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Memory is a Powerful Sense

About a month ago, my mother gave me my grandmother’s 8th grade gold graduation ring, with her initials, AA, inscribed on the front. She wanted me to know its history. My grandmother, who I called “Nana,” was the oldest of five children and the only girl. When she finished 8th grade, she finished her formal education, having to go to work to help support her family. I always remember my mother telling me that my Nana had only two dresses, one for every day and one for special occasions.

My Nana died when I was 13 years old, but she has remained a North Star in my life. Her loving kindness and generosity were renowned. Her arms were always open wide. My mother remembers that as a child her mother would always drive by the bus stop on the way home to see if there was anyone they knew to whom they could offer a ride. My Nana’s cooking was legendary. The scents that wafted from her kitchen could make you swoon. Even our dog knew the way to Nana’s kitchen, leaping from the elevator to make a beeline to her apartment.

When my mom gave me her mother’s ring, I was at Shabbat Services. Not wanting to lose it, I put it on my key chain, where it still remains. I left it there because now, whenever I grab my keys, I think of her and smile.

Memory is a powerful sense. It grounds us, directs us, inspires us and reminds us who we are. As Jews, memory is considered such an important part of our identity that it’s been called our sixth sense. Collectively, we remember that we were slaves in Egypt, we remember the Holocaust, and we remember our ancestors. Personally, every time we worship together, we remember our loved ones who are no longer physically with us when we recite Kaddish. Four times a year, we devote an entire service to memory, when we recite Yizkor.

At Temple Beth Sholom, it’s become our custom to produce a Book of Memory for our Yom Kippur Yizkor. Each year, temple members lovingly submit names of those whose memories they wish to honor on this special occasion. This year, however, we are reimagining the way we honor our loved ones’ memories to more deeply personalize the experience and, at the same time, “go green,” leaving a lighter footprint on our natural resources. Instead of producing hundreds of Books of Memory, we will create a Yizkor Memorial, a digital display that will scroll on our TBS Welcome Center screens the entire day of Yom Kippur. It will also be viewed on our TBS website. You will be able to submit names, as you have always done, but additionally, you may now submit a poignant photograph or words that capture the essence of your loved one(s). Please use this link to submit your information. 

I recently heard an interview on NPR that touched me deeply. On it, the artist, Patti Smith, was speaking about her new book. The host of the show asked Smith about all the losses she has suffered in her life. “How does it feel to view all these people in the rearview mirror of your life?” he asked. “They are not in my rearview mirror,” Smith responded. “I take them with me wherever I go.”

May we be blessed to find comfort and wholeness in knowing that all our loved ones who have departed remain with us despite the distance of time and space. We take them with us wherever we go.

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784