As I was reading through the daily portion of Artscroll’s A Daily Dose of Torah (Series 3), I came across a horrifying story about WWII. Under “A Mussar Thought for the Day,” (Volume 4, Parshat Bo, Page 143) the author was telling of the first Rosh Hashanah, after the Holocaust, which took place in a Displaced Persons Camp.
The Sanzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, spoke to the people: “Before the blowing of the shofar, the gabbai usually announces that adults should watch over the children so they should not disturb or make any noise. Unfortunately, this year we do not have to make that announcement.” The Sanzer Rebbe concluded in a voice choked by tears, as the people cried out in unison for the loss of an entire generation.
Reading this, I recalled what the Holocaust survivor, that I work with, had told me about how she had met and married her husband. He was a distant cousin that survived the war; they were married quickly. When I questioned her about this, she acknowledged: “We had no families, we wanted them.” People were anxious to bring back that missing element that comprises the foundation of Jewish life–the family.
I pondered this story for a moment, and I wondered about how many Jewish children are lost today. A whole generation, wiped out, not there to be quieted down, as is wont of raucous children, during Rosh Hashanah services. Much like the WWII story, these children are not physically present during the services, but not because they can’t be. They have been denied this right through assimilation, the giving up of a heritage, so often misunderstood by those who have suffered the beginnings of assimilation (their parents and grandparents). These children are physically and spiritually absent.
It is time we bring them back.
If you are Jewish, somewhere in the past there was a great-great-grandmother on your mother’s side (a line I hear often enough) for example, then learn what it truly means to be Jewish. Just as I did, you will find that there is a whole beautiful world out there, awaiting your discovery. If you know someone who is Jewish and non-practicing, teach them what you know, pass on the stories, reach out to make the connection.
Let not this sad story be repeated.
עם ישראל חי