Monday, May 2, 2011

YOM HASHOAH: Of witnesses and memory

Today is the 28th day of Nisan, 5771, 13 days of Omer (1 week, 6 days)

My parents were not born in Europe. Neither were my grandparents. In our family, from my mother side (Syria) and from my father side (Morocco) no one was sent to a concentration camp. I was born in the peaceful Argentina.

Every year in Yom haShoah, in the Jewish school I attended in Buenos Aires (Bet-Sefer Talpiot) we watched with my classmates the horrific documentaries which showed the trains of death, the corpses, the crematoriums, the gas chambers... and I cried, we all cried, for our brothers and sisters, elders and infants, brutally murdered by the Nazis, yemach shemam.....

In 1977, when I was in High School, we had a different kind a Yom haShoah. Our principal invited a Holocaust survivor to speak to us, which at that time was not the standard way of commemorating Yom haShoa.

After telling us his personal shocking story, and how he survived Auschwitz, he told us:
"I know that you have not seen the Shoah for yourselves. I know that for you the Shoah is History. Well documented history. Modern Jewish history.But just history at the end of the day. But now, that you have heard my story, and you have seen me, now you bear on your young shoulders a tremendous new responsibility. Now you have become witnesses of the Shoah. How so? Because MY EYES saw the horrors of the Shoah, not in the aseptic black and white documentaries, where you don't see the red of blood. MY EYES saw it all, in the most intense and hideous colors. I want you now to look at MY EYES, so one day you will be able to tell your children: I haven't seen the Shoah myself, but I have seen THE EYES that saw the Shoah. I'm
a witness, my son".

This is when the Shoah ceased to be part of my History as a Jew. This is when the Shoah became part of my Memory. My personal memory as a witness.

Yom haShoah in Jerusalem:

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024