Posted by Carol Laibson
I had the privilege of attending the premiere showing of a documentary entitled A Promise to My Father on Sunday, January 27. The documentary, produced by the World War II Foundation in Natick, MA, will be aired on PBS throughout the country and features Izzy Arbeiter, a Holocaust survivor and current chairperson of the JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services Advisory Committee. This is a moving and telling story of his journey back to his childhood home in Poland to search for a pair of silver candlestick holders. Izzy and his brother had buried the candlestick holders in their basement at the request of their father, before the family was deported from the ghetto to the Treblinka death camp. These candlestick holders, a religious artifact, had been passed from generation to generation, and, in the moments before the family was separated, Izzy promised his father to continue the family tradition of passing the candlestick holders to the family’s next generation.
The promise was more than a wish to pass on and share a concrete object. It is symbolic of passing on a family’s history, tradition, and connection.
We may be familiar with the history of how Jews in Europe were quarantined to ghettos and later sent to concentration camps, such as Auschwitz. We may have heard about the many Jews killed and the few like Izzy who survived an unimaginable ordeal. A Promise to My Father offers insight into one person’s experience and is a source of inspiration. What struck me is that it is less a story of sorrow and bitterness and more a story of hope, humanity, and forgiveness.
As the daughter of a survivor who was in Auschwitz, I feel proud to know a man like Mr. Arbeiter. His perseverance and respect for others has evolved into a powerful effort to help preserve this time in history, promote and teach tolerance to others, and advocate for survivors in the Boston community. It was an honor to attend the premiere and be part of a tribute to survivors and World War II veterans in the audience.
Carol Laibson is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 20 years experience in the field of helping older people age well with dignity. She is a case manager for JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services.