sign up for our mailing list
Third Thursday Thoughts: Reflections from the Executive Director

The Martlet

August 18, 2022 | Third Thursday Thoughts
Dawn LaRochelle, Executive Director

I’m a Mini Girl. Yes, I’m 5-ft. flat, but no, I’m not referring to my height (or lack thereof). I’m talking about my pride and joy, the greatest love of my life after my husband and sons: my 2017 Mini Cooper Clubman S. 

Owning a Mini means, first and foremost, abiding by the Mini Rules of the Road. There are 10 “official” Mini Rules, including parking next to other Minis and waving at other Mini drivers, but my favorite is Rule #4: No two Minis should be alike. It’s an extension of your personality. Make yours as unique as you are. And let’s just say I ROCK this rule! Pinstripes? Yup! Racing checkers? You bet! Vanity plates? But of course – with custom license plate frames that read “Life is too short to drive a boring car!” And then, there is my Martlet.

In English heraldry, the Martlet is a mythological bird without feet that never rests and is always on the wing. It represents ceaseless effort, the kavanah with which Jews are directed to pray and with which I strive to approach life, generally. It is also on my husband’s ancient family coat of arms. Having a Martlet hand-painted on the passenger front door of my Mini was a Rule #4 no-brainer.

Seeing the Martlet on my Mini makes me smile every time I get behind the wheel. It also makes me more conscious about the things that require ceaseless effort. Things like keeping the flame alive in a marriage. And parenting wisely and well. And not forgetting. 

Growing up in the shadow of the Nazi death camps, my childhood was punctuated by the twin mantras “Never Forget” and “Never Again.” More than just slogans of Holocaust remembrance, “Never Forget” and “Never Again” are a Jewish clarion call of civic responsibility. That is the lesson that Martin Niemoller, the German Lutheran theologian whose eventual opposition to the Third Reich landed him in Dachau, urged when he penned his famous poem, First They Came For The Jews . Yet here we are, over seven decades later, watching in real time as the ancient, bloody tenets of persecution, murder, and genocide deface our world once more. For Ukrainian Jews and non-Jews alike, “Never Forget” is starting to look like “Never Remember,” and “Never Again” seems to be happening again and again. Even worse, media coverage of the atrocities committed against Ukrainians on a daily basis has dwindled, and Mariupol and Bucha are being eclipsed by inflation and gas prices.

This is why, despite a chronic lack of wall space and exhibits booked through 2025 at the Maine Jewish Museum, we created a pop-up exhibit,  Witness to War: Ukrainian Photographers React , featuring original, never-before-seen photographs of war-torn Ukraine taken by Ukrainian citizens on the ground. The exhibit will only be open until August 26, so don’t delay your Museum visit. And on Sunday, August 21, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Ukrainian Mainer Oleg Opalnyk, whose tireless efforts on behalf of Ukrainian refugees in Maine were recently celebrated in this NPR article, will be our guest speaker at a related program, Witness to War: Ukrainians Speak About Ukraine. Oleg will discuss how his Auburn rental property has become the unlikely hub of a DIY settlement operation. In addition, one of the refugees he helped bring to Maine will describe their harrowing journey, which parallels the backstories of Jewish immigrants in ways that are all too familiar. In the spirit of “Never Forget” and “Never Again, I hope to see you at this very important event.

Admiring the Martlet on my Mini, if I allow a shadow to catch my eye, I see Martin Niemoller in the flesh before me. And I hear him say, “Speak out, before there is no one left to speak for you.” Come see our photos. Come attend our program. Your support will speak volumes.