During Passover, we repeated over and over “We were slaves in Egypt.” We are commanded to see ourselves also as if “we, ourselves, were freed from Egypt.” Seeing our Jewish family crossing the sea to freedom, singing Mi Chamocha, and reliving both bondage and freedom are core to who we are.
As I work with Bar and Bat Mitzvah students working on their Divrey Torah, I have noticed that our “we” has turned into “them.” So, when summarizing their Torah portions they will say: “The Jewish people” went free from Egypt, or Moses led “them" out of Egypt, or “they” received the Ten Commandments. I am now changing these pronouns. Our stories, while they happened in Biblical times, happened to “us.”
The question becomes: “Why is it so important for us to see ourselves in each generation?” Of course, our depth of connection to the past is greater when we not only recall the ancestors we knew, but also those we didn’t know, but those that share our history, or “our” story.
When we commemorate Yom Hashoah, which we will do this evening, we are remembering “us” not “them.” The loss of our people in the Shoah is deep in our hearts and impacts all of us. To help us understand how we can learn this message, we observe Yom Hashoah within the synagogue as well as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs. Many Yom Hashoah programs feature a talk by a Holocaust survivor, and recitation of songs and readings.
Tonight, at Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-el, we will hear the voices and testimony of both the child of a Holocaust survivor, Marcel Groen, and a Holocaust survivor, Ronnie Reutlinger Breslow. Services begin at 7:00 p.m. and end at 8:00 p.m. Music will be performed by the Cantors of Old York Road (including me!).
So join me in changing our pronouns from “them” to “us,” knowing that as we do our experience with our community will be deeper, and our connection with our past will be stronger.
Cantor Amy E. Levy