The Silent Passing of a Great Generation of GI’s

Since I did not grow up in Hawaii, my family and childhood friends live very away. Same for my husband. I am enamored of the idea of a lot of extended family living nearby: cousins to play with our kids, Aunties to pick them up from soccer practice, critical mass at the Seder table.

It would be wonderful if we lived near high school classmates and all our kids were in and out of each others’ backyards playing football and tag.

But it’s not like that. We only visit a few times a year and then we return to Kapolei. We have made Hawaii our home.

We’ve done okay when it comes to forging relationships that feel like family, making friends at work and at the kids’ schools, joining the local Jewish and Kapolei communities. We have an arsenal of reliable babysitters to watch, drive and even tutor our kids. We do alright having lived so far away from our original home towns for several decades.

What’s most uncomfortable living on an island in the middle of the Pacific is when a family member on the mainland is seriously ill or dies. When somebody gets sick I feel helpless that I cannot offer a hand or perform the mitzvah of bikur cholim, visiting the sick. The best I can do is say a blessing for good health, misheberach, and keep that person in my thoughts and prayers.

If somebody dies it is even harder. Not only is it difficult to travel at the last minute for a funeral, the fact that Jewish tradition demands the funeral be held so quickly makes it almost impossible. How can I get that far so fast? In contrast I’ve noticed that the Samoan culture holds the ceremony much later. They wait so family can arrive from far away. I’m not sure which I prefer.

When my Uncle Buddy passed away on January 6, I did not travel from Honolulu to Omaha for the memorial service and burial. I felt very sad when I learned that he was so sick and felt distraught when he died.

When I was discussing with my sister why I felt so particularly sad, she mentioned that it is partly becauses it is the passing of a generation. My friend Toby and David said, “We are the older ones now.”

I also think that these men like my uncle and my father were a humble generation of people who made great contributions. They were the children of immigrants who came to the U.S. to make a better life. They did. They were the first generation in our families to go to college. They had successful careers and raised wonderful families. They lived the American Dream in a meaningful way. I’m not sure if they are called the Great Generation, The Silent Generation or the GI Generation, but I kind of think they were all three.

I am sharing these links so that you can read recent articles about my Uncle Buddy, Leonard Goldstein, and his great contributions to the Omaha community, the Russian Jewish community and our family.