For Immediate Release
Contact: Wendee Cutler
wcutler@bjhfoundation.org
336-337-6584

A Life Changing Trip

Our daughter Alexa, my husband Ivan and I returned to Greensboro in early May from a life changing trip filled with grief over lives lost in the Holocaust to the renewal of hope and life filled with vibrancy and pride in Israel.

We joined Greensboro, NC, Roanoke, VA and Hilton Head Island, SC high school students, adults, Hank Brodt (a survivor of 5 death camps), counselors, educators, medical staff, two other Rabbis with Rabbi Fred Guttman as he led us on the spiritual and educational March of the Living through Poland and Israel.

A few weeks have passed since we returned and I am still “metabolizing” the emotional intensity of our experience. We saw the horrors of the Holocaust when we visited a number of historical sites and synagogues as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau. On our last day in Poland we walked the 3 kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau with about 13,000 others from over 40 countries on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Memorial Day.

I am still having trouble understanding how such a heinous event can happen. I keep asking myself, “Where was the moral compass and conscience of those carrying out these despicable orders from such a mentally deranged individual?”

Our trip continued into Israel where we visited many historical sites, renewing our faith in the ability of our Jewish heritage to give us strength to continue to strive for a better life. We observed Yom Hazikaron – Israel Memorial Day by attending services for fallen soldiers and civilians from terrorism. Once again we walked with thousands from Safra square to the Western Wall on Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel Independence Day.

You may ask, “How does all of this correlate to BJH Foundation for Senior Services?” One of our stops in Israel was to the small town of Netivot in the Negev where we met black Jews (Beta Israel) rescued in 1991 from Ethiopia during Operation Solomon. We enjoyed a fantastic cup of fresh roasted coffee followed by conversations with multiple generations.

Today the Ethiopian community includes two and three generations of Israeli born Sabras.

Most of the younger group wants to be like “all other Israelis” and are losing interest in their Ethiopian heritage.

The older Jewish Ethiopians want to keep some of their Ethiopian heritage alive in Israel in ways similar how our families included European customs when they immigrated to the United States. The lack of interest from the grandchildren has contributed toward the older Ethiopian Jews, now grandparents and great grandparents, becoming less social, more isolated and depressed.

Fortunately, Netivot has a proactive group that provides services similar to a Jewish Family Services agency. The Ethiopian Cultural Center has made great strides in bringing the older Jewish adults out for activities. Today they participate in crafts they learned in Ethiopia including basket weaving, pottery and painting as examples. They also started a garden and grow crops reminiscent of Ethiopia. This brought back a familiarity to the older Ethiopian Jewish adults, reducing their depression and loneliness.

It was interesting to learn about these older Jewish adults struggling with similar issues. As Jews we know that no matter where we go in the world we will find “extended family”. Discovering we all share some of the same aging issues is now part of the “extended family.”

Netivot, much like BJH Foundation, works hard to “enhance the lives of older Jewish adults!”

If you are interested in more information about BJH Foundation and ways you may be able to help our older Jewish adult population, please contact Wendee Cutler at 336-854-8400 or email wcutler@bjhfoundation.org.