On the eve of the Jewish New Year 5778 (September 20, 2017), we share an intimate reflection on the International Catacomb Society written nearly twenty years ago this holiday season by longtime society director Allen Swartz:
"I am thankful that the true spirit of this Rosh Hashanah week always seems to catch up with me like the huge Jewish stop sign on the road of life that it is, and rescues me from the swirl of my usual routines and obligations so that I must now stop, look, and listen to everything - if only for a moment! - that is going on around me. It is (as my Rabbi reminded me) a time to remember where we have been, a place to think about where we are, and an opportunity to imagine where we will be.
And so, in addition to the many thoughts about my family, my social and business affairs, I have been thinking about the past, present, and future of the International Catacomb Society and especially of its founder, Estelle Brettman.
Estelle... was fearless in the wide sweep of her beliefs and dreams. Even if we might have individually thought from time to time that this or that couldn't be done when were with her, she was always off and running and actually doing it!
I know she attracted so many different people to her cause for so many different reasons, not because she was a perfect person or leader, but because she was such a talented and committed human being. Estelle found me and drew me into the vortex of her vision, and I loved Estelle for all the verve and optimism and incredible energy that she brought to the Society.
The way Estelle Brettman and I met, and the way I became one of her willing disciples resonates with the Yiddish term "beshercht" ("it was to be"), and - I am happy to say - I cannot recall a single time when I was too busy or otherwise too committed elsewhere that I did not say "yes!" to her when she called. Her sudden and painful death in mid-1991 is/was a terrible personal loss to those of us who admired her so much.
Estelle's bequests to us - as Society directors and therefore her beneficiaries - of her book, her notes, her photographs, the exhibit, "Vaults of Memory", and other artifacts and displays, but above all, that intangible but still indomitable Spirit that lives on in our memories, includes the challenge to us to be as wise and courageous and creative as Estelle was in our stewardship of the advancement and fulfillment of her wishes and vision of the International Catacomb Society... She was an incredible optimist and big thinker. That's the way we should always be thinking about the International Catacomb Society, since she herself was living proof that "if you dream it, it will happen" can occur outside of the movies, too!
Best wishes to you all for a healthy and happy New Year!
- Allen Swartz, Treasurer, International Catacomb Society (September 23, 1998)