Monday, April 28, 2014

Remember Yes, but How?

This is my welcome I gave last night at our annual Yom Hashoa Memorial Service.

Shalom. I am Rabbi Gary Greene of Marathon Jewish Community Center and I would like to welcome you here for our annual Yom Hashoa memorial service on behalf of my colleagues Cantor Heyman of Marathon, Rabbi Eli Shifren of Temple Torah, Rabbi Gordon Yaffe and Cantor Shron of Congregation Dor LeDor, all the Presidents of the three shuls, and on behalf of all the hard working members of our joint Yom Hashoa committee.

When I saw the documentary, No Place On Earth,  how Sonia Hochman’s family was saved from the Nazis by living underground for a year and a half, I was moved by their story.  Their bravery, ingenuity, resourcefulness, their love for one another, and their joie de vivre are inspirational.  My favorite part of the documentary was the very end of the movie when they showed pictures of each family with at least 3 generations in each photo because this demonstrates their resilience in particular and of the Jewish people in general.  Hitler is no more but we’re still here and flourishing.

We are dedicating our Yom Hashoa service this year to the memory of Alice Herz-Sommer, a piano virtuoso.  Until she died this past February at the age of 111 years old, she was the oldest living survivor in the world.  Alice was billeted with her son during their time at Theresienstadt, and he was one of only a few children to survive Theresienstadt. Her husband died of typhus in Dachau, six weeks before the camp was liberated. After the Soviet liberation of Theresienstadt in 1945, Alice and Raphael returned to Prague and in March 1949 emigrated to Israel to be reunited with some of her family, including her twin sister, Mariana. Alice lived in Israel for nearly 40 years, working as a music teacher at the Jerusalem Academy of Music until emigrating to London to be with her son in 1986. Her son Raphael, an accomplished cellist and conductor, died in 2001, aged 64, in Israel  at the end of a concert tour. He was survived by his widow and two sons.

Alice Herz-Sommers had every right to be bitter because of all of her life's experiences, but chose not to be.  She bequeathed her wisdom to us as her legacy.  She said that one must look for the beauty in life.  She saw beauty in life everywhere.  She said, “I know all about the bad, but I only look at the good things.”  She was asked whether she hated the Nazis and she said she hated no one because “Hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated” and “Hatred breeds only hatred.” 

Beyond fighting Anti-Semitism here at home and abroad, I can think of no better way to remember all the Jews during the Holocaust than carrying on their legacy by being as brave, resourceful, loving, and resilient, and now looking for the beauty in life no matter what are circumstances are. In this way, they will live on through us, our children, our grandchildren, and great grandchildren from this time forth and forever more. 

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