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By Lauren Brendlinger

July 10, 2022, 14:43. Click. A girl, hands at her hips, a smile on her face. Hair tucked behind one ear to prevent the wind from blowing it into her eyes, a hair tie on her wrist just in case. A pair of sunglasses to protect these eyes from the rays of sunshine coming down upon her on this beautiful day. She’s dressed to impress, seemingly full of bliss and ready to take on an adventure.

Little does anyone know, she’s simply posing for the picture, smiling to prevent herself from getting swept up in the emotion she knows she’s about to feel, the tragedies she’s about to witness. A hair tie on her wrist, just in case her hair obstructs her view of each victim’s keepsakes, of every handwritten note that was never delivered. She brought her sunglasses to shield the sun’s blinding rays as she looks up at the trees – the trees planted to honor those who gave their lives fighting for justice. She’s dressed not to impress, but to pay her respects to the millions like her who are not as fortunate to be enjoying the sun as she is now.

Brendlinger Yad Vashem photo

This photo is not an insight – merely a glimpse into the lives of 20 Jewish boys and girls who took this day to visit Yad Vashem. Literally, “a memorial and a name,” Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Here, these boys and girls heard the names of hundreds of children who left this world too soon, and felt the heat of the candles lit in their honor. They stepped over thousands of pairs of shoes, never to be worn by their owners again. They stepped inside a room with an infinite number of faces, ones which once possessed a smile just like theirs. They heard stories of a young girl who kept being given new mother after new mother, never knowing which one would stay, never occurring to her that most girls only got one. All of this history was represented in one building, a building which gave these boys and girls an experience which they would never forget. But you would never know from the image of one miniscule moment where there stands a girl, hands at her hips, a smile on her face.

I was the girl.

The things that came before my eyes on this day changed my perspective. I realized what the lives of others all throughout history consist of, and how they differ from mine. While I have been fortunate enough to never fight for my next meal, fear premature death, or face confusion as to which family is my own, this is not the case for everyone. The experience I had on this day helped me to understand that I am not alone in this world, and I have the ability to support and remember others who have faced and are facing struggles I could not previously imagine.

Join us at the 2025 Maccabiah in Israel (July 1-22, 2025)
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