Debbie Zemel

Light #18

Tree of life.

From: Whitefish Bay WI
Dedication: My children and grandchildren
Classification: Descendent of Survivor(s)

A daughter of a Rabbi/Holocaust survivor, Debbie has always had a strong focus on justice and helping others. Her children continue to hold that focus.

“It is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it and all its supporters are happy.”

My lamp shows a Tree of Life. My father, a Holocaust survivor, used to compare a family to a tree. The history and background of our ancestors provide the nourishment that is needed to help the family grow and branch out to provide sustenance for new generations.

My father was a rabbi in Germany during the Holocaust and spent his life teaching about the Holocaust and building “bridges” with others in order to make sure that “it never happens again.”

Now that my father is gone, it is my responsibility to continue his legacy and teach my children, grandchildren and others the lessons of the Holocaust. My light reflects the importance of family and continuity. My father used to tell a story of when he was incarcerated in Buchenwald Concentration Camp after his arrest on Kristalnacht (November 9, 1938). During his stay there, he was tortured and dehumanized—but he always said that he was grateful that he was not the one doing the torturing or espousing the hatred…that helped him remain human and humane. During this difficult time, he would look outside past the barbed wire and see the beautiful birch trees and thought “if only I could touch those trees, I would be free.” I added some bark of a birch tree to my lamp to express that freedom can only happen when we remember our past, learn from it and to devote ourselves to Tikkun Olum (Repair of the World), to do our part to make the world a better place.

My lamp shines bright and reminds us the importance of family, learning and embracing and promoting freedom.