Today is Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. The holiday occurs every year on the 27th of Nissan in the Hebrew calendar. Shoah, which means catastrophe or utter destruction in Hebrew, refers to the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people during World War II. On this day, I remember those who died in the Shoah, and I honor my Ancestors.
Date: 5/1/2011 4:11:03 PM ( 24 mon ) ... viewed 937 times
“Chava, The Forgotten One”
watercolor 11” X 14” created by Mayah July 2010
Going to bed at 12:30 A.M. on the morning of July 23, 2010, I suddenly had the impulse to draw. Getting out the drawing pad, sitting on my bed, I had no idea what was going to come out if my pencil. Out came the image of this young woman, broken window in the background, mournful look on her face, homemade Jewish star patch on her shoulder (The Nazi’s forced Jews to wear a Star of David patch on their arms, to identify themselves as being Jews). She lived in Eastern Europe and died in the camps during WWII. She is one of “The Lost Ones”, the Jews of Europe killed in the Holocaust whose whole families were killed along with them, leaving no survivors to mourn or remember them.
That afternoon I placed this pencil sketch of Chava, as she asked me to call her, on my Ancestor altar. I lit a candle and sang the Barchu, the Call to Prayer, followed by the Shema, the prayer acknowledging the Unity of All Life, and the last prayer of Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) services, the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I sang from the heart, and I felt connected to Chava, my Ancestors, and my people. I told Chava that I would not forget her.
Many days later, using subdued hues, I painted over the pencil sketch with watercolor. After having the portrait framed, Chava’s image hangs on the wall above the Ancestor altar in my dining room. She is now part of my family, and she is remembered.
watercolor 11” X 14” created by Mayah October 2010
Looking in the mirror, this drawing started out as a self-portrait, then morphed into the face of this Elder. A Holocaust survivor, she is looking back at her life, remembering the years of the Shoah, painfully recollecting the loss of her family and the destruction of all that she knew.
Water color 11” X 14” created by Mayah November 2010
In November 2010, I had a divination with Gretchen McKay, American sangoma**; my Ancestors on my father’s side showed up in a big way.
I told Gretchen about a dream and vision I had about 10 years ago in which the same Ancestor showed up. In the dream, the Ancestor appeared as a grey-bearded, long-robed Rabbi, who showed me a red leather-bound book embossed with gold Hebrew letters on the cover. In the vision, the same Ancestor ushered me into a synagogue filled with Rabbis, where I was the only woman. Gretchen told me that this Rabbi lived 6 generations ago; this would be somewhere in the 1700’s.
When I first started this drawing, I “saw” the Star of David and behind it a pair of eyes. I thought this was going to be a portrait of the elder Rabbi Ancestor I’d dreamed about years ago—then the drawing morphed into the present one. I asked this Ancestor who he is. He is the ancestor Gretchen spoke of during the divination and the one I dreamed and visioned about, except the drawing portrays him as a younger man in his late 30’s.
Ancestor looks like he’s wearing the garb of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. He would be a man who walked the streets of the city in which he lived, dressed as everyone else of the time, but he would be a Jew, a Rabbi, who secretly studied ancient Jewish mysticism—the Kabbalah.
I am Ancestor’s great-great-great-great granddaughter! I was raised as a secular Jew, with little religious education and knowledge of only a few Hebrew words. And I am still trying to figure out what I Know and what I believe, and who I AM.
**"A sangoma is an African traditional healer who merges with her ancestors for the purpose of healing. It is a spiritual calling, not a chosen profession." Gretchen McKay, Ancestral Wisdom http://www.ancestralwisdom.com/
For more information about Yom HaShoah, go to: Union for Reform Judaism http://urj.org/holidays/hashoah/
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