There are different ways of professing faith. All involve sacrifice. What seem to be the smallest gestures, sometimes resonate the most.
We Jews will survive because we have to. My paternal Grandmother, Dora Rummel, survived.
Dora was born in Janjelgava, Latvia. She left Latvia before the Shoah, thus her survival. Not a single family member or friend who remained, survived.
Dora, and her Lithuanian born husband, Sam Gochin, never reached any level of financial success in South Africa. My grandparents had a small grocery store where I began to work at the age of eight.
My grandparents were frugal. Rotten pumpkins were brought home from the store to be eaten by the family; the good ones sold to customers. My grandfather switched his gasoline off at the top of a hill to save drops of fuel by coasting downhill. “Frugal” is a compassionate adjective for their obsessive non spending. It was only after my Grandfather’s death that I learned the extent of how much they denied themselves; saved every penny, and anonymously donated everything they were able to Jewish causes. Israel and the Jewish people were their priority over themselves. Selfishness did not exist within them; they sought no recognition and no reward. This was the way my grandparents tried to deal with the Shoah.
I was 10 years old at the time of the Yom Kippur War. My grandparents listened to radio news 24 hours per day. For them, the survival of our homeland and our soldiers was more important than their own lives.
When my Grandparents came to visit carrying their Blue Box, my 11 year old sister, my 6 year old sister and I were asked if we had any loose change, absolutely anything which we could give to the IDF to support our defenders. We did. My Grandparents desperation, love, passion and conviction instilled in me a lifelong devotion to my homeland and my people.
My Grandparents gave everything they had, and could, to the defense of our people, until they had almost nothing left to give.
Then, a profound learning experience. My grandmother Dora pulled me aside and asked me if I would come downtown with her. As a 10 year old boy, I have foggy memories of where we went, but what I witnessed and experienced has impacted me every day of my life since.
My grandmother removed her wedding ring, and extracted from it the tiny center diamond. She gave her wedding diamond to the Yom Kippur war effort to save our soldiers.
From there, we went to a bead store to replace her wedding diamond with a glass bead.
She explained to me that my grandfather would not notice, and if her wedding diamond could buy one bandage, or one pain treatment for one wounded soldier, that immensely exceeded the value of ANY item.
She swore me to secrecy. Today, 50 years later, I am breaking my promise of silence. I too require no reward, no recognition, this is my declaration of my faith.
My grandmother Dora’s was not performative virtue signaling. It was not a gaudy display of wanting one’s name up in lights, or plaques on a wall for doing what is good, proper or decent. It was selflessness of the highest order by giving the only thing she had left to give, and her most personal and precious tangible life symbol.
I have Dora’s wedding ring containing the glass bead instead of a diamond. It is the most precious treasure I own, my moral guide and compass in life, my life preserver in an ocean of blood.
Ours are a people of love, of study and building. We Jews will survive because there are still enough of us like my Grandparents, who love Israel and the Jewish people above all else. Our external and internal enemies will never be able to extinguish the vitality, purity and passion of our Jewish family. We have survived this before, and we will survive it again. Together.
Am Yisrael Chai!