I recently visited Majdanek, a concentration camp in Poland, with my classmates. Afterward, I wrote this piece - part poem and part essay - about what spoke to me there.
As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today.
One of my most precious possessions is a copy of the Talmudic tractate Kiddushin printed in Munich in 1946 on presses once used for Nazi propaganda.
Jewish tradition gives structure to many aspects of mourning as a way to create order at a time when mourners may feel unmoored.