Russians/Red Army came in to liberate them with their camera crews they expected that they would open the gates and everyone would be happy and run out the gates. What they found was completely different. No one came running, they were so emaciated that they could barely wave or stand. No epic camera moment of glory for the Russians. The prisoners stayed there for weeks/months because they were so fragile and near death. The camp became a hospital/infirmary.
What was interesting throughout both Poland and Lithuania was that the people working in these Jewish Heritage sites were not Jews. There are so few Jews left in these countries that the jobs are filled by others. There is a picture below of where the ashes were dumped after the crematorium at Birkenau or (Auschwitz II). Our guide for the past 3 hours was soooo passionate in his presentation. He seemed to me that he was the grandson of a survivor. He spoke so authentically and with such vigor that when someone asked him why there were stones on the cemetery stones, he replied, “you know how we put flowers on our families stones at cemeteries, “the Jews” put stones on them to show that someone was there” I was in shock! HE was NOT Jewish? WOOOOAH! I was then told that most of the guides were not. Couldn’t believe it. Same thing with the tour of the Jewish quarter in Krakow and the Schindler Museum.
With the 70th anniversary I thought I would reblog this and then add a new thoughts. Coming next
Where do you start and what do you say after walking through a factory of death. My first impressions were the vastness of the camps, the quiet of the spaces, the hatred of ignorance, the piles of braided hair, the crystal toxins used to gas the masses, images of the the kids and babies tortured and the hatred of the SS. Standing in the gas chamber then walking into the next room with the ovens took my breath away. Next at Birkenau, part of Auschwitz where the mass killings happened, standing on the track where the trains would come in, families separated, and left or right was life or death. Seeing the destroyed crematoriums and where they put the ash was surreal. Walking backdown the tracks I started to hyperventilate and then I saw a yellow butterfly.
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Held of writing anything until the entire family had successfully left the country. We had a wonderful time in Israel. I think each family had their own special experiences. We learned a lot, experienced new cultures, ate new foods, rode camels, and celebrated a triple bar mitzvah of 3 awesome kids all the while watching updates on JPost as soon as they came across our phones.
Prior to arriving and upon arrival, we had felt the underlying anxiety of the 3 missing boys, seeing demonstrations in Tel Aviv then came the sad news that the bodies were found. We then learned of the killing of the Palestinian boy by Jews! How horrible and embarousing to our people. Things then became very tense. We were told not to go to open markets or go to the Arab section including The shook or Ben Yehuda street. the cab driver told us of kids throwing stones at soldiers at the Dome if the Rock and to be cautious. Fights with the Arab cab drivers for picking up fares at the hotel were apparent.
We had an amazing bar mitzvah. The kids were great. Rabbi Mari did a beautiful job. The custom siddurs were beautiful, personal, and meaningful. The setting at Robinson’s Arch was incredible. Peaceful, quiet, private, and authentic. We heard sounds of bar mitzvahs, drums and shofars marching bar mitzvah kids in, shrills of the sefardic women doing that noise, and songs. After the ceremony, we had a kiddish and then went to the kotel. Put our notes in the wall, said some prayers for health and peace.
We then jumped on the bus and went to the Ticco house for a celebration lunch. Delicious food, music, and A tiny bit of dancing. The bar mitzvah boys went up on the chair.
We later went to Ben Yahuda street that evening. It felt tense but we wanted to walk around and do some shopping for souvenirs. Bennett got wrapped in tefillin by a Chabad rabbi and 2 police officers. We continued with eyes open. All of a sudden we saw a spontaneous gathering of young kids screaming “am yisrael chai”. Police were running there in minutes. Don’t know what happened as we walked the opposite direction. Rockets become heavier. We packed our bags assuming we were going to continue to Eilat/Petra. The next morning we hear 40,000 troops called up and the operation had a name. We made a plan to talk at breakfast with the adults and the tour operator. We decided that since the bar mitzvah was over we were done touring. We didn’t want to be in the south, further from the airport or being in an Arab country having issues at a border entering Israel, justified or not. We then had the next stage of changing tickets. The prices ranged all over the place. We had to fly through London bc we had British airways so we are here now till tomorrow making the best of our vacation. Everyone left except Erik&Deena and family were able to get out of Israel on Tuesday. They had to stay an extra day. During the day, they had to get shelter at the Carlton hotel in Tel aviv when the sirens went off as Hamas rockets approached. Iron dome took care of them. Our guide Odelia said a few landed near their home. They spent the night with their baby in their shelter. I hope he wasn’t scared. My kids are obsessed with JPost wanting updates on the country they fell in love with. Bennett said, “don’t worry about Petra, we can go back for Brett’s Bar Mitzvah. ” Sounds good to me.
I wish I could have finished the book before we reached Masada but… when I do, I will have a better perspective. The last time I was at Masada it was 1985, nothing has changed except there is beautiful new visitor center and a lot of shade structures. I remember we climbed it with Ramah. Now they have a high speed cable car the size of the bus.
It is so special to experience places of significant history of your people. We have learned a lot about the zealots of the time of the destruction of the 2nd temple. Zealotry is the topic of Bennett’s Dvar Torah this coming Monday at his bar mitzvah.
What an amazing day touring the old city of Jerusalem. We walked through the Jaffa gate though the Armenian quarter to the Jewish quarter. Went to the Burnt house, toured the western wall tunnels, saw the kotel, ended in the Muslim quarter. They had soldiers to escort us back to Jewish quarter but Odelia, our guide had some specials things for us to do instead. We had falafel and salads at an old restaurant in the Arab section. We went to the roof top of the Austrian hospice. Incredible views from the rooftop. We then went to see the Christian sites walking the via Delarosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We then went to The City of David and walked the ancient water tunnels from 2000 years ago. Very cool day! Tonight we will walk the city walls.
We have spent a lot if time on the borders lately. Atv’ing on the Lebanese border, overlook of Syria at the Golan heights, and touring an old kibbutz overlooking a defunct hydroelectric plant now in Jordan. They are restoring one if the bridges but why? I can’t imagine the train from Damascus to Haifa coming back soon? The man who crated this masterpiece of technology was named Pinchas, how fitting for next weeks Torah portion. On the way down to Jerusalem we saw where the parsha took place (from the window of the bus). Lila tov