It's Friday and time again for another posting of Interesting Jewish Stories & Facts. Today we visit the lovely city of Budapest and a unique memorial in the Jewish quarter of the city.
Behind the imposing Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest, in a park named for Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during World War II, is an imaginative, poignant memorial to the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who didn't escape the Holocaust.
The "Silver Weeping Willow," designed by the Hungarian artist Imre Varga, is an eye-catching maze of metal, slivers of silver that reach for the sky, then bend and fall to earth.
Thousands of metal leaves, many engraved with the names of the murdered, cling to the branches of the sculpture, swaying gently with the wind, glittering in the afternoon sun. Above it all, an inscription in Hebrew raises the mournful question, "Whose agony is greater than mine?"
On the day I visited the memorial, part of a congregational trip through Eastern Europe with friends from the Land of Cotton, only a few tourists and locals were scattered about. I couldn't help but wonder how fleeting and capricious life can be at times, that in fact my life might be dramatically different if one man many decades earlier had not, along with his family, left his home in Hungary to find a better life in America.
Joseph Klein, known as Joe or Joey to most of his friends and family, was born and spent his early years in a small village outside of Budapest, but came of age in New York. Of course he would never have met and married his wife Roz if he had remained in Hungary, and their two daughters -- the lovely Miss Wendy and my sister-in-law Ann -- would not exist.
That little wrinkle in reality would have continued to ripple across time and today there would be no Cheryl, Arlene or Lauren -- our daughters. Their husbands would have never known the joy of meeting and marrying their beshert and the following generation would be lost as well.
The fact that Joe and his family skedaddled when they did meant they would escape the Holocaust and his descendants would come into being. But what about the hundreds, the thousands, the millions who remained part of Eastern Europe? The tragedy of the Six Million murdered by the Nazis is not just their deaths but the future generations that were lost.
So I weep at the Weeping Willow memorial not only for those lost, but for those never allowed to experience this thing we call life -- the joy and sorrow, exhilaration and pain that comes with living. There loss is our loss, just one additional tragedy of the Holocaust and just one more reason to "never forget".
Honoring the dead: The Weeping Willow Memorial (photo above), is in a small park behind the Dohany Shul in Budapest, a unique remembrance of the thousands of Hungarian Jews lost in the Holocaust.