February 2007

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The Western Wall, Jerusalem. (Flaura Winston).

Jerusalem and Our Children: Maintaining Links in the Chain of Generations

-- Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston

“Each one of us is a link in a long chain of generations – a chain that is anchored in the past and offers us continuity in the future.”

-- The Generations Center, Jerusalem

Nowhere do Jews feel part of this Chain of Generations more poignantly than at the Kotel, the Western Wall from the foundation of the second Temple. For many Jews, the Kotel not only symbolizes the religious epicenter of Judaism, but also represents the endurance of the Jewish people. As did Judaism, the Kotel survived the Temple’s destruction, the exile of the Jewish people, and thousands of years of a non-Jewish reign over Jerusalem. Like a long-lost relative, the Kotel is there today, welcoming all Jews who come to pray or simply stand in her presence and contemplate the Jewish heritage.

It is an intensely spiritual experience to stand before the Wall – one that should be felt by every child of Jewish descent, if possible. How many lives have been lost and prayers have been given to preserve the Kotel for Jews today? Visitors can feel the presence of their ancestors who once stood on the same ground they now occupy. They wonder whether their ancestors felt the same cool, white stones they now feel. What were their ancestors’ hopes, their fears? Undoubtedly there were dreams for their children and their children’s children years into the future; that is, for us. Many people cry at the Kotel ­­– tears of grief over the destruction of the Temple mixed with tears of joy over the rebuilding of Israel and the survival of the Jewish people.

The Generations Center, a permanent exhibit near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Flaura Winston).
A new permanent exhibit in Jerusalem, The Generations Center , aims to share this experience with visitors. Through lights, etched glass sculptures, smoke, and music, visitors weave through rooms depicting eras throughout 3500 years of history – from the patriarchs to the Holocaust, “from exile to statehood, from destruction to rebuilding, and from crisis to hope.”

The exhibit is truly beautiful and is an important addition to the Kotel Plaza, but it is sad that visitors need the exhibit to enhance their experience of the Kotel. Did their parents share their heritage with them? Did they listen? How was this link broken in the Chain of Generations? What family discussion surrounded recitation of "Next year in Jerusalem" during the Passover seder?

For two thousand years, generations of Jews yearned for their return to Jerusalem and prayed for her rebuilding. Around the world, Jews prayed in the direction of the Kotel. The dream of a rebuilt Jerusalem remained alive in the cosmopolitan cities and the ghettos of Europe, and even in the concentration camps of Germany and Austria.

Standing in front of the Wall today, armed with knowledge of your ancestry, you recognize that you are the beneficiary of these prayers, of the yearning. You enjoy the Wall for yourself and for the millions who could never behold her simple beauty. You feel the strength of the thousands of years of before you. Much as roots anchor a tree, a child’s roots are his anchors for life. Our children are the product of our past and the link in the Chain of Generations to the future. Be sure to nurture these roots and share with your children our glorious heritage.

Previous Columns

Raising A Mensch Section Editor: Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston parenting @ pjvoice.com
Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston is a practicing pediatrician, associate professor of pediatrics and Scientific Director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She welcomes your comments, questions, contributions and suggestions for future columns.

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