A few years ago, Ruth and I agreed that we didn’t resonate well with many of the Yom Hashoah commemorations we’ve seen. They’ve seemed to wallow and many of us just can’t force ourselves to continue going back to that place without including a missing ingredient.
I had generally kept my feelings to myself. I was born post Holocaust and my family had all come to America long before the onset of the Holocaust, so I didn’t quite feel it was my place to complain, but Ruth lived it. Born in Germany, she experienced the events of Kristallnacht and escaped with her family in the midst of the horrors, so when she shared that she was not interested in participating in the typical Yom Hashoah observance, we began to recast the service with an appropriate balance of hopefulness and we employed it again for this year’s gathering.
The best compass I’ve found for our observance is Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, the Hope. This is how it’s translated in our prayerbook, Mishkan T’filah…
So long as within the inmost heart a Jewish spirit sings, so long as the eye looks eastward, gazing toward Zion, our hope is not lost — the hope of two thousand years: to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.
This year we came together lifting our voices from the depths of the Jewish spirit.
I was thrilled to take a ‘chance’ encounter and have it lift us up for our observance. Last week I knocked on the door of our friend and teacher, Prof. Thomas Loewenheim, our Kol Nidre cellist whose brother, Gabriel was visiting. Gabriel’s rich baritone graces the stage of Israel’s Opera and regularly on the bimah of one of the great synagogues in Germany today. The family comes from Germany, and Gabriel’s voice has returned to participate in the resurgence of Jewish life there today.
Huge thanks to Gabriel for participating in our Yom Hashoah observance and to Debbie Teitelbaum for piano accompaniment and to the many people who came out to participate.
We ended our service with the singing of Hatikvah. We began with the equally hopeful and prayerful words of Hannah Sennesh…
O Lord, my God, I pray that these things never end
The sand and the sea, the rush of the waters,
The crash of the heavens, the prayer of the heart.