A Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freedman:
April 22, 28th day of Nisan, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Though I doubt I have anything to say about the Holocaust that hasn't been said before, I'm compelled to write about it. I hope my compulsion will shock you too into thinking about it. It's so easy to slide away from the Holocaust in our minds...
Yet, we must confront it. The most cogent story about the Holocaust that I know comes from an acquaintance, Rabbi Z'ev Hayyim Fier. He writes:
"As the generation of the Holocaust was being born, the Holy One assigned to all the souls who were descending into the world four different tasks. Some were to be perpetrators. Others were to be victims. A third group were to take up arms and resist the Nazi aggression, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. A fourth were consigned to be watchers, either to stand idly by the blood of their fellow humans, or to be active witnesses for the future."
Rabbi Fier stops there, for us to draw our own conclusions. I see two truths in his depiction. One, every human had some part in the Holocaust, Jew and non-Jew. Second, by far the largest group shared the fate of being watchers faced with a choice.
On Friday, Ruth Mandel, a Holocaust survivor and long-time member of TJC, died. She had been a passenger aboard the St. Louis, the ship carrying Jews fleeing Nazi Germany that was turned back by our country and many others. According to the New York Times obituary of April 11, many years later "she became an official with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and spent years bearing witness, preserving memory and educating new generations about how the past can inform the present. 'I do not know for sure that we learn from the past,'she said in 1999 at the annual Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust commemoration. 'I have my doubts that recalling evil can make people good. But at least we have to try. As an act of faith, we have to try.' "
The sins of the Nazis will continue to reverberate through the world for a long time. That reverberation has handed Jews the burden of being witnesses, to cry out, "Zachor! Remember! Never let this happen again."
Thank you, Ruth, for showing us the way of courage.