Seasons always seem to end officially far too late.
Summer is ending this weekend, with a flamboyant end-of-season saltwater splash; it will end formally with a sad unheard whimper in about three weeks.
By the time winter ends snow is a hard-to-conjure memory (at least in this rapidly-climate-changing world, but that seems to have been true before too), fall ends in the drabness of early winter dankness, and spring becomes summer in real life long before the calendar confirms the change.
But this change is the hardest, for any of us who are children, have children, or ever have been children. Fall brings a new school year, a new Jewish year, new clothes, new shoes, new just about everything. It’s an end to the freedom of nearly schedule-less, long-day summer, and the start of rigid adherence to the relentless clock. (To be clear, of course the clock continues ticking away, mercilessly, because time goes only in one direction all year round. It’s just easier to forget that sad truth in daylight.)
This has been a hard year in a succession of hard years, with the pandemic killing more than one million people in the United States alone, political unrest, distrust, and tribal loathing threatening our democracy, climate change clouding our children’s children’s futures, and a resulting sense of unease misting over everything.
This week, in this paper, we encountered an odd phenomenon that often recurs. We get stories that share an unexpected theme. Last week, two stories mentioned waterfalls. This week, it’s museums.
Both the Yiddish Book Center in Amhurst, Mass., and the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan focus, at least in part, on horror. The Holocaust looms over both of them, and therefore, inevitably, so does loss, death, destruction, and grief.
Both also focus on life; on the survivors who continued to live, how some of them thrived, how did they not forget and did not forgive, but somehow kept going, and often — not always but often — found new joy. It’s a hard tension, but often they managed it.
And both those museums are set in stunning places. The Museum of Jewish Heritage is on the Battery; New York Harbor is right outside the windows, with the Statue of Liberty lifting her torch and the waters of the river and the ocean mingling in the bay, signifying escape and also beckoning toward adventure. The Yiddish Book Center is on a lovely college campus, in carefully groomed New England nature, where the beauty is just wild enough to be gorgeous without being too frightening.
So as this summer closes, the nights start sooner, and school and schedules demand our attention, we hope that our readers can enjoy one last long weekend of summer, and then that this new season somehow will bring hope, and health, and healing.