Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Post Shoah Posts

Yesterday was yom hashoah, the holocaust memorial day, and fans of the Jewish blogs should not be surprised as to how we chose to commemorate. David over at treppenwitz gave a wonderfully poignant post (get the tissues ready before you read) on one man's story of survival, while dovbear links to an insider-joke satirical piece. Me? I caught a show.

Well, not an entertainment piece. My shul (synagogue) put on a staged reading of Address Unknown, Kathrine Kressmann Taylor's powerful short epistolary novel describing the rise of the Nazi movement and its devastating effect on two men. I found the staging to be generally effective, but I thought that the most powerful sight of the evening was before the first line of the show was even said. Prior to beginning, the two performers lit six candles in the middle of the stage (a long-standing practice at Mt. Sinai, commemorating the six million Jews killed). Immediately, an elderly man sitting near me, a genial neighborhood dentist with a practice probably going back forty years or more, starting quietly sobbing in his seat, his face wracked in indescribable pain. Address Unknown has an incredibly powerful ending (I sat numb the first time I read the novel's last page), but it was the start of this performance, and that man's look of devastation, that I will carry with me.

There's no shortage of "phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes" imagery used to describe the post-holocaust revitalization of Judaism. Zionists point to the state of Israel, the "ultra-orthodox" point to their ever-expanding population growth and thriving yeshivas, and secular Jews point to the prominence of proud Jews in prominent positions in the worlds of art, science, politics, and what-have-you. To me, though, a most fascinating look at how far we've come came from yesterday's news. When the Satmar Rebbe, the leader of a generally isolationist chassidic sect, died last Monday, thousands of mourners flocked to Kiryas Joel, a major Satmar enclave. The Times Herald-Record reports, that, to keep traffic moving and ensure the safety of those attending:
... the funeral procession was led by New York City police to the Yonkers-Bronx border, where state police took over the escort... At the first word of the rebbe's death, first responders fanned out to staging areas throughout Southern Orange County... State police, the sheriff, the county executive and other top officials had begun to gather in the county's Emergency Operations Center by 9 p.m. to coordinate the response... Firefighters and emergency medical technicians mustered at firehouses and ambulance garages in the Monroe area.

Two generations ago, in an advanced and civilized nation, police officers and public officials tormented, tortured, and killed religious Jews. Yesterday, a group of Jews who are far more "outsider" than those in Germany and Poland, received service and protection from officials and officers who will never understand their ways, yet strive to protect their ability to keep them. It's become traditional to ask G-d to bless America during the seventh inning stretch of baseball games, but there's no question that He's already blessed us who are here.


At 8:23 PM , Blogger Faye Berman said...

that was a beautiful post. Kudos


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