Somewhere out there

Somewhere out there

There are so many things going on in the news this week.

Every day turns up fascinating pieces of information about the investigation led by the January 6 committee, with missing phone logs and jaw-dropping emails and ricocheting accusations, and we now are in between a remarkably ugly Supreme Court confirmation hearing and the vote that’s likely to make the patient, brilliant, entirely unflappable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson a justice.

For those of us who are political junkies, this is compelling stuff; if it weren’t so frightening, if the outcome weren’t so important, it would be wonderful theater. Life as a thriller, somewhere between a procedural and a spy caper. But this all matters too much for much amusement to be wrung from it.

Still, everything here, no matter how important it is, pales beside what’s going on in Ukraine.

Although I, like many if not more likely most of us, think a lot about the situation and the likely outcomes — and interviewing Alexander Smukler, as I’ve been doing for the last month, is both fascinating and utterly terrifying — most of what I think about is how very lucky I am. How very lucky my family and friends and co-workers are. How lucky all of us are, to be living in this country. We might be more divided than we’ve been at any time since the Civil War, we might hate each other with the kind of irrational hatred, the sinat chinam, that caused the Temples to be destroyed, but we’re not living in Ukraine, where a madman is killing people. We’re not living in Russia, where that same madman is controlling everything we see, hear, and therefore think, and where our future is grim. We’re not even living in other parts of eastern Europe, which are safe for now but not that far from the madman’s weapons and unhinged malice.

We are so lucky.

We look at the pictures of the refugees leaving Ukraine; the shock, the fear, the inability to process the unthinkable. How do they do it?

I think about my grandparents and great grandparents, who picked up and left Europe. How did they do it?

How do you leave everything behind?

It used to be that we’d think of those refugees as different from us because the space and time between us seemed to have made them unknowably different. We look at those refugees a few branches on top of us in our family tree as not having had the same feelings that we have. We think of them as being as stiff and wooden as they are in those sepia keepsakes that often are all we have of them.

It makes me remember the 1987 cartoon movie “An American Tail.” In that movie — which I’ve never seen all the way through, by the way, because limits — the little mouse hero, Fievel Mousekewitz, who has been separated from his family, looks out his window and sings “Somewhere Out There” as he yearns for them. (It’s okay. It ends happily.) But whenever I think of that image, I cry. There’s something about that little mouse, singing for his family, as children separated from their families by history and cruelty have sung and yearned and cried for theirs.

I have no idea how the refugees have the courage and stamina to leave home, how the mothers manage to give their children some hope, how the fathers who have to stay to fight are able to do it. I don’t know how those separated families cope.

I do know that they are extraordinary. I do know that one very good thing to have come out of this horror is how many Jews, how many Americans, how many Israelis, how many people of good will across the world, have done whatever they can to help.

As always, we remind our readers that among the many places where they can donate, we hope they consider, depending on where they live, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of Rockland County, or the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest. If they want to give more directly, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is collecting and distributing funds too. All are good choices.

We hope that this nightmare ends soon, that the monstrous man in the Kremlin (or more realistically wherever it is that he is hiding) vanishes from the earth, and that somehow or other families can find each other, return home or find new homes, and begin to heal.