The need to scream – OJC’s March of the Living, Day Four
In just a couple of hours, our friends back home at the Orangetown Jewish Center will light a candle. For the 25 hours that follow, that candle will be watched by shomrim, or guardians, our keepers of the flame. The sanctuary will be open as a quiet space for reflection and meditation. Some people will find peace sitting in the quiet with their thoughts and memories. Some people will learn as they read personal accounts of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Whether you choose to sit for an hour as a keeper or just drop in for a few moments of reflection as a participant in our commemoration, I pray that you will keep those of your community who are here in Kraków in your thoughts as well.
This has been a long and hard day. For some of us it has been a day of frustration and anxiety. Being in Kraków today is like being in Disney World. The Old Towne Center looks like Epcot. Kraków was spared by the Nazis from destruction because they intended to use it as their center of control for their Polish occupation. So many synagogues remain well-preserved. Some date back to the early 17th century, and the Ramu’s sanctuary dates back to the 14th century. The old Jewish cemetery is manicured and better kept than some of our Long Island cemeteries. In fact, it all looks too good.
And that is the crux of our issue with this place. It is too neat, too clean. Many of us used the term “whitewashed” on several occasions today. Some of us began to challenge our guides, only to be met with resistance and defensiveness. We understand that this generation of Polish people struggles with accepting our sense of victimization when the Polish people suffered at the hands of the Nazis as well. But we can’t accept their reluctance to accept any responsibility for the deeds of the past as part of their history. The righteous among the Polish, those who aided Jews at the risk of their lives, are highlighted as they should be. But there is no mention, no acknowledgment, of the perpetrators among them.
So we are left wanting to scream to the world on this eve of Yom Hashoah. But what do we scream? For what purpose did we come out of this Mitzrayim, this Egyptian enslavement? Hopefully tomorrow, as we march through the divided sea with thousand all around us, we will have our answer.
Rabbi Craig Scheff