My son called from Krakow, Poland where he is participating in the March for the Living. One week witnessing the concentration camps in Poland, followed by one week in Israel celebrating the creative survival of the Jewish people. He recounted visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau, two of the worst concentration camps from the Nazi era.
I miss my son already, even though my wife and I made the decision that he must leave for these two weeks so that he can become a witness to the devastation of the Holocaust and vitality of Israel. And I’m proud of him. Because although my son traveled there with his closest friends, his days are spent walking beside an elderly survivor, holding her hand and listening to her stories. May he become the voice of the survivors as he hosts the memory of Auschwitz and the Nazi Holocaust.
Half a world away, I sit in Congregation Or Ami’s sanctuary, listening as Holocaust survivor Clara Knopfier tells her story. Recounting her dark journey from her home to Auschwitz, sharing her terrible experiences before and after. About brutality and heroism. About horrors and hunger. About hiding and working to the edge of death.
Our sanctuary is filled with adults, teens, community member, non-Jews and Jews alike. I have never seen the room sit in such attentive silence.
Like the elderly survivor who is transforming my son, Clara is extolling us: to be upstanders Not to stand idly by.
From Auschwitz to Calabasas, California, a similar process was happening We were becoming witnesses, carrying forth the story of the Shoah, the Holocaust, the murdered and the survivors. We were becoming vessels for the memory. May the memory be for a blessing.