Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Faith brings joyfulness amid the tragedies of life

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Carol Herman in front of the Ark in the Wohl Chapel of Isaac M. Wise Temple in Amberley Village.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
MONTGOMERY - Freedom is not something Carol Herman takes for granted. It's something the 81-year-old lives to the fullest every day.

Her eternal optimism and joy in the moment is something she learned from her family, and from history.

Passover observance of the Jewish people's gaining freedom from slavery in Egypt has additional special meaning for many in Herman's generation.

"The support and faith that my family gave me prepared me to deal with what came along," she said. "Now I live life to the fullest as much as I can."

In 1938, at age 19, Herman left her family on the last child transport to escape Nazi Germany. She would later learn her parents and younger brother were killed at Auschwitz.

But that was not the last of her heartaches.

In Cincinnati, she married and had three children.

This is the first of three Holy Week stories about people whose faith has helped shape their lives.
Coming Thursday: a Clermont County teen aspires to be a Methodist minister, and on Friday, a profile of the Sisters of Charity's new leader.
Pesach, which begins at sundown today, celebrates the Israelites' Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The holiday's name, meaning pass over or protection, refers to the 10th plague God unleashed on the people of Egypt, killing the first-born children. Jewish families marked their doors so the "killing angel" would pass over their homes.

The Israelites left their homes quickly when the Pharaoh granted their freedom. They were unable to wait for their bread to rise, leading to the practice of abstaining from leavened bread during the holiday. Instead, Jews eat matza.

The first two nights of the holiday often are celebrated with a Seder, or order, as prescribed in the Haggadah. It includes a meal of symbolic food, blessings, children asking four questions about the holiday, and a retelling of the Exodus story.

There are about 22,000 Jews and 17 synagogues and temples in the area.

But again, she lost family members; her husband to a heart attack in 1972, a daughter in a kayaking accident, and another daughter at 39 from cancer. And then in 1999, her second husband died.

"There was never a time when I struggled or doubted my faith. I could always find the answers," Herman said. "I believe in God, and I believe he has a plan. Sometimes life is better if you don't figure it out."

She's found strength in her faith, her daughter, Linda, and an extended family in her temple.

"I love my temple. I love my rabbi, and I love my faith. That has carried me through the tragedies in my life," she said.

She'll celebrate this Passover with her temple family and others she's met in Cincinnati.

Many of them she has met on her 10 trips to Israel, three of them in the last year, despite ongoing turmoil there.

"I think if you limit yourself in what you can do, you're not really living," she said. "I have never lived with fear. I think if you are always afraid, you can't live."

She finds strength and inspiration in Israel, much as she did visiting Poland and the places where Holocaust victims were loaded onto trains to be taken to concentration camps.

For her, Israel is not a place to renew her faith, but a place that reinforces what she already knows to be true.

"Something happens to me when I go to Israel," she said. "There's a spirit over there of a people that cannot be destroyed no matter what."


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