The death of Shimon Peres takes me back to my youth. He was born in a little town Vishnyeva, not far from Minsk, very near my mother’s home town. His family’s name was Persky. Some of his family lived in my mother’s home town, and one of his relatives married one of my cousins. I used to visit my mother’s home town of Volozhin during vacations. The town was famous for the yeshiva there where Hayim Nahman Bialik studied, and also Meir Berlin, who changed his name when he immigrated to Israel and became the namesake of Bar-Ilan University. I re-visited the town in 2010 with my daughter and two grandchildren. The yeshiva building is still standing and in good shape, but it is now a historic site. Even so, in my memory I could hear the sounds of yeshiva students studying floating on the air as I walked by.
And I remember that around the age of 15, dating began in my community. It was evenings on the front porches of the homes. It was hugging, kissing, hand holding…but no sex! My father had a sense of humor, and when I would come home late he would say in a jovial way “You’re already identified with a girl!”
In spite of the fact that the the town was not wealthy, there were only a few people of means, we had a private Hebrew day school up to the seventh grade, supported by our own people. This is where I learned the Hebrew language, and I am grateful that after the war I was able to retain and revive it which allowed me to communicate with others and read in Hebrew.
Tragically all of those people I remember did not survive. Only some of the younger men who managed to escape as I did and join the partisans were still alive after the war. And some of my young friends showed such bravery in defense of Russia that they were cited by the Soviet government for their courage.
The passing of Shimon Peres closes a chapter in my life which is very informative and which shaped my future. There is a Hebrew expression “It’s regrettable, those who are departed, but they they are not forgotten.” Many will remember the one who became famous, Shimon Peres. But I remember the many others who dared to resist the tyranny of the Germans. It is my duty to remember them. One aspect of my daily attendance at the minyan is to represent those who would have been there had they not been murdered. When I stand for Kaddish, I stand for them even though I do not say the words.