The past few days, I’ve been wearing my silver cross and Star of David. The cross was my first ever cross. I have fuzzy memories of buying it with my mother, who hadn’t planned on making any type of purchase. The Star I bought on eBay when I was identifying as Jewish in High School. I knew that I had to buy it when it was the only one that said Shalom in Hebrew in the center. Peace.
Though I didn’t know that we were Jewish until I was 13 and reading the Diary of Anne Frank in school, it’s always felt right to me. Something in my being is drawn to Judaism and especially to the Holocaust. I consider it to be just as much a part of my identity as my Christianity and environmentalism and my function in life as a writer and storyteller. It’s my heritage. I wouldn’t be the same person without it, which is a really crazy thing to think about.
Part of the reason I bought the Star was for an external acknowledgement. Part of it was also because my grandmother stuck her hand down my shirt one day to fish out my other necklace, throwing it when it was Christian or bullet oriented. In a moderately disgusted and offhanded tone, she informed me that she thought maybe I was wearing a Star, too. I call the necklace my anti-grandma molestation necklace, partially joking because the story is a funny one to tell. Like the rest of my family and my family stories, the situation was downright strange.
My heritage is something that I’m acutely aware of, especially lately. I was never quite sure how to balance the two worlds- the one which I come from and the world that I belong to. I was never sure how to honor both without dishonoring both of them in the process. A friend told me that I could honor my Jewish roots in the home with Jewish prayers and be a Christian in the world. The prayers are Jewish, anyway, she told me. I always remembered that. I think it’s fine advice.
I think that as long as I remember where my family came from, it’s good. One of my biggest fears is forgetting. My family were early immigrants to this country. They came over before the big waves of Jewish immigration. Subsequently, we don’t believe that we lost anyone in the death camps of Nazi Europe. But that dark chapter of our history has always drawn me. People assume that when you’re as well read in the Holocaust as I am, that you have a personal investment in the subject. Mine is not the expected one. I don’t want the stories of the people who died in those camps to ever be forgotten. And when I read their stories, they live with me and they are not forgotten.
I think Holocaust and Genocide remembrance days should not be limited to a specific day each year. They should be every day. I don’t ever want anyone to forget the sacrifices and suffering in the camps, and how there were moments where the best in humanity shone out in the camps. He who forgets history is doomed to repeat it, Santayana said.
So today, at the peace during mass, when Br. Don-Angelo approached me with my cross and Star and other things and announced that he was going to peace me anyway, I told him that there was a story behind my anti-grandma molestation device. And there is. But it’s a longer story than anyone would think.