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Family Travels Times Three

On January 15, 2023 Claire left to administer UVM's travel abroad program in Costa Rica, Yitzi left for a five day Jewish heritage tour of Poland, Paul and I left for a two month stay in Montevideo, Uruguay where we are working remotely and slowing down our pace enough to enjoy this beautiful country. We did not plan to all leave on January 15 but there it is, an unexplainable coincidence.

Claire is enjoying time to relax in San Jose, Costa Rica before heading off to co-run a program for over 25 students in the Osa Peninsula.

Paul and I are getting settled in our apartment and surroundings in Montevideo, Uruguay. Our first time touching town in South America was the airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, then we flew to Montevideo, Uruguay. So far we've enjoyed our walks in the old city. The number of art deco buildings is second only to New York City.

We tried one folding bike here at our apartment and hoping to purchase another one for covering greater distances along the waterfront bike path called the Rambla.

Yitzi sent me a poem after visiting the Treblinka concentration camp. Coincidentally we stumbled upon he Hebraica-Macabi in Montevideo:

Day 2 - Rocks of Treblinka

By Yitzi Gittelsohn

Yitzi, currently in the Pardes Year Program, is a singer-songwriter, poet, and budding spiritual leader from Vermont.

Day 2 - Rocks of Treblinka

The rocks were really heavy:

They must have been really heavy to move,

All those rocks,


For the monument.

The lives must have been even heavier,

They must have been really heavy to move,

All those lives,


To kill.

I don’t think that they didn’t care

About us:

I think that they cared so much,

I think we were really heavy for them,

Too heavy,

And they wanted to cut us out

Like a tumor.

They didn’t hate us:

They loved us,

And they couldn’t handle the heaviness of their own love,

They couldn’t handle the heaviness of their own life,

Of the world,

So they tried to lighten it, lighten it, lighten it

By burning the heaviness away.

But they were wrong:

They made the world so much heavier,

Because the lives that were lost too soon,

The millions of lives,

Sit on the ground like heavy rocks,


And now the world has to hold them,


So the world is heavier,

And so are their hearts,

And so are our hearts.

But standing amidst the heavy rocks,

In the center of them,

With a friend,

And my people,

I felt the lives that had been lost there

All sitting around me,

Deeply rooted in the earth,

And I felt a lightness

Ascending upward,

For coming together

In our heaviness,

We somehow become light.

When we cut away the heaviness,

And try to burn it to the heavens,

We only become heavier.

When we come together in our heaviness,

We become lighter,

And rise naturally, with those who came before

and after us

To our rightful place

In the world to come.

Now every moment is a gift,

Every moment they don’t take from us,

In the fear that it will make their lives intolerable,

And we get to live now,

A heavy life.

No need to cut things out of it,

No need to cut it down,

No need to kill,

The earth that holds so many boulders

Can hold so many lives.

And we can just let go,

A little bit in each moment,

With each exhale,

Each connection,

We become

Just a little


All those people killed,

All our ancestors,

Should not just be remembered for being killed,

They should be remembered

For the moments they didn’t take life

Or each other

For granted,

For the moments when they recognized

How heavy this life was,

For it could be snatched away,


At any moment.

The moments

When they didn’t wait to hug a loved one,

The moments when they didn’t hesitate to sing a song,

Or jump in a pond,

Or smile at a dragonfly.

The moments

When they really felt

How delicious fresh bread was,

How beautiful the sunset was,

How beautiful your face was

When you felt something deeply.

The moments

That are special because they are light,

Strung together become a heavy life.

Those lives that are special because they are heavy,

Brought together become a light,

Shining out,


Our lives now:

How heavy they are,

How light.

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