The hidden jug of oil that the Macabees found to kindle the menorah, speaks to me to this day on so many levels. As the sole survivor of my family who had been murdered by the Nazis, I was forced to hide my Jewish identity as a child in order to survive. With my blond hair and blue eyes, I easily passed as a Gentile child. While going to church and learning the Christian prayers, I was also silently asking G-d to forgive me as this was the only way I could survive to honor my mother’s last words: “Live, Remember, Tell the World!”
I clung to my Jewish identity in the only way one could during those horrible years when the world had gone insane. When it became cold in the Fall, I would choose one day to be my “Yom Kippur” and fast on that day. When spring arrived, I would designate 8 days to be my “Passover” and do my best to avoid eating any chometz. I was 10 years old at this time.
After arriving in Canada in 1948 and being fostered by a Jewish family, I, like many other Holocaust survivors, remained silent, our years of torture and humiliation, and devastating losses hidden. This was our response to those who thought we were “exaggerating” or did not want to know. We were told to “forget”, “move on”. Like the olive, we were crushed but not destroyed. Most of us evolved into something greater and more productive than we had ever imagined was possible for us. Many went on to become noted academics and scholars, successful business people, writers, scientists, teachers, etc. Most of us were fortunate to get married and raise healthy and beautiful children who went on to lead very productive and successful lives and Jewish community builders.
But in 1992, the “hidden jugs of oil” came to the fore and organized. At first it was in small groups where we would gather to speak only to each other as it was only another survivor who could believe and understand. Then, slowly some of the survivors of this group began to speak to others and to share our experiences.
Several times, a person in the group would come forward and introduce themselves as one of my former students. People were aghast that as well as they thought they knew me, they had no clue that I was a child survivor because I had buried and hidden my nightmarish childhood so that I could focus on and concentrate on raising my 3 precious sons and teach my students whom I regarded as my children.
Upon reflection many years later, I realized that my determination to hold on to my Judaism in any way I could while I was hiding was in order to survive as a Jew. Had it not been for that small minority of Macabees, all Jews could have assimilated and there would no longer be a Jewish people.
The little jug of oil, hidden away for so many years, inspired them to light the menorah and turn darkness into light.
Those of us who live here in Eretz Yisrael are so blessed to live here. I ask each and every one of you to not be “hidden Jews” any more but to pass on this message to your friends and other Jews and cling to our Torah and mitzvot. Today, we have our own land where we can practice our Judaism; there is no reason today for any Jew to be a “hidden Jew”. Follow your heritage and come home to Eretz Yisrael.