Annette’s Legacy Letter: A Priceless Inheritance

I recently posted a Legacy Letter I wrote to my new granddaughter, Mia. My message to Mia was about the family heritage she inherits and will pass down to future generations. On her father’s side, Mia descends from ancestors who barely escaped the Holocaust. On her mother’s side, Mia is the great-granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who miraculously survived imprisonment in concentration camps. It’s a powerful legacy, and one shared by most American Jews.

That post generated a heart-heavy response. One response was so meaningful that I want to devote this post to it. It came from Ben Friedman, a young attorney friend I met years ago at synagogue services in New York. Ben shared the Holocaust survival story of his grandmother, Annette Baslaw Finger, and the Legacy Letter she left to her son, David.

Before I share Annette’s letter, I want to bring her to life by revealing her story. Annette was born in Paris in the late 1920s. Her family fled from the Nazis and Annette survived the Holocaust by hiding in a barn. At Chanukah, they looked to the stars to light an imaginary “Menorah in the Sky” (commemorated in a piece Annette provided to The Reader’s Digest.) Her picture also graces the cover of The Hidden Children by Jane Marks.

Like so many Holocaust survivors, Annette was a model of resilience. Though Hitler tried, he failed to snuff out her life or her light. Annette lived a life as a deeply spiritual Jew, producing heirs like her grandson Ben, who carry on her Jewish heritage. As further proof of her resilience, Annette went on to earn her PhD.

As she grew older, Annette wisely asked her family what items they wanted from her when she passed. Her son David asked for nothing material. All her son wanted from Annette was a moral legacy, which she beautifully composed in 2010. At her funeral 12 years later, David read his mother’s Legacy Letter. I urge you to click on this LINK to read every precious word, but here are a few abbreviated highlights:

“Dearest David,

The only thing you asked for was that I leave you a “moral legacy,” specifically a list of things that have worked for me in my life. You will feel those blessings, and you will continue to feel my presence in your heart. So here is my list:

  1. The gift of gratitude (Stop, look, cherish, and send up a prayer of gratitude. I never go to sleep without first offering a prayer of gratitude.)
  2. My father’s precious memory bottle (Simple moments that bring total happiness – I preserve them in my memory bottle so that I can relive them whenever I feel the need.)
  3. My father’s other precious gifts (The Menorah in the Sky, the pebble in the lake – do at least one small good deed every day which will hopefully reverberate.)
  4. Relish being alive (Every single day, experience something that you really enjoy – music, a friend, a walk in a beautiful place.)
  5. The gift of forgiveness (the anger and resentment are really bad for me. Ask myself ‘honestly, 10 years from now what importance will this have?’ I need to let it go.)
  6. Respecting HaShem’s [G-d’s] gifts and loans (HaShem gave this miraculous body – take proper care of it.)
  7. Feel HaShem’s presence within us and within every human being He has created (Lead honest, ethical, and moral lives – treat others with respect.)
  8. The gift of choice (Stay away from people who make us feel diminished, sad, depressed, or angry.)
  9. The gift of open communication (Almost any problem can be solved when I honestly and respectfully talk about what is bothering me.)
  10. Self appreciation (HaShem created us as imperfect human beings – concentrate on what is good within us, others, and the world.)

These have worked for me. I hope they will for you and I add for others.

All my love!

Mom”

My thanks to Ben for giving me permission to post your grandmother’s beautiful Legacy Letter. It’s truly the most valuable gift and one that will keep on giving. May we all be inspired to follow Annette’s lead and leave our heirs an inheritance from the heart.

Pictured on the cover of The Hidden Children is Annette Baslaw Finger, a Holocaust survivor who left her family the priceless inheritance of a Legacy Letter.