As part of the events during the trip, we had a tolerance event at a church that had been built on the ruins of a synagogue. This was my mother’s speech.
I, Miriam Meisels Griver, returned to Passau (Pocking) today as a survivor of the Holocaust. My late father, Rabbi Lipot Yehuda Meisels, a Hungarian Jew marched here from Auschwitz. Piled among the dead, he managed to move just enough to catch the attention of an American soldier. "That one is alive", the soldier shouted. My father was pulled from among the decaying bodies. My mother and sister and I reunited with him here, where he built a community of broken men, women and children. He buried the men, women and babies victims of the Holocaust, and then he helped to heal the lives of the survivors and nurse back their lives in many ways so they could embark on a new beginning.
My parents had seen more evil than can be imagined, but they brought our family up with love, and became a part of the growing Jewish state where more Holocaust survivors live than anyplace else.
I became a member of a woman’s organization called Hadassah. The name Hadassah comes from the Bible: it is the Hebrew for Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people from slaughter in ancient Persia. The organization was established in 1912 when an American woman named Henrietta Szold saw the suffering of the children of Jerusalem, Jewish children and Arab children. They were so used to flies in their eyes that they didn’t even bother to brush them away. She went back and used the strength of women who cared to build the infrastructure of medical care: baby clinics, child nutrition and also the needs of adults. The two great hospitals that bear the name Hadassah in Jerusalem continue to do that work: caring for the ill without reference to race, color, gender or religion. Hadassah’s hospitals are noted around the world for their excellence and far-reaching innovations.
When I moved to Israel, I saw the work of Hadassah first hand, and became an active member of Hadassah’s Israel chapter. Today, I am the President of Hadassah-Israel, an organization that aims to improve health for all the people of the region.
Hadassah-Israel is a national, non-partisan, women’s Zionist volunteer organization dedicated to the enhancement of the quality of life in Israel in the areas of Health Promotion, Education, Absorption, the Status of Women, and the Child at Risk. Hadassah-Israel continues in the footsteps of Henrietta Szold, the founder of the world Hadassah, and has chapters throughout the country. We are guided by the words of Henrietta Szold: “Dream great dreams and take the practical steps to make them a reality.”
Last year, our special project was to help the tiniest patients, the
neo-natal babies, both Jews and Palestinians, who need intensive care.
Hadassah has become a symbol of hope to people around the world. This year, legislators and professors in four different countries nominated Hadassah Medical Organization for a Nobel Peace Prize. I am proud of our ability to foster the values of equality, kindness, intelligence and dedication which are hallmarks of Hadassah’s existence.
I was one of the lucky children who grew up to establish a loving marriage, a wonderful family with children and grandchildren. But nurturing our own family is not enough. Each of us must give of ourselves by volunteering and contributing to the welfare of our communities.
As a Holocaust survivor I constantly reflect, agonize and struggle with the mind-boggling thoughts of how could the Holocaust to have happened. How did a people, so advanced in intelligence and culture pounce on its own citizens and on other communities all over Europe and bring about such incomprehensible cruelties to untold numbers of humanity; men, women and especially children. It defies logic, understanding and answers… Why?….
In Judaism, we have a concept called tikkun olum – the perfection of the world. I stand here today, in the place where so much destruction took place, I seek a pledge that all of us will go beyond hatred and bigotry to build a better world. I ask you to join me.