HEBREW SCHOOL PRESENTATION
(Since the presentation took place during the Kabbalat Shabbat Service of May 2nd. there are no photos of the students who made the presentation.)
"FORGETFULNESS LEADS TO EXILE WHILE REMEMBRANCE IS THE SECRET OF REDEMPTION"
BAAL SHEM TOV
REMEMBERING THE HOLOCAUST
There are events of such overbearing magnitude that one ought not remember them all the time, but one must not forget them either. Such an event is the Holocaust. Rabbi Israel Spira
Yom HaShoah is the day on which the Jewish people throughout the world remember the six million Jews murdered during the second world war.
We recall part of what they witnessed, part of the horrors that they suffered in order to remember them and to remind others about the dangerousness of unchecked hate.
It is a time when we recall the splendor of their lives, as well as the terror of their deaths.
There is no adequate reaction to the Holocaust, but we must not ignore it and we must not forget its victims.
THE YELLOW BADGE
Before the war, life for children in Europe was a lot like our lives here in America. Children went to school, played on sports teams and had many Jewish and non-Jewish friends. But when the Nazis came to power evejything changed. One young girl remembers:
"Slowly there was abuse, and the abuse came not so much from the Germans alone as it came from the native population. There would be all sorts of nasty things being said as Jews passed in the street. One of the things I remember very strongly was that this hind of abuse escalated as soon as we were supposed to wear the Jewish star. And that for me was a very traumatic experience. I remember coming home one day and seeing my mother sewing on the star on my coat. And I was aware of the fact that this was a way of singling us out. I remember saying: Let's not do this, because then we can't hide. And my mother responded: We have to. That is the decree. And what happened in the town itself was the closing of the neighborhood."
Things continued to get worse for the Jewish people as they were forced to live in marked off sections of towns and cities that came to be called ghettos. Life in the ghettos was unbearable. Overcrowding was the norm with a small apartment have numerous families living in it.
Contagious diseases spread rapidly in such conditions and people were always hungry. The Germans deliberately starved the residents by allowing them to purchase only small amounts of food.
Tens of thousands of people died in the ghettos from illness, starvation, and cold.
Although suffering and death were all around them, Jews in the ghettos tried to maintain their way of life. Children went to school, newspapers flourished and plays were performed. And as this young man wrote: he found his people in the ghetto.
The last, the very last
So richly brightly dazzling yellow
Perhaps if the sun's tears could sing against a white stone.
Such, such a yellow is carried lightly way up high
It went away, I'm sure,
Because it wished to kiss the world good-bye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here pent op inside this ghetto.
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me and the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
THE TRAINS AND THE CAMPS
The Nazi murder camps are one of history's ultimate horrors. Jews were deported from the ghettos to the camps by packing them into sealed cattle trains that had no sanitation and allowed in very little air. Little or no food was supplied. As one survivor recalled:
"There were 12 box cars for 650 people. Here, then, before our very eyes was one of the notorious transport trains, those which never return and of which, shuddering, we had so often heard people speak. Exactly lihe this, detail for detail: box cars closed from the outside, with men, women and children pressed together without pity like cheap merchandise, for a journey towards nothingness. This time it is we who are inside."
Arrival at the camps was equally nightmarish: screaming guards, loud noises, barking dogs, beatings.
AT MY BAR MITZVAH - AND HIS
When I was thirteen, I became a Bar Mitzvah.
When he was thirteen, he became a Bar Mitzvah.
When I was thirteen, I studied - the pathways of the Bible and roadways of the Talmud.
When he was thirteen, he studied - the canals of Warsaw and the sewers of the Ghetto.
At my Bar Mitzvah, I wore a new Tallit over a new suit.
At his Bar Mitzvah, he wore a rifle and bullets over a suit of rags.
At my Bar Mitzvah, they praised my voice, my song, my melody.
At his Bar Mitzvah, they praised his strength and his courage.
At my Bar Mitzvah, I read from the Scroll of the Torah.
At his Bar Mitzvah, he wrote a Scroll of Fire.
At my Bar Mitzvah, 1 blessed G-d.
At his Bar Mitzvah, he questioned G-d.
At my Bar Mitzvah, family and friends came - to say ""L'chayim."
At his Bar Mitzvah, Rabbi Akiba and Trumpeldor, Hannah and her seven sons -
came to escort him to Heaven.
At my Bar Mitzvah, I took an oath to live as a Jew.
At his Bar Mitzvah, he took an oath to die as a Jew.
At my Bar Mitzvah, 1 started my road of life.
At his Bar Mitzvah, he began his road to martyrdom.
HOPE FOR THE WORLD
In the Warsaw ghetto Jews added an eleventh commandment: Do not despair.
Many people lost faith in humanity, and even G-d after the Holocaust. How could civilized people commit such acts of evil ? How could G-d allow for the Holocaust to occur? Life is filled with many unanswerable questions and these are some of them. Yet, as these words from Anne Frank's diary demonstrate, many people remained hopeful of a brighter future.
"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I thinb that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out."
SYMBOLIC LIGHTING THE CANDLES
In Jewish life we light a candle on the anniversary of a death of a loved one. We cannot light six million candles. Let us, then, light six candles - one for each million.
The human spirit is the light of God. As we look at these lights, try to imagine six million candles, each one with the name of another Jew. Each one signifying a unique and precious soul, who struggled and had hope, who was part of a family, an orphan, a widow, or a widower. They worked, studied, took walks—the ordinary things of life....They all were part of the Jewish people. Each one suffered. Each and every one was murdered. They are lost forever, their light extinguished. We are the light now. Only by our remembering can they live again in our hearts and minds.
We rise for the Kaddish in memory of the six million Jews murdered during the Shoah, the Holocaust. We must remember them as six million individual tragedies for each of them had their own dreams, families, and friends. As it is written in the Talmud: whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world.
You who live safe in your warm houses,
You who find on returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud, who does not know peace, who fights for a scrap of bread, who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair and without name, with no more strength to remember, her eyes empty and her womb cold, like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I command these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts, at home, in the street, Going to bed and rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart, may illness impede you, may your children turn their faces from you.
HATIKVAH - THE HOPE
We conclude our service with a singing of HATIKVAH, the national anthem of Israel.