• Risa Daitzman Heywood

What the world needs now is ... hope

The Choice is an ominous title for a Holocaust memoir. It brings to mind the selections on the train platform at Auschwitz. But the choice that Dr. Edith Eva Eger is referring to in her book, The Choice, is not about choices that were thrust upon her by the Nazis. It is about the internal choices that she made that helped her survive. It is a book full of hope. Hope is something we could all use more of as we commemorate Yom HaShoah 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, during a global pandemic.

Dr. Eger is a Holocaust survivor, now in her 90’s and originally from Kosice, Slovakia. After immigrating to the U.S., Dr. Eger, became a psychiatrist and, even now, at 90+, works with veterans with PTSD. While the pandemic lock downs we are now experiencing are not at all similar to what victims experienced during the Holocaust, there are several lessons we can take from Dr. Eger’s life and work that apply to our current situation:

  • “When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve our losses, wounds and disappointments, we are doomed to keep reliving them.”[1] Our lives right now are filled with loss. Some people are, in fact, grieving those lost to this disease. But even if we or our family members are not sick, we are all grieving to some degree over the big and small things that we are missing. It is okay and actually important to acknowledge and grieve the losses, frustrations and disappointments that we are experiencing.

  • Dr. Eger had no choice about her circumstances during the Holocaust. It was not her choice to be torn from her home and her family and to be tortured and starved. But she did have a choice as to how to respond. She could choose what she said and she could choose what she thought. While we may not be able to live our lives normally at the moment, we do have a choice as to our own attitudes and actions.

  • Lastly, I was really inspired by this quote: “Even the dullest moments of our lives are opportunities to experience hope, buoyancy, happiness. Mundane life is life too.”[2] Sometimes it takes a reminder from someone who almost lost their life to remember to appreciate just being alive. As my dad says, “What’s the alternative?”

So, this Yom HaShoah, I will keep doing what I can to research stories of Holocaust survivors and victims, ZOOM with friends and family, keep plugging away at that 2000-piece puzzle, and just be glad that I am alive.

[1] Dr. Edith Eva Eger, The Choice ( New York: Scribner, 2017), 45 [2] Dr. Edith Eva Eger, The Choice, 46

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