Holocaust Memorial – Beth Israel Congregation – Florence, SC
Some of the symbolism of the memorial as explained on the Beth Israel Congregation Website:
Yellow Star of David – This universal symbol of Judaism was perverted by the Nazis. Jews were instructed to wear a yellow star on the outside of their clothing so that they could be instantly recognized, and shamed. Many Jews, however, and others of different communities, wore the star as a badge of pride, asserting that despite it all, they proudly clung to Israel’s covenant with God.
Outline of the Ten Commandments Tablet – Beth Israel uses this symbol on the doors of the Holy Ark in the Sanctuary, and the opening words of the Ten Commandments are on the back wall of the Sanctuary. It is used here to tie the Memorial to the life of our congregation.
Memorial Wording – The Hebrew word below the outline of the ten commandments reads HA-SHO-AH, the Holocaust. It is the word chosen by world Jewery to express the horror of the death of six-million of our brothers and sisters in Nazi Europe. The following words were edited from “Gates of Repentance” the prayer book used for our High Holiday worship.
Posts and Chain – These were added to the Memorial to represent the guard towers and the fences surrounding the extermination camps.
Gray Gravel – Spread at the base of the Memorial, the gravel, and the particular color chosen, are a sad reminder of the ashes of those Holocaust victims who were killed and cremated, their ashes left to blow to the corners of the earth.
The Memorial Stone – Thrusting upward, the stone stands proudly to indicate that Jews and Judaism have survived; will continue to do so; still reach for God, for human perfection and for God’s Kingdom here on earth. In our quest for God, we affirm that the victims of the Holocaust shall never be forgotten. In our quest for God, we affirm that it is our personal responsibility to cry out for all who suffer at human hands.(emphasis mine)
Winter Solstice: a day with the least amount of sunshine potential; the shortest day and longest night; a time of reversals.
To me, the Winter Solstice feels more like the ending of the past year with the dawning of the true ‘new year.’ An organic New Year’s Eve, so to speak. What better time to reflect on the past year, letting go and easing into the ‘new year’ as each day from this point in time gains length.
With these reflections comes the announcement that this will be my final posting for 2018 with an undetermined first post date for the upcoming year. That’s just my convoluted way of saying I’m taking a blogging break!
That said, let us continue.
In reviewing my Morning Pages* over this past year I realized it has been a full and satisfying 12 months. No family or close friends died or declared any horrific medical diagnosis, the selling of my folks’ house went smoothly and the settling of their estate is almost completed, we visited and celebrated with family members and friends throughout the year and throughout the country, and the scary emergencies we did encounter were accompanied by His ‘peace that passes all understanding’ as we walked through those life-paths.
It seems we landed in a junction of respite from several years of elder care, personal pain, disappointments, grief and such.
Fielding the good with the bad, several themes** emerged as well – often revealing forward movement on goals, desires, hopes and dreams; working through the ups & downs of life; grappling with deeper issues in living a purposeful life.
Why then this lingering sense of sadness?
Is it the darkness? The longer nights and shorter days? Grey black skies, claustrophobic fog?
I relish this Winter Solstice evening – prolonged darkness, giving permission to hunker down, and delve into soul searching, validating this yearning to be still and listen to what the Lord through His creation and past events is speaking to me.
Then what is contributing to this heaviness, this disheartening sense of impotence in making a difference in life’s inequities?
Ah yes, of course. Events over this past year, worldwide and oh-too-to-close-to-home local happenings.
Never ending hordes of everyday people fleeing their beloved homeland for a safe place to stay alive…Syrians, Central Americans, Africans…
Governments killing their own citizens in the name of advancing their own personal agenda.
Free world border ‘wars’ using displaced, desperate persons, families & children as fodder for unwinnable negotiations.
Increased homelessness in the midst of hardworking middle class professionals – and all the ramifications of undeserved shame while struggling to continue to survive in an ever increasing hostile American society.
Constant bombardment of Trumpian Temper Tantrums affecting everyday Americans (sorry, I don’t normally specify political opinions…please give me latitude during this Winter’s Solstice)
And yet, this is all not new…the poor have always been with us, the rich and powerful have always manipulated laws to benefit themselves, increasing their wealth and opportunities, to the detriment of everyday people, and, what of the ever presence of war – always with us.
1968 was a bad year – Vietnam War, numerous assassinations, student protests…Decades earlier, WWII, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, the Holocaust…
The world’s suffering is so personal.
And yet, I am reminded:
“God wastes nothing – not even our darkness”
*from which I am taking an indeterminate break also, after 28+ years of faithful jottings!
**my music, hubby’s new business, finding home, strengthening relationships…
Amnon Weinstein with a restored Star of David violin*
For Jews enduring utter despair and unimaginable evil during the Holocaust, music offered haven and humanity. The strains of a beloved song supplied solace, even if only for a few moments. The chords also provided a vital reminder that even the most brutal regime could not rob them of their faith. No matter what, their souls could be free.
In some cases, the ability to play the violin spared Jewish musicians from more grueling labors or even death. Nearly 50 years ago, Amnon Weinstein heard such a story from a customer who brought in an instrument for restoration. The customer survived the Holocaust because his job was to play the violin while Nazi soldiers marched others to their deaths. When Weinstein opened the violin’s case, he saw ashes. He thought of his own relatives who had perished, and was overwhelmed. He could not bring himself to begin the project.
By 1996, Weinstein was ready. He put out a call for violins from the Holocaust that he would restore in hopes that the instruments would sound again. (from: Violins of Hope)