The following is the reflection and prayer I shared at the Chapman Holocaust Memorial Program:
I stood before a group of parents and students in a Junior High School in the mountains outside of Denver, Colorado. There I stood presenting my part of our group History project about the Holocaust. I used a film strip to illustrate the stories of terror, pain, and courage. I shared personal accounts from two survivors I interviewed along with personal artifacts Leo and Samuel gave me to share with the class. By the end of my presentation, the room was silent. No one moved, no one said anything.
At the end of the evening I was astounded by what the parents said to me: “we never knew!”
You never knew? You, the parents, the adults, never knew! How could that be. The students, I could understand, but you?
It was that indelible moment that I realized I needed to be an integral part of the network to ensure that no one could say, “we never knew.”
Tonight, we gather here as witnesses to a part of our history that can never be forgotten. We are surrounded by those who personally experienced the atrocities that leave this indelible mark on our souls. Each of you, like the two first survivors whom I met, Leo and Samuel, bear eloquent witness for each of us that these moments should never be forgotten.
We read in the Gates of Prayer:
The universe whispers that all things are intertwined. Yet at times we hear the loud cry of discord. To which voice shall we listen? Although we long for harmony, we cannot close our ears to the noise of war, the rasp of hate. How dare we speak of concord, when the fact and symbol of our age is Auschwitz?
The intelligent heart does not deny reality. We must not forget the grief of yesterday, nor ignore the pain of today. But yesterday is past. It cannot tell us what tomorrow will bring. If there is goodness at the heart of life, then its power, like the power of evil, is real. Which shall prevail? Moment by moment, we choose rightly, and often enough, the broken fragments of our world will be restored to wholeness.
For this we need strength and help.
It is imperative on each of us to listen to the stories, remember the history and then become the transmitters to future generations. From the ashes, from the flames we hear the voices of our past. They call out to us to remember. They remind us that we must be the ones to tell their story. We must be the ones to never forget so that they should never be forgotten.
Elie Wiesel, wrote in 1979,
The survivors advocated hope, not despair. Their testimony contains neither rancor nor bitterness. They knew too well that hate is self-debasing and vengeance self-defeating. Instead of nihilism and anarchy, they chose to opt for man. Instead of setting cities on fire, they enriched them. Many went to rebuild an ancient dream of Israel in Israel; they all chose to remain human in an inhuman society to fight for human rights everywhere, against poverty everywhere and discrimination, for humankind always.
For we have learned certain lessons. We have learned not to be neutral in times of crisis, for neutrality always helps the aggressor, never the victim. We have learned that silence is never the answer. We have learned that the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. What is memory if not a response to and against indifference?
So let us remember, let us remember for their sake, and ours: memory may perhaps be our only answer, our only hope to save the world….
Together, we will remember and together, we will never let this happen again to any people. Together, we will be strengthened because we carry in our hearts and souls the memory of all those we hold on to tonight.
May I ask that the candle lighters and the students accompanying them now join me on stage?
Sonia Berson accompanied by Andrew Paull
Harry Eisen accompanied by Erin Beyrooty
Mary Hoovestol accompanied by Case Takata
Goldie Sack accompanied by Roger Mendoza
Leon Weinstein accompanied by Porter Hahn
Mike Zelon accompanied by Angel Chang
We take a moment for silent meditation
Join together in singing Eli Eli
May these lights illuminate the stories of those not hear to speak them, yet may we carry their blessings and share them with the world. Tonight, may we never forget. Tonight let us remember and therefore, allow us to live as they live through us. May these lights inspire us and enlighten us. And let us say…Amen