Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
Thought for Shabbat
January 27, 2023
When we read from the Torah portion of Bo, we come to the end of the story of the ten plagues and also establish the first ever Jewish calendar which included the observance of the first Pesach/Passover. That calendar became the structure for the Jewish year, structure that exists even today. And when we have lived in areas where we have not been the majority, which is almost everywhere, it has been our job to remember that calendar and make our calendar fit into the lifecycle of the dominant society.
The major rituals and holidays that we engage in function largely to remind us who we are, where we came from and what we stand for. It is very personal. But this week, today in fact, when we look at the secular calendar we are reminded that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day the world has set aside to remember the horror of the Final Solution. It is the anniversary of the January 27,1945 liberation of Auschwitz.
Our rituals are personal, but so is our history, no matter who tells it. Like Bruce Feiler, the author of the The Secrets of Happy Families wrote, “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all–develop a strong family narrative.“This applies to our people as well.
Restaurateur Richard Avery never knew that his mother was a Holocaust survivor until one day as a teenager he brought some friends to his house. And when his mother joined the conversation, she started to tell her story. Richard was shocked. But then he was also proud of his mother when she began regularly sharing her story of survival with the world. Then one day he had a controversial idea. He would tattoo his mother’s tattoo from the camp on his shoulder. And he would tell his mother’s story to his customers. She was honored.
Adat Shalom congregant Debbie Stueber has made it a mission in her life to share the survival story of her parents, Kurt and Edith Leuchter. She travels to schools, libraries, companies and other places to remind anyone who will listen to their witness testimony. She and her parents provide compelling testimony and have educated numerous people about that dark period of history. She has made her family’s story personal for everyone who hears it.
The loss of 6,000,000 Jewish lives is personal to each of us. But as the years have passed since the Holocaust, it is the job of each Jew to make the Holocaust personal for others, as well. We will educate ourselves further and tell the stories of 6,000,000 individuals, each with their own personal story. We will have to put faces, not just numbers, on our history. Each victim and survivor has a story and each one, each name, deserves to be remembered. This is personal for all of us and always will be.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
The fact is we can only love what we know personally. E.M. Forster