Telling an Unfinished Story: Marking the Yamim

I was in Israel for Sukkot, staying at my grandparents’ Wolfson Towers apartment on Diskin Street in Jerusalem. They had bought it from blueprints right after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a symbol to them of “never again”— and I was there, in their apartment, when it happened again on October 7.

Four days later, amidst the blur — before the ground invasion, as the dead were being counted in droves — I boarded a plane with my one-and-a-half-year-old, heading back to New York.

In late January, I returned to meet my sister’s baby. On a Saturday night, I gathered with my oldest group of girlfriends at that same apartment. Usually, it is impossible to get this group in one place, but it was like we all needed a night of nostalgia—to remember that there was a time before October 7 and that we were all once innocent and young and full of hope.

As each friend walked into the Diskin Street time capsule, they appeared unchanged. But as the night went on, they started to unravel. They were in pain, broken, proud, betrayed, afraid — each one senselessly lost and unsure how the story would end, but trying (on their good days) to find crumbs of meaning and connection.

A friend stopped the conversation in her usual way: “What about you, Mollie? What’s happening in America? What about your friends? Who are your people? What do people think and say?”

What about me? I’ve been protecting myself, I’ve been staying close to home, talking to people I know and love. Have I been asked to represent Israel and Israelis? Sometimes, but not usually.

“But it must be harder to be outside,” they said, and, yes, it is harder sometimes to be outside.

On the outside, I have to deal with the implications of what this means for the rest of the world. I interact with people who have drastically different takes than mine, and who are latching on to this story and want to intervene. And I cannot see if the beauty of our people balances out the systems that are causing so much harm.

I find it hard to know where in this story I belong.

Telling an unfinished story

The narratives woven into Jewish history and our collective memory are embodied in the rituals we establish. In recent history, there is no greater testament to this than how we solemnly commemorate Yom Ha’Zikaron, and then joyously celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

The story of October 7 is still emerging, and yet we must establish narratives we can hold on to in order to give us strength and meaning. Figuring out our place in a story –– one that we are actually part of, one in which we have a stake –– is hard.

So, what stories will we tell this year during Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut?

How do we tell a story that is still unfolding? What stories –– and whose stories –– will we choose to share? How will we capture the fear, horror, and confusion we have experienced while lifting powerful moments of goodness, kindness, and light?

To contend with these questions, and a myriad of others that continue to surface, we must help educators and leaders make deep and deliberate choices about how to commemorate and celebrate the Yamim this year. The Yamim Project is one example for an initiative dedicated for addressing this issue.

We as educators will play our part in contributing to how our collective consciousness –– the heart of our people –– will grieve and grow, remember and rise. Together, let’s find the words and narratives that give us strength and meaning as we navigate through the ongoing story of our collective journey.

For the full reflection as published in New Ark: A Chronicle of Civic Action, click here.

About the Author
Mollie Andron is the Vice President of Programs at M²: The institute for Experiential Jewish Education. Mollie has over 18 years of experience teaching in a variety of Jewish educational settings – from formal classroom teaching to nature education, from theatre education to collaborative philanthropy education. She enjoys being in the field as well as building programs and trainings to support others. Mollie holds a double Master's in Midrash and Jewish Experiential Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary, a BA in Religion from Bard College and is a graduate of M²’s Senior Educators Cohort. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and children.