Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Computing another loss

For the fourth time in the last month I attended a funeral or memorial service yesterday. Two of the memorial services were Christian in nature. At one, the tragic ecumenical services for a 13-year-old Boy Scout from my troop, bread and grape juice were offered in an attempt to emulate the Eucharist, while at the second, an equally tragic service for a young adult son of a longtime friend and client at an Episcopal church, songs and readings were offered for comfort. At both of those services, there was no body or coffin on display. The last two funerals were Jewish in nature and coffins carrying the remains of the dead were prominetn. Both of the services were held at the same cemetery with graveside services conducted by Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Uri Topolosky. Last week's funeral service was for a contemporary's octogenarian mother. Her life was chronicled Yesterday was similar in nature, but despite a smaller crowd, the feeling was a bit more telling because the deceased was a Holocaust survivor. Many survivors of the Shoah came to the New Orleans area following their liberation from concentration camps and eventual confinement in displaced persons camps. Between 1946 and 1950 a number of these victims elected to settle in the Crescent City rather than stay in other, larger Jewish communities in the Northeast, in Florida or in California. These refugees formed the New Americans Social Club as a means to band together and collectively integrate into what to them was a foreign culture. Through the years they became a force to be reckoned with; they became galvanized when American Nazis threatened to boycott a film. "Never again" has been their clarion call, but, sadly, many of them have passed on now. Their children and grandchildren document their survival, but the numbers of the survivors are diminishing with each passing year. This last service ended with the singing of "Hatikvah," now the national anthem of the State of Israel, but a song with greater meaning to a people who had only "hope" for a period of time following the war before their arrival in America.

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