Monday, October 29, 2018

Now What?

How to start? I just broke down. I was overcome with this overwhelming feeling of helplessness and despair.  What can I do? I am just one person and the world feels as if it is crumbling around me.  How did they survive? This was just one incident, 11 beautiful souls were lost to us.  How did they cope with hundreds of their neighbors being lost?

The actions this past weekend in Pittsburgh were horrific, that goes without saying. But Now What?  This news cycle will pass, people will go back to their lives, every so often someone will bring up the topic, but in general - Now What? What can we do differently?  How do we affect change?

Anti-Semitism exists, it always has, just look at history.  Hatred exists.  Look at the world today.  This weekend this hatred manifested in anti-Semitism.  Next week it may be against black people, or gay people, or Muslims.  How do we combat hate? I live in a nice area, well educated people surround me, and yet my own children have faced this discrimination.  My daughter had pennies thrown at her, and most recently a young man told her "if Hitler was still around we would live in a Utopia".  Yep - that happened here.  Now what?  She wants to do something, make a change, educate her peers.  I give her a lot of credit. She recognized that it most likely was not a statement coming from a place of knowledge, but rather a statement coming from a place of ignorance.  Children hearing things, whether at home, or from their peers, and not truly understanding the meaning behind those words.

So Now What you say? You have heard this before - we must start with our children.  Not every home will be loving, not every home will embrace the ideals of love, respect and tolerance, so it is up to our school systems to embrace the change.  Teach our children the true meaning of respect and tolerance. Use the lessons of the past to shape the future. Do not just teach history, truly learn from it, apply it to today and create actionable results.  Get our youth to understand the differences between us all and appreciate those differences for what they are - the beautiful tapestry that makes this country as great as it is.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Challenge for the Polish Government... Don't rewrite history

This week Poland passed a controversial Holocaust bill into law. In essence, this new law makes saying some holocaust statements a crime and it makes it illegal to accuse the nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany.  For instance, you no longer can say "Polish death camps" in relation to Aushwitz and other such camps located in Nazi-occupied Poland.

It is a true that making the statement "Polish death camps" is misleading.  Make no mistake about it, Nazi's are the ones that built those camps.  We need to educate people and work towards countering misleading speech.  However, it is also a fact that there were certain Polish groups and individuals that collaborated and worked with the Nazi occupiers.  To try to rewrite history is very dangerous and destructive.

As many of you know, my family was saved by good non Jewish Polish families.  Many Polish people were murdered, both Jewish and Non Jewish. However, it is also true that there were many that worked closely with the Germans and collaborated, whatever their reasons.  Some would say they were just trying to survive - to protect their families. And although, that may be true to an extent, the reality is that this period of history allowed many  anti-Semitic personal beliefs rise to the surface and gave them a mechanism to act on them.

Many times, when my dad and I speak, there are many people that can not believe that the area he was from was so accepting of Jews.  There really was not much, if any, anti-Semitism.  But this was not true throughout the country.  My mother, who lived in Poland for 5 years as a teenager after the war, remembers the derogatory comments her classmates made to her and how she was bullied for being Jewish.

The definition of the term "history" is "the study of past events, particularly in human affairs".  By Poland making it illegal to discuss events as they occurred, they are in essence trying to change history and rewrite it in a way that makes them feel good and comfortable.

I have a question and challenge for the Polish government.

Instead of running from the past and trying to rewrite it, how about trying to learn from it and figure out how to teach the new generation the lessons that can be learned.  Embracing and accepting the past can be liberating.  Saying - "Yes there were those that collaborated, but yet at the same time, we must remember that many Polish people perished, many were good and tried to do the right thing.  Let's remember those people and celebrate their lives and the lives lost."

And for those that turned down the dark path - let's remember that there is always darkness in war, there are always those that will use any excuse to allow their hatred, bigotry and intolerance to come to the surface and prevail - but look at how the world came together to fight against that.  Poland is a beautiful country, with strong wonderful and kind people.  Please don't continue going down a path that will lead the world to only remember Poland and it's people as an intolerant and anti-Semitic country that is not willing to accept and remember history as it occurred!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

It's OK to have Dust in the Corner: A tribute to my Grandma Vera

For those that know me well, this quote is one that I have lived by for almost two decades.

