Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood

Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood
Celebrating Havdallah

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's a small world after all...

This weekend, I was in our nation's capitol. While I am a world traveler and have lived in different countries throughout my life and been to many, many different places throughout the US, Canada, and abroad, I had never been to Washington, D.C. before. Shocking, I know. And I call myself an American....

I was there for a friend's wedding, but I decided to stay 1/2 day longer to get in some touristy stuff. The first thing I made sure to do was to go visit the United States National Holocaust Museum. I've always heard of it's acclaim and I wanted to experience it firsthand. Since I was short on time, I opted not to do the tour of the permanent section of the museum, but instead chose two of the shorter exhibits. I went through the Children's exhibit called "Daniel's story" that was geared towards teaching children about the Holocaust from a kid's perspective, who experienced the Shoah. It was, educationally, extraordinary. Emotionally, it was very difficult.
The second exhibit I went to was about the proliferation and spread of Nazi propaganda as an impetus of setting the stage for the Holocaust. When I was in college, I took a course in the Politics of the Holocaust, so I was fascinated by this exhibit and reminded of how much politics really dominated Germany during that time period. It was thorough and interesting, but also very chilling and frightening.

As I left the museum I popped into the gift shop and the first thing I saw was a book that one of my congregants just published! Kurt Mayer's "My Personal Brush with History" was on display in the middle of the store! I was so proud of him, of his book, and of his courage to share his story with the rest of the world. A little piece of Tacoma in DC.

Needing something lighter after the Museum, I decided to walk around the Memorials. I have to say, if you've never been, they are really impressive. The Washington Memorial is glorious and as you walk from that, towards the WWII memorial, past the Reflection pool, and see the White House, the Capitol building and eventually the Lincoln memorial, you feel as though you are a part of living history. It also doesn't hurt that I love history and majored in Poli Sci (I suppose).

It was unbelievably hot and humid, so by the time I got to the Lincoln Memorial I, along with hundreds of others, sat down on the steps to get some shade, a little rest, and look out on the view towards the Memorials. While I was sitting there, I overheard a fascinating conversation. A teenage boy was talking to a group of older teens a few feet away. He was explaining that he was there on a National Leadership conference. And then, he said he was from Seattle! He asked the others where they were from, and one of them said...Israel! I couldn't believe what I was hearing...a genuine dialog between two teens from both of my worlds - the Pacific North West and Israel!!!! Even though they only chatted for a few more minutes, it was beautiful to listen to their interest in each others cultural differences, their lives and experiences, and how they happened to be there at that moment.

It felt too perfect to be just a coincidence. I'm sure this kind of thing happens all the time, but the setting was just so dramatic and it caused me to really reflect on the differences and similarities that people share. More often than not we like to express our opinion, let our voices be heard, and really push our agenda on to others. But, have we taken the time to consider the similarities that we share with others? How often do we just sit back and listen, without a need to interrupt, and truly hear someone else's story? Both perspectives are important, I believe, in order for us to understand how to interact with others in the most effective way possible.

I loved my trip to DC for so many reasons - I was there to experience a simcha (happy occasion), to visit sites and museums I'd always wanted to see, and to have a nice day off. But, my favorite unexpected treasure was the lesson I learned - it is a small world, after all, and there is always much to be learned!

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