The Australian Jewish community is reputed to have a greater percentage of Holocaust survivors than any other country. Growing up in Melbourne, that awful period in history had a pronounced effect on our consciousness and sense of self. We would be inducted into the memories, see the tattooed numbers on the forearms of family friends, and, even from an early age, I could recite the roll call of the death-camps of Europe, much as an Australian counterpart of British heritage might have been able to name the cricket stadiums of England.

One of the significant effects of the slaughter was that an entire generation of grandparents was missing from the scene. My mother used to tell how growing up in Melbourne in the 1950s, she was the only girl in her class in possession of a grandmother. Her classmates used to visit her home just to be able to play with a real live bubbe. My mother may have been exaggerating slightly, but certainly my great-grandmother had very few contemporaries.

I contrast this with the experience of my children and their friends. Advances in public health have ensured that a considerable percentage of our community elders live to enjoy their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The opportunity to avail oneself of the accumulated life-skills, advice and wisdom of previous generations is unparalleled in the history of the world and it is our responsibility to ensure that this gift not be squandered.

This week we finish the book of Bereishit (Genesis), the first book of the Torah, by recounting how Joseph lived to a ripe age and merited to enjoy and teach his great-grandchildren, and lived long enough to meet his great-great grandchildren. And Joseph saw the 3rd generation from his son (i.e., great-great-grandchildren), and his grandson’s son was born on his lap (Genesis 50:23). The distinction is interesting; his great-grandchildren were born on his lap. He nurtured them, he trained them, and he gave them the benefit of his experience. They were fashioned in his model and he took pride in their achievements. The next generation was not so lucky; he saw them. I’m sure he even had pleasure in the knowledge of their arrival, but he was too old and frail to make an appreciable difference in the raising of them.

Too often we see the gift that is grandparents being wasted. Either elderly citizens are shunted off into retirement villages and presented with no meaningful opportunities to interact with their grandchildren, or they remove themselves from the picture, choosing to spend their golden years on overseas travel and golf. Either way it is the younger generation who have been robbed.

We have an incredible opportunity to bring our parents and grandparents into our children’s life. A family where the generations mix easily; where the elders share their knowledge, and are inspired in turn by the enthusiasm of youth, is a joy to be cherished.

The responsibility to bring up one's kids in the way of Torah and mitzvot is equally true for one’s grandchildren. What you know; you teach. If the definition of a Jew is "anyone who has Jewish grandchildren" then how better to ensure our own right to be called Jewish than to make sure our grandkids know how to live and love Judaism.

Grandparents have a vital role to play in our lives, they’re not just there for Mother’s Day and photo ops. There may come a time where, due to age or ill health, they will no longer be able to contribute in the same way. They may be relegated to a role of seeing; sitting still and shepping naches. However, for as long as your parents are able, let them raise your children on their laps. Your parents will gain, you will gain and your kids will love you for it.