Weitzman, S. Mitchell with Lucia Weitzman Solomon. “The Rose Temple: A Child Holocaust Survivor’s Vision of Faith, Hope and Our Collective Future”, Berl Media, 2016.
Remembering the Past, Embracing the Future
For as long as I can remember, Holocaust Memorial Day has always been difficult for me. I can truly appreciate the braveness of those who were able to live but, like so many others, I cannot comprehend how the Holocaust happened and how the world stood by as innocent victims were murdered for no other reason than their religion. I just cannot imagine hate to such a degree and although we may never understand it, it is part of history and should never be forgotten. We must also never cease to honor those who helped save lives and perhaps we should embrace the survivors and those who helped rather than hate what happened. This is the valuable lesson we get in “The Rose Temple: A Child Holocaust Survivor’s Vision of Faith, Hope, and Our Collective Future”.
The book is part memoir, part historical narrative and a call to action. These days we can take action against horrible events in history whereas during World War II we did not have the ability or the know how to do so. Here we have the story of Lucia Weiztman who had been born Jewish but raised Catholic and who had to struggle with a dual identity. She is a Holocaust survivor who at midlife began a spiritual journey that she had not anticipated. She discovered the desire to help others as she was in the process of being empowered to find the way to connect to God and to share that with others. The connection is not only a Godly one but also one between people. This transformation began with her own struggle to survive not just physically but spiritually as well. In this book, with help from her son, Mitchell, she takes on a journey. Lucia, after the death of her husband began a spiritual exploration that mother and son shared and as they did they were drawn closer together.
“Birth is a beginning
and death a destination
And life is a journey…”
The real value of a life is in the journey one makes and what we see here is a journey complete with spiritual revelations that bring about a trust and an experience in faith. Lucia lost her identity when it was taken from her by the Nazis. This is the story of her determination to reclaim that identity and her heritage. No on could have anticipated the unexpected directions that this would take her. We are so lucky to be able to take that journey with her. I found that as Lucia searched for who she was, I was challenged to ask myself who I was. I have always felt that one of the attributes of literature is transformation. By this I mean that if a book does not challenge me to think, then I wonder exactly why it was written. The transformation need not be anything immediately noticeable or felt but I must feel that I accomplished something by reading and that can be as small as a chuckle or as large as sending me off in a new direction. “The Rose Temple” is most definitely transformative and I think that each person who reads it will be transformed in different ways. The one thing that humans have above all other life forms is a sense of identity and we only realize what that is once it is taken from us. For example, those who are sent to prison and not referred to by name in most cases but my number and while many do not realize this, inmates not only have their freedom taken away but their identities as well.
Lucia’s journey is one of the heart and soul and it is an inspiration. We see what transpires from simple meetings that become events that change lives. Lucia looks for answers that will lead her to the meaning of life. She has questions that come from deep within and as she finds meaning in her life, we begin to see the Holocaust through different eyes. As we move between past and present, we see different aspects of our heroine and I could not help but be superciliously reminded of those “Before and After” commercials and advertisements that we once popular. We wonder if Lucia has been given the task of saving a life and if what she learns and dreams of lead to some kind of mysticism.
The Rose Temple is a good choice for those seeking something more than a Holocaust history or memoir: something steeped in spiritual exploration and, ultimately, a journey to arrive at the crux of the meaning of life. While it’s a heady read that ultimately asks readers to examine their own lives, it’s also fueled with the passion of an individual’s journey and thus is accessible to a wide audience: very highly recommended as a standout read in the literature of Holocaust survivors and Jewish spiritual exploration.
“The Rose Temple” is also a call to call to action. After her husband died, Lucia went to Jerusalem after struggling with her dual “identity” as both a Catholic and a Jew. Arriving at the Western Wall both her grief and the her many difficulties rose to the surface and she felt herself confronting God and she felt she received an answer from her maker. This was followed by other mystical events Lucia found herself questioning God’s presence during the horrors of the Holocaust when suffering and evil were the plans of the day, leading her on a global quest for answers to the question of God s presence during times of evil and suffering. Finding personal meaning as she journeyed, Lucia now felt the desire to show others how to find a path that takes them to God and to each other.
Lucia’s spiritual journey was the way that was able to understand her mystical dreams that entered every aspect of her life and it was on that journey that she learned who she was and her purpose in her life. Lucia’s son, Mitchell is the narrator of the story and we sense the influence his mother’s story has had on him. He shares that Lucia was basically a pragmatist whose transition back to Judaism had nothing to do with theology. It was a practical move because she wanted to share a life with her Jewish husband and even back then when she had strange and mystical incidents, she should have pragmatically ignored them. Rather, she decided to face her past and to listen to whatever was calling upon her to act but she did so silently and privately. He tells us that his mother believed that she had been called by God to transform the world into a better place than the one she was born into and she further believed that each person plays an essential part in her calling.
All of us want to know why and how the Holocaust could have happened but that is just one of the questions about the Holocaust. “The Rose Temple” does not have the answers but it does have a new way of thinking about the darkest period in the history of the world.