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Monday, 20 April, 2020 - 4:36 pm

mika-zt5SZc8YOZU-unsplash.jpgToday the sirens went off in Israel as millions of Israelis remembered the Six Million victims of the Shoah (on the anniversary of the conclusion of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising). My Facebook feed is full of pictures and memories of families remembering their loved ones who were murdered or survived the Holocaust and it makes me think about all the special Holocaust survivors that I am blessed to have had or have a relationship with. Each Holocaust survivor is a spiritual giant and hero, as they literally climbed out of the ashes to build a new world, to build new families and to carrying on living and carrying forward the Jewish values and beliefs of generations before them.

I remember Irving from my old Synagogue in Yonkers, who had grown up as a Gerer Chasid and would cry when he would see me wearing my Shabbat Kappota as it reminded him of all of his family that were burned in Auschwitz. I remember how he would smile at my daughter Chana who was then a baby, and then cry like a baby as he remembered his own sister Chana who kept him alive on the train to Auschwitz and was then murdered herself.

I think of my dear friend Betty from Yonkers who went through Auschwitz, lost some of her siblings and parents, but came to this country and built up a beautiful family and is now watching children, grandchildren and great grandchildren live meaningful Jewish lives. I think of her memories of the last time she saw her brother and she tried to give him a piece of bread through the barbed wire, but he refused to take it and she never saw him again.

I remember the time I was shopping in a Supermarket and a woman grabs me and rolls up her arm and shows me a number tattooed on her arm and began sobbing, "why did I lose all of my family"? Yet I remember how she told me that she went to Synagogue every Shabbos since she loved being Jewish.

I remember visiting a man in hospital in Caracas and putting on Tefillin with him and reciting Shema and the floodgates of 50 years of pain opened up before me, as memories of his dear family and his own survival welled up. I think of Izzy a dear friend from Framingham who saw his family for the last time at the tender young age 6 years old and was left with no one in the world, but whose passion for Judaism and whose special voice rings out in prayer, echoes in my mind and soul.

I remember Monya from Framingham who described fleeing with his family and running into the fields to hide in trenches to avoid the Nazi Bullets. I think of the many many others that I know or have met in my life who are likewise filled with pain and memories of family members who are no more but live meaningful and joy filled lives of hope, positivity and happiness.

And, I also think of the millions of children, women and men who have no one left to even remember that they existed. They will never be forgotten, because we will all remember them. We cannot bring them back, but every joyful action, good deed and Mitzvah done because of our commitment to our Jewish identity, are an eternal tribute to the millions who didn’t survive and represent a way we can continue to honor their memory and implementing what they stood for and bring the world to closer to perfection.

As we conclude the joyous month of Nissan, a month when we refrain from extra sad things and instead focus on the miracles of life and of salvation, we need look no further than the survivors themselves who represent the greatest modern day miracle and hope of the Jewish people and indeed of humanity itself. Their lives and their commitment to living their Judaism and meaningful lives and never giving in, represent the indomitable and unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people. It is these wonderful people, whose faith in humanity, in our spiritual mission and in bettering the world, have become the pillars of our generation and have laid the foundations and hopes for the next generation.

 Am Yisroel Chai!

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