Sunday, May 22, 2016

Our History is Our Future

by: Sarah Kramer

On Friday, the group toured Vilnius all day. Accompanied by Ruta, our guide and translator, we learned about the Jewish ghettos and history. Ruta pointed out ghetto boundaries and mentioned the requirements for establishing a ghetto—such as a Jewish ghetto cannot be built if there is a non-Jewish resident or building is there. We then made our way down to see the Vice Minister of Culture, where we learned about the future goals and projects in conserving the history of the Jewish people during WWII. At the meeting, one girl asked whether the citizens were behind the projects—as in they believed this history should be restored and documented. In response, from my interpretation, it sounded like the Lithuanian people do not question their government; they do as they are told and are almost unaware of what their “tax” money goes to. Several of us were taken back by this answer. In the United States, we question our government and are entitled to know what they do with our tax money. And if we disagree with anything we voice our opinions. However, the conservation and preservation of the culture of the Jewish society—before, during, and after WWII, is crucial. Our history is our future (take it how you want it).

Continuing our tour, we were walking down a one lane street, Jewish Street it is called, and smelled fresh baked goods. There we stopped for a little bit and treated ourselves to an array of delicious cookies. Along the street there were high-end, tourist shops and a small, kid-friendly park. Without a second thought you would not believe the discrimination and poverty that had once filled the Jewish Street. Before the classy stores had existed, the buildings were homes and before the sweet, warm smell of pastries there was the smell of death and garbage.  We are sheltered from the truth and have become na├»ve to the injustice that once walked the very path others have happily shopped around.
Within the same day, we had a Shabbat Dinner. Here, we were introduced to several people, who have aided in the cemetery reconstruction projects. They were ecstatic to meet us, as much as we were to see them. They seemed fascinated by our country, which shocked me as I perceived it differently. From their perspective, the group was a representation of the United States. Which is crazy to think, because we are just average young adults that simply live there. We do not have the same authority as a government official or the President, yet they are honored that we are in their country. But in reality, we were honored to be in their country and learning about their culture. And the more we meet the community the more we get to understand the history.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

So glad that you not only realize how lucky we are as Americans, but are also able to show people from other countries that we are not "ugly Americans" as some people around the world think of us.