The Jewish people are woven together into the tapestry of each of these places.
Unfortunately, many of the sites we visit are no longer actively used by Jews. They are museums and shells, inhabited only by tourists and the spirits of the generations who worshipped and lived there.
We know that for many of these communities their last generation was murdered, and the bodies turned into ash at Auschwitz and other camps in this part of the world. Many other individuals emigrated to the USA and Israel after the war. Some of us on this very journey are their descendants, and many of us at Temple Beth Ami are alive because our families were fortunate enough to have left before the Shoah began.
Regardless, every Jew today is a survivor. That doesn’t mean we live in the past, or we must obsess on the Holocaust. It does mean that we are very fortunate to be alive, and that consequently we have the responsibility to not only remember, but to live and celebrate our Jewish identity.
As Rabbi Emil Fackenheim, a survivor himself wrote:
We are, first, commanded to survive as Jews, lest the Jewish people perish. We are commanded, secondly, to remember in our very guts and bones the martyrs of the Holocaust, lest their memory perish. We are forbidden, thirdly, to deny or despair of God, however much we may have to contend with him or with belief in him, lest Judaism perish. We are forbidden, finally, to despair of the world as the place which is to become the kingdom of God, lest we help make it a meaningless place in which God is dead or irrelevant and everything is permitted. To abandon any of these imperatives, in response to Hitler's victory at Auschwitz, would be to hand him yet other, posthumous victories.
The nation of Israel is a living testament to survival and vitality for us as a people, but as Jews living in another amazing country we must connect to that same energy and joy in our homes.
At Temple Beth Ami we work to instill that feeling in every person who walks into our shul or comes in contact with our people. While the spiritual energy emanates from our history and tradition, it is amplified by each generation. Each individual has a spark lit or nurtured by the work we do as a kehilla kadosh, a holy community.
As we enter a new year in our TBA community, we welcome the new leaders and board members led by our president Rosemary Watson. We hope that each of you will find a way to give back this year through Temple Beth Ami– by engaging in an activity that you haven’t participated in before, by bringing your own friends in for the first time, and simply by continuing to support our shul with your energy and economic means.
We need to ensure that our community not only survives, but continues to serve as a light for the rest of the world.
An ambitious project for our little outpost in the SCV, but as Jews have we ever expected anything less?