As many of you reading this already know, the book Jew Face is the story of my parents journeys and survival during the Nazi occupation of Holland between 1940-1945. There are many reasons this story is important. Some are general for a large group of people, while others are more pertinent to the individuals in the story. The most significant being the impact it has on all the family members involved and the generations that have followed. My parents, Nardus and Sipora Groen, started a new world with the birth of their first son, and my oldest brother Marcel. He would be followed by Leo, Ruben, my one sister Debby, and then me. Between the children my parents would get 12 grandchildren, and as it stands now, 8 great grandchildren. It should be noted that the 8 great grandchildren come from only 3 of the grandchildren, the 3 oldest children of Marcel and his wife Bernice, so there is still plenty of opportunity for the remaining grandchildren to add to that number. It is a story of survival in the greatest sense. A world almost destroyed now stands at over 30 people and growing, and that is without counting extended family. The reason for this post today is because some events and family members represent the glory and greatness that is the survival of a family. This weekend my nephew Justin and his fiance Kim will be married. Justin, who is the youngest of Marcel and Bernice's children is one of those people who is loved and respected by those who know him, and has the great ability to show that love and respect in return on a regular basis. Nothing symbolizes it more than the relationship he had with his "Opa" and still has with his "Oma". Opa and Oma are the Dutch words for grandfather and grandmother and in this case represent my parents, Nardus and Sipora Groen. I still remember when my father had his heart attack about 15 years ago on the 7th day of Passover, and walking up and finding Justin holding him in his arms in the back of a police car right outside Beth Shalom synagogue in Elkins Park, Pa. until the ambulance arrived. Their relationship would always be close and even though my father passed away close to 6 years ago, Justin still wears the pin he gave him on the lapel of his suit in synagogue and intends to use his Opa's Talit (prayer shawl) at his upcoming wedding. His relationship with his Oma may be even more special. This is a relationship of mutual affection and respect rarely seen between 2 people separated by 58 years, be it relatives or not. They not only love and respect each other but they enjoy each other's company in a very special way, and as a son and a uncle it always warms my heart to see. As I write this piece, a few days prior to the wedding, the best news of all may be that Justin is marrying a woman with the same wonderful qualities he possesses and someone with the same values of goodness and love for family and friends we wish everyone possessed. As Kim joins the family this weekend the family grows and the significance of what was saved so many years ago becomes even more significant and beautiful. It is said that when you save one person you save an entire world. As I write this I have joy in my heart for the world of my parents that was saved, and the world that it has become with the generations to follow.
March 13, 2013