We bear witness, in Marti’s words, “honoring the victims—those who survived and those who didn’t—the continuity of saying Kaddish” (Interview Aug. 2012). This prayer, an Aramaic prose poem, is so embedded in Jewish consciousness that even nonreligious Jews are haunted by “strong rhythms stirring sounds … and sheer hypnotic power over the listeners” Lamm). The words do not allude to mourning but praise of God, which reflects Marti’s deeply optimistic view of life.
Yit’ga’dal v’yit’kadash sh’may ra’bbo, b’olmo dee’vro chir’usay v’yamlich malchu’say, b’chayaychon uv’yomay’chon uv’chayay d’chol bais Yisroel, ba’agolo u’viz’man koriv; v’imru Omein.
(May the great Name of God be exalted and sanctified, throughout the world, which he has created according to his will. May his Kingship be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire household of Israel, swiftly and in the near future; and say, Amen.)
As another committed Jew, I completely identified with Marti’s experience of saying Kaddish with Bea Karp, a survivor of the Holocaust. Bea, who is also profiled [LINK to Bea Karp Profile] in the UNO Women’s Archive Project, lost her family in the crematoria of Auschwitz. The collective memory burns deep in our hearts and minds.
Yet, these acts of remembrance represented a miracle of another sort for Marti. Years before this trip, Marti and her best friend Gloria Kaslow were scheduled for a Women’s Mission to Israel that included a side trip to Prague with an author and Holocaust survivor. The day before they were to make a deposit on the trip, also the day before Marti was leaving for her 30th high school reunion, she was diagnosed with breast cancer (Interview Dec. 2012). Women reading Marti’s journal would be astonished at her response to this news. She writes, “After the disbelief—How can I have CANCER?—I’m back to knowing how lucky I am and that I am going to be okay” (Personal Notes). She remembers waking from the surgery to the faces of her loved ones and feeling blessed. She spent Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, on the surgery floor of Methodist Hospital.
Marti experiences life in connected layers, layers of blessings. Imagine the joy when she and Gloria “journeyed forth on our postponed mission to Israel—my first time there.
This was the visceral image of a lifetime: being in Jerusalem, looking across at the Western Wall, and then BEING there, touching it (caressing it actually): the feel of thousands of years, tears, prayers, hopes and dreams—and shattered dreams—beneath my fingers. And I get to be a link in this incredible chain. (Interview Aug. 2012).
Marti expressed the cultural identification in these words: “It felt like going home.” But, the Holy Land had another layer of meaning, as the sacred site for three of the world’s major religions. On the first day of Marti’s trip to Israel, she planted a tree, which is a long-held tradition, signifying both the forestation of the land and a personal tribute (Interview Aug. 2012).
Justice, tikkun olam, bashert—a tapestry of connections—led to another transformation. In the early 2000s, Beth El, Marti’s current Conservative synagogue, hired an Argentinean cantor and rabbi. “Music has always had a direct line to my soul” (Interview Aug. 2012). The rabbi’s sermons and the cantor’s contagious, spiritual energy stimulated an urgency to act. Marti’s conscience challenged her, demanding,
What are you doing NOW? How are you treating others NOW? What messages and lessons are you passing on