My grandmother, Erika, who I called “Nana,” was born in Vienna, Austria in 1924. She was a survivor of both the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps and passed away in September of 2013, just shy of her 89th birthday. There are so many questions I wish I had asked her. Then 23, I was certainly old enough to ask the questions, but perhaps not old enough to be ready to hear the answers. I’m not sure I’ll ever be prepared to face the reality of what she experienced. Now six years later, I don’t believe I’ll ever know her whole story.
“There are so many questions I wish I had asked her,” is exactly what I told Dr. Susan Chernyak-Spatz (OBM) about my grandmother when she spoke at Queens University in November of 2018. What I didn’t tell her is how remarkably similar her story is to my Nana’s; both were born in Vienna, both were survivors of Auschwitz, and both married American soldiers in Europe before moving to the United States in 1946. I was grateful to have that moment with Dr. Spatz because it made me feel closer to my Nana. I was also grateful to be able to attend her memorial service and hear all the wonderful stories about her life from the people who loved her most.
Charlotte Jews are lucky to live in a community that many Holocaust survivors call home, as well as one that honors them in such a profound way. The annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration gives us an opportunity to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and celebrate the triumph that is the survival of the Jewish people. As the Clergy Assistant at Temple Beth El, I have the opportunity to work alongside clergy, staff, and lay leaders from the Jewish community to bring this year’s Commemoration to fruition. It means a great deal to me to be able to work for a synagogue that hosts the Yom HaShoah Commemoration every other year.
Nana passed long before she was able to see how my sister, Lauren, and I are thriving personally and professionally in the Jewish world. I have no doubt she would be incredibly proud. I hope you’ll join our community this evening, April 21, at 7pm on Zoom to celebrate the lives of so many like hers, hear the stories of those who are still here to tell them, and celebrate the strength and survival of the Jewish people.
Amy Fine, Clergy Assistant, Temple Beth El