Let me explain.  Many years ago I attended a Women's Jewelry Association Conference called Women in The Know.  I was a young working mom with a small toddler at home. There was a panel of speakers talking about all sorts of topics.  One topic was how to handle a busy work schedule and still be a mom.  One woman, Randi Shinske, made the comment, "It's Ok to have dust in the corner". When I heard this it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I had such an AHA moment.  You mean other women struggled to do it all? You mean other women sometimes felt inadequate? It was the most unbelievable feeling, to know that I was not alone, and there were other women who just couldn't make the bed everyday and live up to that perfect image of what I thought it meant to be a mom.

Yesterday, I left to go on a business trip to California.  When I landed I found out my Grandma Vera had passed away.  I hopped right back on the plane and came home.  Thinking about all the great memories I have of her, and all the wonderful times we had, the one thing that sticks out is that throughout it all, she always worked.  She was the one who saved every penny and invested it, allowing her and my grandfather to have a little kitty when they retired and enjoy life.  This was back in a time when most women did not work. There wasn't the support structure and acceptance of it back then as there is now.  I wish I talked to her more about it, how it made her feel and how she managed it all.  I can only look to her actions and use them as my examples.  Ironically, I never saw dust in her corners. She seemed to do it all. But now I wonder, how did she make it appear so easy? Who was her support structure?  

I realize being a mom is not about brining cupcakes to the class, or making sure the house is perfect. It is about so much more. It is about being there for your children. It is about being a role model for your sons and daughters. My grandmother was always there for us. She made it seem so easy. She was such an inspiration.  She always made me feel special and important.  She encouraged me to follow my dreams, and always told me that she knew I could do it.

As for being a working mom - sometimes it is just so hard to be present and in the moment, but that is what counts.  We always made it a point to have family dinners. No - I did not cook everyday, I tried to some days, but the reality is that it did not matter who made the food, just that we ate together.  No TV on in the house during dinner.  Phones were put away.  We talked. That was our time.  Yes, it get's harder the older they get, the more activities they have, but that just meant that some nights we ate later.  Did we eat together every single night? No. Between their schedules, and my busy travel schedule, that would have been impossible. But we really tried to as much and as often as we could.

I was listening to the news today, and heard a segment about Senator Tammy Duckworth.  She is the first sitting Senator that will be giving birth while in office.  And New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who is also pregnant.  She made a comment "I am not the first woman to multitask".  Women have been working and having families for many, many years.

Today I think we have come a long way.  Women supporting women is such a strong system, and allows us to thrive.  I remember feeling guilty about missing things when the kids were young, and feeling inadequate sometimes, and a friend told me "Guilt is a useless emotion.  A happy mommy makes happy kids, and if working makes you happy - go for it!"

So to all you working moms out there - know you are not alone - you are perfect in your own way.  My grandma always told me how wonderful I was - so I am telling you too - you are amazing! Remember - It's OK to have dust in the corner!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2017: The most amazing thing I was reminded of...

As I look back on 2017, reflecting on the year, I am amazed at the people I have met and am excited to see what 2018 has in store. This past year, my father and I have had a chance to speak to people of all ages.

One of the most profound things I learned was the different perception children have in the world depending on where they are growing up. I always knew this theoretically of course, but being faced with it head on was a stark reminder of where we are in the world. This past year my father and I were speaking to 5th and 6th graders in Newark NJ. This was a group of hispanic and African American children. They had read the book as part of their class and were all so excited to meet my dad. When they first saw him their reaction was amazing - it was as if Beyoncé had walked in. The morning was wonderful, with so many great questions coming from the students. However, it was what I found out right before we entered the auditorium that really struck me. We were speaking to the teacher of the class and she told us about reactions the students had to reading the book. She told us that the biggest takeaway the students had reading the book was... that they did not realize that there was white on white violence. They just assumed if you were white you had it made. That hit me hard.

The thing is that to most people perception is reality. Having the opportunity to teach the young that we are all really the same could be life changing. We may all not be in the same place in our lives. Different social and economic standings of course influence attitude and opinion. But showing them that someone that is was once hunted, someone that experienced discrimination to the worst degree, that experienced a hatred like no other, can actually come though the other side and not only survive but thrive through hard work and perseverance is a lesson that needs to be taught.  We look forward to the year ahead and hopefully being able to make an impact on even more lives.