The most sacred thing
for 100 years and beyond
My dear and amazing friend Izzy is 101 years old. He was born in Vienna and grew up there. But he is not an Austrian citizen anymore. When he was a teenager, the nazis took away his citizenship, along with his violin, his dreams of becoming a doctor, and family life as he knew it. Izzy experienced the horrors of antisemitism, escaped the Holocaust, fought and was wounded in WW2, and when asked about the happiest moment of his life, he answers right away,
What can be more sacred than childhood? What can be a greater gift to a human being than a memorable one? I don't mean a perfect one; no such thing exists, and any attempt fails miserably. I'm talking about the love and kindness every child deserves. I'm referring to the fundamental provision for children to digest life in all its beauty and hardship, in all its joy and sadness within a safe environment where their integrity, dignity, worth, and their very existence are not compromised. Our childhood is something we live, and something we recall. It shapes us. It lasts a lifetime. It greatly determines who we become, what we love, and how we live.
More than anything, society at large and every adult and institution should focus on the protection of children's rights, on offering them our best so that they may cherish their childhood –even a hundred years later–, and keep building a life upon it.
Let's do it for the one, for tens, for thousands of children if we can.
"Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones... for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven." –Jesus
"And even if you were in some prison, the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses, would you not then still have your childhood, that precious, kingly possession, that treasure-house of memories?" –Rainer Maria Rilke
“Let us set this upside-down world right again by starting with the children. They will show the grown-ups the way to go.” —Jella Lepman, 1945
[Photos below: My three boys (left; New Haven, 2010), my friend Isidor Juda (middle; Vienna, 1920s), my siblings and I (right; Cali, 1970s)]