A Holocaust Survivor’s Spiritual Journey from Darkness to Light
My new book, Quest for Eternal Sunshine: A Holocaust Survivor’s Journey from Darkness to Light, shares the remarkable true story of my father, Mendek Rubin. He was a brilliant inventor who turned his genius inward to explore the depths of his psyche in an effort to heal from the enormous trauma of his early life. My father was so successful at this, he overcame decades of unrelenting depression to become the happiest and most peaceful person I have ever known.
My mother was also a Holocaust survivor. Growing up, neither of my parents ever talked about their past. It wasn’t until after my father passed away in 2012 that I discovered an unfinished manuscript about his healing journey, and began to learn his story. His manuscript was filled with his philosophy about the human condition, poetry, and poignant essays about the most pivotal experiences in his life. The pieces about his childhood were magical—they brought me back in time and place to his hometown of Jaworzno, Poland, where he was born into a Hassidic Jewish family in 1924 between the two world wars.
My father’s writings taught me many things about him that I’d never known before, but because it was missing virtually all names and dates, and skipped over full decades of his life, his manuscript left me with as many questions as answers. When I decided to devote myself to completing his memoir so that his remarkable wisdom could be shared with the world, I had no idea that I would be embarking on a four-year journey.
Researching the missing pieces of Quest for Eternal Sunshine connected me with relatives I had no idea existed and drew me close to my father’s sole surviving sibling—my aunt Bronia, who I’d hardly known before. While completing the book, I became engrossed in my father’s philosophy—he helped me understand why we as humans are so trapped in our own belief systems that we repeat the same patterns over and over, remaining blind to the full magnificence of life.
Quest for Eternal Sunshine wasn’t the first collaboration between my father and myself. In the mid-1980s, my father invented the initial equipment that my husband Drew and I used to wash and pack our organic baby greens in the early days of our company—Earthbound Farm—helping us become the first people to successfully market pre-washed salads for retail sale. Earthbound quickly grew from a tiny farm and roadside stand to become the largest grower of organic produce in the world.
My life would have been very different if my parents hadn’t decided to buy a little farm in Carmel Valley, California when my father sold his jewelry business in Brooklyn and retired. My mom had grown up on a farm in Hungary and had always wanted to re-experience the joys of eating fruit just picked from the tree and having space to roam freely.
Being city kids from Manhattan, Drew and I originally planned to spend just one year on the farm helping my parents make improvements in exchange for rent. Then I planned to go off to graduate school. But we fell in love with living in sync with the rhythms of nature and working outside with our hands, and I couldn’t imagine sacrificing our glorious new lifestyle to head back to a classroom.
When Drew and I began marketing our idea for ready-to-eat salads in a bag, it was my inventor father who jumped in to help us. At the time, we were washing and packing one bag at a time, an incredibly slow, labor-intensive process. My father taught us to think like professional manufacturers about efficiency, assembly lines, and scaling up. He created our first washing and bagging equipment, using odds and ends he found at the local junkyard.
Being smart was one of the reasons that my father was a successful inventor. He was also incredibly observant, patient and determined. Always sure that there was a solution just waiting to be uncovered, he never gave up until he found it. When Drew and I came up with the concept for bagged salads, something that had never been done before, my dad never once questioned its viability, he just got to work helping us realize our dream.
My father’s dream was to document and share his healing journey. At first, I thought I was doing him a favor by completing the memoir he had devoted himself to for almost a decade, but it turned out he was the one sharing his gifts with me. My father’s success overcoming his trauma inspired my own healing odyssey, and the lessons I’ve learned from him are helping me to live more joyously than ever.
My father wrote, “The most important thing I have ever done is to become an explorer of my mind and heart. I got to know myself as I really am, rather than who I imagined myself to be.”
Everybody’s voyage through life is unique. What we each need in order to heal is different, and changes over time. My father shared the roadmap that worked for him, and his insights opened my eyes and changed my life.
I’ve created a website to share more about my father, as well to be a resource for other tools for healing I have found helpful in my own life. Please visit www.QuestForEternalSunshine.com, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @QuestForEternalSunshine.
Mendek Rubin was a Holocaust survivor and brilliant inventor who helped revolutionize the jewelry manufacturing industry, generating numerous patents in the 1960s and 1970s. After he retired from the jewelry business, he invented the equipment to wash and package baby greens for Earthbound Farm―the first company to successfully market ready-to-eat salads for retail sale. Mendek also applied his genius to his own psyche, creating innovative ways to overcome the trauma of the Holocaust and live a truly joyous life. He is the author of two books: Why Not Now, a book of poems and prose, and I Am Small, I Am Big: The Way We Choose to Live, a book about positive thinking written for children. A self-taught artist and nature photographer, Mendek died in September 2012 in Carmel Valley, California, at the age of eighty-seven.