There are a million things to blog about concerning our trip to New York, but most of them will have to wait until we get home and my feet stop hurting.
But a few things must be put down while they are fresh.
While in Boro Park completing the multi-year quest of finding oval challah pans...don't ask...we had lunch at an (un-airconditioned) Israeli restaurant on 13th Avenue called Amnon. We didn't find many of the people to be friendly. To be honest, with only one exception I found the people in Boro Park to be rude, condescending, and dismissive. But there was an exception.
This is Bronia.
Bronia -- I won't use her last name -- approached our table and spent a very pleasant few minutes in conversation with us. She wanted to make sure we felt welcome -- it was pretty obvious we were outsiders -- and to tell us about the Museum of Jewish Heritage, at which she volunteers.
Bronia is originally from Galicia, in Poland. She was born about 20 miles from the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Her parents were exterminated there. So were her mother's 10 siblings.
Bronia and her sisters were sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis when Bronia was only 8 years old. She was originally chosen for immediate extermination in the gas chambers, but snuck into the line her sister was in and began 4 years as a slave laborer. She exited the camps at the age of 12 when the camps were liberated. Only she survived.
Bronia made the infamous Death March from Auschwitz through the snow, pushed onward by the Nazis, who shot anyone who stumbled or slowed. She walked past bodies of people she knew, dead in the snow with bullets through the head. She says it took her 25 years to laugh again, and that she still hasn't cried.
People did this to her. To her family. To humanity. And I don't know how to process it. Now, none of this is news to me...I know all this. And I've met survivors before. But I don't understand it and I can't understand it and I don't want to understand it. I want to cry. Loudly, and unashamedly. I want to give voice to the grief and pain and longing and disbelief.
But I can't cry enough.
So I am going to say Kaddish. For Bronia's mother and father. For her sisters and aunts and uncles. For all of them. And I promise not to forget. I will never be able to understand, but I will remember.