On Wednesday of this past week, St. Clement’s was blessed to have Dr. Israel Unger, grandfather to three of our students and Holocaust survivor, at our e-ssembly. Dr. Unger came to share his experiences and stories about growing up in Tarnow, Poland as a Jew during the Second World War in advance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. Dr. Unger spoke of being a child living in constant and unrelenting fear. He hid behind a false wall in a flour mill, believing that there was no way that the world knew what was happening because if they did, they would have done something about it. When asked what he has learned and holds with him, Dr. Unger told our community that, “Truth is the best cleansing agent possible. Hatred is never right, and compassion is never wrong.”
Dr. Unger’s words remained with me and, as I left e-ssembly, I felt the weight of them and the imperative of knowing the truth.
Two weeks earlier we witnessed the insurrection at the US Capitol- fueled by misinformation and this same Wednesday, we were witnessing the inauguration of a new President. Regardless of political bent, there were powerful words spoken during the Inauguration event. Much of what was said brought to mind Dr. Unger’s words from earlier that morning.
Amanda Gorman, a Black 22-year-old poet and first ever National Youth Poet Laureate, recited her poem The Hill We Climb. In it, she says:
“If we merge mercy with might,
And might with right,
Then love becomes our legacy
And change our children’s birthright…”
The words of Dr. Unger and Ms Gorman are powerful. They remind us of how important it is to name that which is wrong, to sow kindness rather than hate, compassion rather than judgement, and to work to educate ourselves and our students with fact instead of fiction.
Wednesday was a powerful day- filled with the ingredients for positive future. We must be sure to follow the recipe.