We are in the midst of the nine days of Av, as we approach the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av. On Wednesday evening, we will sit on the floor of Kohn Chapel in darkness, reciting the entire book of Lamentations.
While the destruction of the Temple occurred thousands of years ago, we continue mourning for that moment in Jewish history.
This week, I visited the USC Shoah Foundation. I spoke to college students who leave today to visit Poland and Auschwitz.
This group was the USC track team, made up of young adults from around the United States, some who may become future U.S. Olympians.
I taught them the story of Marty Glickman, a Jewish Olympian in 1936, who was slated to run the 4×100 relay in Berlin. One day prior to the event, Glickman was pulled by his coach because Hitler was going to be in the stands. Glickman lived with this shame until a moment towards the end of his life, when he admitted that he was forbidden to run because he was Jewish. It was an act of antisemitism.
What if Glickman won the gold while Hitler watched?
I explained their journey will be an antidote to Glickman’s story.
In preparation for their trip, the students spent two days in seminars hearing testimonies, learning the definition of antisemitism, and in what ways they can engage their platforms to tell the stories that they will learn…
At the conclusion of the day, the students were asked, “What is your responsibility to share someone else’s story?”
At first, they began to tell each other their own stories. One runner told her teammates that she is the first person to go to college in her family. Another expressed the story of her deep faith and how she wishes to pass that faith on to her children. As their heads nodded in affirmation, it became apparent that their stories would not survive if they did not tell them to others. Only after speaking out could others carry their narratives forward.
By the end of the afternoon, these were not track and field stars; they were students of history becoming tomorrow’s educators and leaders.
On Wednesday evening, we will commemorate Tisha B’Av 2,000 years after the destruction of the Temple. As our ancestors wept by the rivers of Babylon, they must have cried out,“Who will tell our stories tomorrow?”
While we will chant our ancient words in a sad tone, hope continues to carry us from challenge to achievement. As we conclude the book of Lamentations, we recite the same words we do each week as we return the Torah to the ark.
Chadesh Yameinu k’kedem, Renew our lives as in days of old.
Who will tell our stories tomorrow? “We will!”