4 Elul 5770
We spent the week driving around Wales, including a day in Laugharne, at Dylan Thomas' grave. The weather warmed briefly on that December afternoon and we sat in the graveyard in a kind of reverie, talking. After, below the cemetery, we had a late afternoon lunch in a pub, raised a glass to the poet, and headed off to Tenby on the coast for New Year's eve.
He helped organize the first session of the Canadian Jewish Congress, made aliyah in 1921 but was back in Canada two years later. He ran the Congress until it was taken over by Samuel Bronfman in 1939. When he died he was eulogized by then President Samuel Bronfman, who said, "every person found in Caiserman the friendy ear and the helping hand of a kinsman."
Not a bad way to be remembered.
What fascinated me about coming across Caiserman's grave was that his brief biographical sketch in Kucharsky's book mentioned his political, social and literary causes but with the literary in particularly, only his devotion to Yiddish is mentioned--certainly nothing of his apparent love for the poet of Laugharne. Yet, he seems to have decreed before dying that his stone forever be carved with Thomas' eternal words.
What does it mean? It means the official ways in which we are remembered tell one story while our graves often allow future generations to inscribe new meanings, new insights. It means that our Jewish stories are often intertwined with other stories, making a more complex picture than any one telling can capture.
Or maybe, I'll leave it to Reb Rodney to bring it home (and not just because this classic film was made in Madison.)