Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar. As we enter this month, the Rabbis teach us that our joy should increase. Yet, how can it be? Many feel awkward rejoicing when our people are still grieving, when our future is in flux. This year is a leap year in the Jewish calendar where an additional month is added before we celebrate the holiday of Purim, putting on our costumes, shaking the gragger to drown out Haman’s name, and ultimately dancing again.
Last Sunday, the Sinai Temple Religious School hosted the annual Holocaust Survivor Brunch. A panel of survivors spoke to our religious school community, many of them in their late 90s and early 100s. Each one of the survivors, whose families were murdered by the Nazis, still live with a purpose: To tell and retell their stories.
This event has grown smaller by the year as the number of survivors dwindle. Yet, this event has become ever more so important to our future generations.
To begin the program, a graduating religious school student sat down at the piano and played an original composition called, “Holocaust Song.” As a sixth grader, just last year, she met these survivors and was so moved that she put down her feelings to music.
And I know sometimes things get rough
When there’s nothing good yet to come
If the world’s worries fall like a flood
Just know that things will look up.
But it makes us stronger
We stand a little taller
Cause through the pain, we’ll all stay strong and unafraid
The stories of survivors, no matter how many times we hear them, are always heart wrenching. Mia’s words rang true as the morning ended with the joy that we are commanded to find in Adar.
We did not cry, but we laughed. Young and old, survivors and religious school students and families, danced the hora and sang, “Am Yisrael Chai.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, writing in his book Israel about coming to Jerusalem for the first time, explained that to his family in Auschwitz, Jerusalem was as remote as the moon. Today, that is not the case. Jerusalem is as close to us as our heart.
Because of our survivor generation, and a strong future in the hands of Mia and her peers, we can continue to say those words with pride, with conviction, and ultimately, with joy.