LOS ANGELES, CA — Jackie Stern very comfortably admits that she attempted to kosher her kitchen seven times and tried tying the knot with her husband Andy five times since meeting him 38 years ago. From her Los Angeles home, with the sunlight gently filtering in, Stern smiles as she explains how the fifth time, the time she wed in accordance with Jewish law, evolved.
The Jewish educator’s quest began on a 1976 trip to Europe with her husband, a Holocaust survivor. They visited the site of the German concentration camp in Dachau, and on that particular winter’s day, were the only two people there. And although they walked in silence for two-and-a-half hours – “We didn’t say one word,” says Stern – the air was filled with sounds.
“You can hear voices in the silence, and can still smell the ovens even though they’ve been cleaned out,” she insists. “I had the feeling that every Jew that lived since survived that.”
While standing amidst the camp’s echoes, Stern felt that it meant something to be a Jew, and she began a quest to find out more and acquaint herself with her identity. At the time, the only thing she knew about Judaism was a vague concept of kosher that she remembered from her grandmothers.