web analytics
July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

My Mother’s Eternal Image


“To this day, every Friday night I bless candles in memory of my mother, and there isn’t one Friday night that I don’t see her in my mind, blessing our candles at home…”

My gaze is riveted to the television screen as I watch my mother speaking. She begins weeping quietly, remembering the large family she lost in the Holocaust.

“I had a beautiful childhood, a warm, close-knit, loving family, and I think it’s what sustained me through everything.”

It was the day after my mother had passed away following a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. My brother and I were sitting down with the rabbi to plan her funeral service. He had asked us to bring along any memorabilia we might have of her before she became ill. In searching for photographs and mementos, we’d come across a videotape Mom had given us ten years earlier – an interview she’d done for the Shoah Foundation, the Spielberg project that documents the testimonies of Holocaust survivors.

Back in 1995, when she’d recorded it, we had watched with a critical eye and dismissed it – she was nervous through much of it, and had left out many important stories and details. We put the tape on a shelf and forgot about it.

That day, we walked into the rabbi’s office and handed him the videotape.

“Oh, let’s look at this together,” he said, as he escorted us to a room with a television. I had a moment of panic at the thought of watching the tape, only hours after seeing my mother at the morgue. My heart contracted as the rabbi turned on the television and we sat down.

Suddenly my mother’s image appeared on the screen. The sight of her alive and well – the Mom we hadn’t seen since she’d fallen ill – took my breath away. Unable to speak or walk for the last two years, our mother had been a shadow of her former self. She’d always been a dynamic woman – strong, vibrant, articulate, charming, with a love of life and an optimism that belied the trauma of her youth. And there she was, as I wanted to remember her.

The knot in my stomach began to ease as I watched my mother speaking animatedly, with all of her familiar facial expressions and gestures. I remembered that proud look in her eye, whenever she would talk about her four sisters – “My father was known throughout Antwerp as ‘Mr. Gajst and his beautiful daughters!’” – and her nostalgic recollection of warm Shabbos dinners, with their delicious food and happy singing of z’miros. I soon realized that watching this video was far more comforting than it was painful. It was actually wonderful to see her again!

During the week of shiva that followed, friends and relatives gathered at my brother’s house, and everyone wanted to see my mother’s video. We watched it over and over again – ninety minutes of stories, spanning her childhood in Belgium to the present.

We heard how, at the age of 17, she’d hidden herself in Brussels after her whole family had been taken away. She described her eventual arrest by the Gestapo, followed by nearly three years at Auschwitz. Then the surreal tale of liberation, and her subsequent emigration to America, where she became a fashion model and later met the man who was to become our father… stories my brother and I had heard throughout our lives.

My younger son, who’d been a toddler when my mother was stricken with dementia, was now ten years old. He watched her interview intently, riveted by the images and stories of the grandmother he’d never had a chance to know.

As I sat there, I realized how fortunate we were to have this video. To be able to watch her telling the stories of her life, in her own words. It really was like seeing her alive again. In the midst of my grief, it felt joyful and cathartic. I knew in that moment that we had something invaluable and precious, and all too rare.

How I wished I had a similar video of my father, who’d passed away in 1998. All his great memories and anecdotes – building his family’s first radio as a boy in Germany, his old army stories from when he was drafted soon after arriving in America, his lifelong love of the Yankees, and the boyish grin he often wore as he reminisced – were now preserved only in our own fragile memories.

About the Author: Risa Neuwirth lives in Brooklyn with her two sons. She is the founder of LifeStory Productions (www.LifeStoryProductions.com), a video biography company based in New York City.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “My Mother’s Eternal Image”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Future guard? Arab child with Hamas headband aims toy rifle on the Temple Mount after prayers in the Al Aqsa mosque.
CNN Promotes Old City on Verge of Extinction Due to ‘Political Tension’
Latest Indepth Stories
Obama was all smiles for Israel's Ambassador Oren when they met in the White House.

US Jews prefer to be like their non-Jewish liberal friends complaining about “settlements” and Bibi

New Israel Fund and the UN

New Israel Fund & its supporters must be countered; Israel’s in the midst of an unprecedented storm

An ISIS Gaza rocket launcher.

PM Netanyahu this week identified ISIS and Iran as Israel’s primary threat. It is a planetary threat that carries the promise of peace.

U.S. postage stamp honoring Haym Solomon.

Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

More Articles from Risa Neuwirth

“To this day, every Friday night I bless candles in memory of my mother, and there isn’t one Friday night that I don’t see her in my mind, blessing our candles at home…”

My gaze is riveted to the television screen as I watch my mother speaking. She begins weeping quietly, remembering the large family she lost in the Holocaust.

“I had a beautiful childhood, a warm, close-knit, loving family, and I think it’s what sustained me through everything.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/my-mothers-eternal-image/2007/05/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: