The East Central Area Council of the New York State Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, a group of women educators, recently hosted “Learning from the Past, Knowledge for the Future” at the Geneva Country Club.
Sue Kenoyer was elected state DKG president at the conference. ECAC includes the Alpha Tau, Beta Delta, Beta Theta and Omega chapters.
Attendees heard from Helen Kashtan, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, as she shared her thoughts and experiences of Holocaust survivors in Rochester.
Kashtan is active in the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester. She served on the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Committee, is immediate past chairperson for the Center for Holocaust Awareness and Information, and chairs Journey for Identity, a trip connecting teens from Rochester and Modi’in, Israel, to learn about Jewish identity and culture of the past and present.
Kashtan’s parents provided limited information about their experiences, but she pieced together elements of their stories about life before the Holocaust in Poland, during World War II, their time as displaced persons in Europe, emigrating to the U.S. and meeting in Rochester.
Her presentation included highlights and photos of the summer Journey for Identity trip to sites in Poland, including Auschwitz, Tarnow, Treblinka, Warsaw and the Warsaw ghetto. The 32 teens then spent a week with youth in Israel.
Sarah Walters, community relations and Holocaust education program director, spoke of her availability as a resource regarding the experiences of Jewish people during and after the Holocaust. Call (585) 241-8637 or email swalters@jewishrochester.org for information.
The conference ended with each attendee holding a stone inscribed with the Hebrew word for remembrance.
“Many different cultures leave stones at graves,” said Amy Zimmerman, co-president of the Alpha Tau Chapter. “Some people believe this is a relatively new custom, but it is indeed an old Jewish practice that dates back to at least medieval times and possibly biblical times. By placing a rock on top of a gravestone, we honor the deceased by letting others know the gravesite was visited. It is also believed that the stones keep the evil spirits out and the soul of the deceased is safe.
“All the explanations have one thing in common: a sense of solidity that stones give. Flowers are a good metaphor for life. Life withers, it fades like a flower. Flowers, therefore, are an apt symbol of passing, but memory is supposed to be lasting. While flowers may be a good metaphor for the brevity of life, stones seem better suited to the permanence of memory. Stones do not die. Let these stones create opportunities for dialogue, knowledge and growth.”