Friday, September 14, 2007

righteous unitarians

while in Israel last month Peleg and I took a day trip into Jerusalem and visited the Yad Vashem museum. I knew that two Unitarian names, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, had recently been added to the "Righteous Among the Nations" tribute and I wanted to see how they had been honored.

The museum is a memorial to the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. It's a powerful, almost overwhelming experience. The impact of the horrible story is multiplied by the architecture of the museum itself: a long spike, triangle-shaped in cross-section, drilled through the crest of a hill. Walking along the spike the museum path crosses back and forth into seperate rooms, underground, called "chapters" which tell the story of the tragedy.

After walking through the museum I was more determined than ever to see the tribute to the Sharps. I needed to know among all that horror that at least some people had rejected the hate and violence and had tried to help their fellow human beings. I was directed to an information desk where they keep the list of the Righteous names. The woman at the desk asked me which country the people I was looking for were from and when I said the United States, she rolled her eyes. Almost all the names on the list are from European countries where more immediate practical help was possible. There are only three people from the US honored and the Sharps were only added recently, so the volunteer at the desk hadn't known about them. Neither was she able to tell me where their names would be on the memorial wall (earlier each name had been honored with a tree planted but they have since run out of room and names are now printed on a memorial wall). But she said the names were organized by country and if I could find the United States they would be there.

Peleg and I walked down the hill quite a distance from the main museum and found the memorial wall. It looked like a lot of names to scan but I was determined to find them. And then for some reason I walked directly to the spot and found the two names. Peleg took my picture.

It felt healing to see those two Unitarian names on the wall. I felt proud. 2 out of the 3 names form the United States are Unitarians. They saw a grave danger and did something to help. Something in our Unitarian faith calls us to action. I so respect what they did. I hope my unitarian faith can do honor to theirs.

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