One of my earliest childhood memories took place when I was a toddler. I could not have been much older than two or three years old. Oddly, the memory is not of a specific event or something I saw or heard. My earliest childhood memory is of a smell, which to this day is enshrined in the olfactory receptors of my nose.
Every time I smell broiled lamb chops I am transported to my grandmother’s kitchen. The memory is intense, and yet, I have no specific recollection whatsoever of what the kitchen looked like or any visual associations that would usually accompany a memory. It is a pure gut feeling connecting me with something emotionally pleasing from my past.
We all have memories that we hold near and dear to our hearts. Some events may seem more significant than others, but all of our experiences somehow find their way into a grand associative reservoir within our brains and ultimately shape our lives and influence the ways in which we see and understand the world.
Most of the time, the significance of an experience seems inconsequential the moment it is happening. Time, however, provides a broader context for our experiences, and it is often in retrospect that our experiences gain relevance and meaning.
It is for this reason that memorial services have become so central to so many of the holidays we celebrate. We are most familiar with the Yizkor service which takes place on Yom Kippur afternoon, but this is just one of the many memorial services that traditionally occur throughout the Jewish calendar year. The festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot also have memorial services as we designate time to honor the memories of our loved ones when we miss them most. See page 5 for information about a very special memorial services being offered later this month in memory of Brad Gaber. Brad Gaber was the designer and artist who redesigned our bima, including the ark, the lectern and the furnishings. He also designed the fused glass donors’ wall which welcomes all who enter our building with beauty and light.
Another way we strive to honor our loved ones is through our continued support of the values they held and the organizations, programs and institutions that helped to translate those values into everyday life. It is for this reason that HCRJ will soon be launching a number of ways to honor our loved ones through memorial plaques. These plaques will be set into the beautiful memorial boards which are adjacent to our magnificent donor wall in the Oppenheimer Foyer.
If you are interested in memorializing a loved one in this way, please let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information regarding our new memorial wall will be forthcoming, but we would like to begin to have a general sense regarding interest and need.
In addition to memorializing loved ones after they have passed away, we, the living, can give the gift of memories to those we love while we are alive. This is, perhaps, the most sacred gift we can leave behind.
It is for this reason that HCRJ has launched our first legacy writing class. This class, which is being offered through our new Senior Chai Programming, is being taught by Donna Siegel (a gifted writer and memoir composer) who is volunteering her time to help others document their lives and clearly articulate the legacies they wish to leave for loved ones to cherish. The course has been wildly successful, and we plan to offer more in the future.
Whether it is through a memoir, a letter, a plaque, a service or even a special smell, the memories we share and those we leave behind have meaning and value. They serve to create sacred components in the fabric of our lives.