Dreizel and Shalom Yaakov BirnbachSitting in the second row at Israel’s national Yom Hashoah ceremony thanks to good friends, my mind wandered to things and places far away as I absorbed the powerful speeches, stories and performances before me. More than ever, the juxtaposition of this being both a personal and national tragedy was clear. And even though I have watched this ceremony on TV before, I reflected on how we commemorate this tragedy today and in the future. The theme of the program was especially powerful, “Children in the Holocaust.” Survivors’ whose stories were depicted were children during the Holocaust. Musical performances were both about, and by, children. Speakers referred to the 1.5 million children whose lives, and hopes and futures, were brutally cut short. The loss was made particularly relevant this week with projections that had the Holocaust not happened, the world’s Jewish population would number 35 million, three times what it is today. And while the stories of specific survivors were replete with personal horrors and grief, that they have each rebuilt their lives and raised families of their own offered hope for the future in spite of the suffering of the past. Without a doubt, we must mourn for our losses, individually and nationally. But to only mourn perpetuates defeat and victimhood. In an age when the number of living Holocaust survivors is dwindling, we must learn and teach from the past, and build for the future. By continuing to live and thrive, by magnifying Jewish life in every facet, we not only honor the memory of the six million murdered that their death was not in vain, but we also make sure that our very flourishing is a perpetual victory over those who tried to destroy us in the past, and a notice for those who would think of doing so again. Memorializing the six million is both a mission and obligation. We must consider not just the absolute losses, but the lives and stories of all the survivors and victims. We must consider the sacrifices of others in the past that made the present possible, for each of us as individuals, and for us as a people. And, especially in an era that provides platforms for those who deny that the Holocaust even happened, as a lesson to the world. On a personal level, my great grandparents were ones who made such a sacrifice.
A special list - the Efrat soccer teamOskar Schindler had his list of 1100. As Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) said in the film, “The list is an absolute good. The list is life.” Yet my mind wandered to another place, another list, surrounded by fewer dignitaries, but no less significant. Eichen Elkin Feldstein Goldberg Goodman Levy Revivi Shefler Taragin Zeligman Zivotofsky My ten year old son was privileged to be picked to be on our town’s 3rd and 4th grade soccer team, playing other third and fourth grade teams from throughout and around Jerusalem. It’s a big deal to him, an enormous point of pride to us, his family, and is as fun to watch as it is competitive and educational. But as I sat at the national Israeli ceremony commemorating the six million martyrs, I couldn’t help but think that this list of 9 and 10 year old boys is every much about life as Oskar Schindler’s list. In many cases, this list would not be possible without the bravery and sacrifices of those who came before us. And after all, what better representation could there be of the survival and flourishing of Jewish life, more than six decades after the Holocaust, than dozens of boys running all over soccer fields in and around Jerusalem, cheering one another on in Hebrew. I think that my great grandparents would have an extra measure of pride in seeing their great-great-grandson running up and down a soccer field in Jerusalem, and leaping to stop a goal in Gush Etzion. I think, if they could, they’d join me every week sitting in the front row at the game to see our future before their eyes, or at least in the second row, as I did this week, remembering their lives and sacrifices that made our life here possible.