I was born in the right place. I grew up in a wonderful neighborhood with an abundance of safety and tolerance. My parents were never afraid to hang up our Mezuzah. I was proud and unafraid to tell my classmates that I am Jewish. I had many of my non-Jewish friends attend my Bar Mitzvah. In my adult life, I truly cannot remember a time that I have felt uneasy or a lack of opportunity because I am Jewish. My story is unfortunately not the norm for our Jewish people. In fact, the persecution that my ancestors faced, in late 1800’s during the Russian pogroms, initiated their immigration to America. Their immigration ultimately helped pave the way for me to be born in this “right place.”
These thoughts came about during the moving service we had at Seacrest Village on the Day of Holocaust Remembrance, Yom HaShoah. Warren Odenheimer, the keynote speaker of the service, started his story by telling the audience, “I was born in the wrong place.” Born in Germany shortly before Nazi rule, Warren and his family began to feel significant oppression and anti-Semitism. Fortunately, Warren and his family were able to leave Germany shortly after Kristallnacht. As a young man, Warren and his family were uprooted from their home in Germany. The Odenheimers migrated through Russia and then spent time in the Orient.
With only $8 dollars to their name, the family was granted visas to come to America, where they settled in San Francisco. In 1941, he enlisted in service and is a WWII Veteran. He has spoken to other groups about his story to help us ensure that we will not forget.
A moment at the Seacrest Village Yom HaShoah service, that I hope to never forget, occurred when Rabbi Patti asked all of our Holocaust survivors to stand up and light a candle. The candles symbolize and honor the 6 million Jews that were murdered. I was overwhelmed to see 22 survivors, our residents, proudly light these candles. (We have an additional 5 survivors at Seacrest Village Rancho Bernardo) As time goes on, the ability to see the faces and hear the stories of people who lived through this horrific time in history will become more and more of a rarity. Once these survivors are gone, how will we carry on their memory, legacy and message? How will we ensure that future generations grow up in the “right place” like I did?
We still have an incredible resource of people living and articulating their story and message. It is our responsibility to listen and never forget, so we can pass their teachings down to future generations to ensure that this will never happen again. It is an honor to work with and live amongst a group of people that inspire us to make the world a more tolerant and loving place.