I come from the history of being a Jewish woman in modern America. I stand on the shoulders of the generations that came before me, taking the big risks of immigrating to this mostly great and free country. I have the blessing to live in, and be a part of the American Journey, the land of opportunity and choices.
I have a sensitive heart and the awareness of what my great-grandparents did resides in my soul. They moved to a new world, in search of a better life, with young children, hope, and little else. It’s not an everyday thought I have, but like a knowing of threads weaved into the tapestry of who I am. I hope and pray and imagine, that I have some of the threads of courage, and hope, and faith they did, as they left everything behind and went forward into the mystery.
I never knew or met my great grandparents, but my grandparents created a beautiful foundation of love for me as a child. It is early April now, and my family and fellow Jews will soon be celebrating the holiday of Passover. My earliest Passover memories are of Passover Seders at my grandparents’ home, with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, laughter, food and love. These are some of my happiest memories and I can recall being maybe ﬁve years old and sometimes making a spot under the table, lying down as the evening went late beyond my hours of wakefulness. My heart swells with love and gratitude for the generations that came before me and their courage to begin anew.
The other gift after gratitude, is the gift of faith. To see that while none of us travel life unscathed from heartaches, the beautiful gifts of life can, and do unfold. My grandparents were once penniless in their youth, my grandfather had an eighth grade education. I didn’t know them then. I knew them after their years of hard work and doing the right thing had brought them the many blessings of living in this free country. There are many happy, healthy, well educated, productive members of society in their grandchildren and great grandchildren. It’s a beautiful story when you step back and see it from the big perspective.
I so love and respect the immigrant experience, the richness of character and soul it imbues. And if that weren’t enough, each year, we recount the story of Passover. Our people, thousands of years ago, made the journey into the unknown, from slavery to freedom, from mitzrayim (the place of our oppression) to Israel (the land of our freedom).
Each year, as we tell the ancient Passover story to our children, we are instructed to see this happening to us now, and look for the ways we have been bound and limited and held back. What has enslaved us in our life today? And then too, to imagine our liberation from what oppresses us. I love this story, and I love this month. The energy of this time is redemption, freedom, and liberation.
Here I am (hineni) now feeling and anticipating the new freedoms coming into my life. You see, this year has been quite a year for me. A year of a new adventure, of going into the mystery and starting something totally new in my life. And I have had so many of the feelings I imagine my ancestors before me had. The whole gamut of fear, worry, excitement, trepidation, doubt, enthusiasm, hope, and bliss.
When we in our lives venture into the unknown, it is a huge risk, and the rewards to be gained are equally immense. I have done this a few times in my life, the big giant change years that squeeze your kishkes ( your insides, your intestines and gut). And I have to say as this one comes closer to an end, I am so delighted I did it. So much newness and expansion and opportunity resides in the new free world we enter as we move forward. Is it easy, no it’s not! Is it awesome, yes it is!!!
My soul sings and dances, and my heart runneth over. And I know my ancestors are with me in spirit, feeling the nachus (a beautiful feeling of joy and delight / pride we have from our children’s qualities and accomplishments) and celebrating with me. May we all have the courage to, at times in our life, step into the mystery. May we all trust the challenges and triumphs that come with the new terrain. And may we all come to live together in peace and joy in the land of freedom. Amen.
Anna and Morty (Mordechai) Schoenfeld on their wedding day, and some of their awesome descendants including me and my daughter.