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7th Day of Passover 5781 ~ April 2, 2021

There are several ways of looking at this weekend. The first is that we are about to celebrate two more sacred and holy days that end with the festival of Pesah, one which will coincide with Shabbat. Another is to be a part of the downward count… only two more days left of eating matzah. Or as some may count… only two full more days until we can once again sink our teeth into a wonderful piece of “soft” bread.

Most of us will recognize that, as we count this weekend, we share our celebration of holiness with our Christian neighbors through Easter Sunday. For our Christian neighbors, this weekend represents a concept of hope on par with our promise of redemption through the arrival of Elijah the Prophet at our Seder tables.  We welcome the moment of the heralding of the Messiah and a messianic age. For those of the Christian faith, this weekend represents the celebration of the resurrection of hope through that of Jesus. 

Our haftorah reading for the eighth day of the holiday provides the prophetic message of Jeremiah that heralds a day which both faith traditions yearn for – the call for the messianic day when “the wolf will lie down with the lamb…when nothing evil or vile shall be done.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Easter weekend would have been a time of great fear to the Jewish community. People would be somewhat fearful of anti-Semitic assaults against person and/or property, as part of a wrongfully based retribution, based on misinformed teaching. And, while today we might feel somewhat more comfortable in our surroundings, the ADL reports of a rise in hate crimes and activities here in America.

The Jewish Telegraphic  Agency, in this morning’s news, tells of an incident in the UK that reminds us of individuals and organizations that will continue to perpetuate falsehoods and lies.

 “A Holocaust denier from London with previous convictions for inciting hatred against Jews is headed to jail.

Alison Chabloz, 57, was handed a nine-week prison sentence in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday for saying on the social network Gab that “anything that’s worth controlling will have Jews there controlling it,” and that Jews turn their children into “psychopathic maniacs,” the Jewish News of London reported.

Prison sentences for hate speech are unusual in the United Kingdom, where the judiciary generally errs in favors of freedom of expression.

In 2018, Chabloz was given a suspended sentence for writing, performing and disseminating three songs about Nazi persecution. One was about the young diarist Anne Frank.

She also sang that the Holocaust was “just a bunch of lies.” When prosecutors played the song for the court in January 2018, Chabloz sang along with the recording.

The Westminster court decided to activate the suspended sentence and impose another nine weeks suspended sentence in case Chabloz engages again in racist incitement.”

 It was therefore most fortuitous, that today, Bret Stephens, in his NY Times Op Ed, shared the recollections of Buba Weisz Sajovits, a Holocaust survivor.  He writes: “her given name is Miriam but she has always gone by her nickname — lived life forward. She married a fellow émigré and concentration camp survivor, Luis Stillmann, whose story I wrote about last year. They had two daughters, then four grandchildren, then five great-grandchildren. She started a beauty salon, which thrived. They became pillars of the Jewish community in Mexico City. They prospered as they grew old.”

Stephens continues: “Only one reminder of the past could not be erased, because it was etched permanently in ink on the inside of her left forearm: A-11147. What went with that alphanumeric was, as she would title her memoir, “Tattooed in My Memory.” Decades later, when she was well into her 60s, she decided to take up painting, and soon the past became more vivid.

He asks: “How can we really comprehend an event like the Holocaust, or a place like Auschwitz? I have a shelf of books dedicated to the question, from Hannah Arendt’s “The Jew as Pariah” to Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” I’ve also made the trip to Auschwitz, walked along the infamous rail tracks, toured the crematory, peered at the vast piles of shoes, the sickening mounds of human hair.” And poignantly continues: “But there’s invariably a gap between what we know and what we understand — a gap that becomes much wider when there’s no chance of bridging the two through personal experience. We know that 1.3 million people, an overwhelming majority of them Jewish, were enslaved by the Nazis at Auschwitz, and 1.1 million of them were murdered, mostly in gas chambers. We have thousands of testimonials from the camp’s survivors and liberators, masses of documentary and photographic evidence, the autobiography and signed affidavit of its commandant.”

As the final days of Passover conclude, we must remain mindful of the meaning of the broken piece of matzah that we ourselves broke off at the beginning of our Sedarim, ­and the brokenness that is experienced in our world today. And while we do not mix metaphors related to the Holocaust, as Jews it is incumbent upon us to Zachor, not only to remember, but also to continue to remind the world  of its responsibility to never allow or perpetuate hatred, bigotry, racism, bullying and a toleration of inappropriate behavior or advances.  It is that message that we will be mindful of this Wednesday evening as we join together with JFEC to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In the words of the prophet: “We pray for a day, when that “wolf and lamb will lie down together.”

In the meantime, as I look out my home study window, and I see in pure daylight a redtail fox walking with a bird in its jaw,  I am totally saddened (though aware of nature). It is a reminder of the reality that our world is not there yet.

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782