Sunday, December 20, 2015

It Is For Us The Living - Thoughts for the Tenth of Tevet, the Day of Communal Kaddish for the Martyrs of the Shoah

Rabbi Dr. Norbert Weinberg
It Is For Us The Living - Thoughts for the Tenth of Tevet, the Day of Communal Kaddish for the Martyrs of the Shoah

From the  Prologue to
Echoes of The Holocaust: Survivors and Their Children and Grandchildren Speak Out
By Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg  pages 25-26

Link to book

[ Note: The Tenth of Tevet, a traditional fast relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, was adopted by the Israeli Rabbinate, as a day for the recitation of Kaddish in memory of the martyrs who actual date of death was unknown]

Several years ago, when my mother, Irene Weinberg, of blessed memory, passed away, I realized that so many of her generation, the last witnesses of the great horror that befell the Jewish people, were soon fading from the world scene. I set about researching and writing about her experiences as well as those of my father, Rabbi Dr. William Weinberg, who had passed away some years before.  *
There is a great burden that falls upon us, already an aging 2nd generation and an adult 3rd and even 4th generation, to act as witnesses. This is so vital, as we see blood libels once again used against Jews today by supposedly enlightened intellectuals in Europe and even in the United States under the guise of anti-Zionism. As the past recedes, people who should know better make unconscionable statements. Thus a student leader in South Africa, a child of victims of racial apartheid, could praise Adolf Hitler for his “charisma” and hope for such a leader for his own country.
We also have a double challenge. One the one hand, we continue as witnesses to the hell that our people went through but we also have a second challenge, to keep alive the flame of Jewish teachings, the sacred teaching that said that all humans are created in the “ Tselem Elokim”, in the Image of the Divine. It was this very teaching which Hitler and Nazism sought to erase along with the people who had preached it to the world.
I can only think it fitting to paraphrase the words of President Lincoln, at the Gettysburg Address:
It is for us the living, children and grandchildren of our martyrs, to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they were persecuted, the teachings of the great a noble heritage of Judaism and the Jewish people-- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have lived in vain, that the lives of these, our people, shall not have been without enduring meaning.
I thank Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg for putting together this collection of recollections, essays, and poetry from the children and grandchildren of our survivors. I greatly appreciate Rabbi Rosenberg’s keeping the focus on the Shoah, or Holocaust, as an event unique to the Jewish people. While it is true that many millions died in this horror, only the Jews were selected and targeted for annihilation in total and only the demonization of the Jews could serve as a force to galvanize otherwise civilized men and women into unspeakable acts of cruelty and horror.  When we universalize the account, in hopes of building alliances, we dilute the significance of what happened.
I want reiterate my thought, a thought for the generations: For all that we Jews have gone through in history, as horrible as it may have been, we are blessed to be the heirs of a tradition going back to Abraham and Moses and on down to our days, a tradition that speaks of a courage to face all obstacles, a tradition of hope and faith in a universe created for good and guided by Divine Providence to an ultimate redemption of all humanity.
Rabbi Dr. William Weinberg, my father and my teacher, served as the first State Rabbi of Hesse, Germany (region around Frankfurt) after World War II. I have published the account of our family origins, his youth and education, his persecution by the Nazis and escape to the Soviet Union and back, in my book Courage of the Spirit. Irene Weinberg, my mother and my teacher, was a native of Lwow, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine) who outwitted her Nazi hunters by hiding in the open as a Pole in both Lwow and Warsaw. I hope to have her account published in the near future.

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