When I was a child, I remember feeling inexplicably lonely. My sister and I would sit at the shabbat table, one on each side, our parents at the ends. For sure, we had many lovely times, delicious food, singing, laughter. But often, in the back of my mind, there was something missing.
Though my parents created a community of friends, inviting them for shabbat and for holidays, I was always aware that my friends had something I did not. Family. Choosing your friends is of course a wonderful way to expand your circle, and sometimes those relationships are the most important we will ever have. But I missed the forced intimacy of relationship with people who I would need to be connected to, whether I wanted to or not. The shared history, biology, language - all linking us together.
Some of this was a function of geography, my relatives living too far away for a last minute shabbat invite. but much of it was a result of the war, and what it had done to my family. When the fighting was over, my grandfather and his brother were the only ones left from a large extended family in Tarnopol, then Poland, now Ukraine.
With four children, and family and friends, our table is almost always full. And my hope is, that my kids will have even bigger gatherings as they create their own families in the future. But I can't help missing the cousins I will never know, who float above my shabbat table every week, reminding me what could have, what would have been.
On Yom Hashoah, they come into focus, and I say their names out loud.
Yekutiel Schmelke Bieler
Betka Bieler Fischer
Sabina Bieler Teichholtz
Giza Teichholtz 17
Klara Teichholtz 16
Jakob (Kuba) Teichholtz 9
Gusta Spitzer Bieler
Henya Bieler 7
Josef Bieler 5
Sosie Bieler Biloraj
Two Biloraj children ages 3 and 1.5
Chava Dvojre Bieler
and tens of others whose names are forever forgotten.
May their memories be for a blessing, and may our crowded, loud, infuriating tables filled with family be a measure of our revenge.