Hope, Humanity, and Passing the Torch
April 14, 2023
By Wendy Weisbrot

As a Second Generation Holocaust Survivor (2G), the Holocaust is woven deep into my identity, and a lens through which I view the world. Therefore, it is not a surprise that I find this connection in this week’s Parashah (Torah portion) Shemini, which means eighth.  It was the eighth day, the first of Nissan, that the Priests, led by Aaron, were ready to begin their service at The Tabernacle.   It was then that tragedy occurred when two of Aaron’s sons die because they brought a “strange fire” as a sacrifice to G-d. The complexity of this horror cannot be overstated, but my preference is to focus on Aaron and his brother’s Moses’ reaction to this tragedy. 

Moses attempts to comfort and console Aaron by acknowledging his loss, telling him that his sons died because they were holy, pleading with him to not give up, and to go forward as is expected by Aaron’s position as a High Priest.  Aaron’s response is simple, and yet extremely profound; it is silence.  He remains silent.

The interaction between these two brothers is significant and moving. Aaron had the courage and strength to not accept any easy consolation, and Moses had the courage and strength to keep going in spite of grief.  Aaron did not lose his humanity and took the time to grieve, showing his community that he is human and vulnerable. Moses was able to reaffirm hope in the face of despair and loss, and continue to lead.

It is this humanity and hope that we saw after the Holocaust, which continues to deeply inspire us.  There were, and are, no words to silence the grief and tears from the incomprehensible horrors and loss.  Yet, what I witnessed with my own father, Joe Diamond of blessed memory, and the many Survivors in our community that I am privileged to call my friends, is their vow that if they survived, they would share their stories with the world and celebrate the continuation of life and provide hope for the future. For my family, this has never been more clearly illustrated than at our sons’ Bar Mitzvahs and family weddings where we watched our beloved group of Holocaust Survivors dance the hora with a strikingly stunning vibrance; as if their lives depended on it – simply because their lives DID depend on it.  This magnificent act validated their survival and celebrated the continuation of the Jewish people. This is their greatest legacy.

Consequently, it is with this humanity and hope that we invite you to join with us on Sunday, April 16 at 12pm at Temple Beth Zion (805 Delaware) for this year’s community Yom HaShoah commemoration, “Passing the Torch to the Next Generation.”  The first in-person gathering since Covid, our commemoration will honor the following Holocaust Survivors and their families as candlelighters:  Ada Kerimzada, Paul Kester, Sol Messinger, Viola Sterman, Andre Toth, and Sophia Veffer.   2G, 3G, and 4G’s will honor their families through heartfelt words, readings, song, music and prayers, as they lovingly accept their responsibility in receiving the passing of the torch. You will also be introduced to some of our 3G’s, including Lauren Bloomberg, Director of Engagement for the HRC.  Lauren is in the process of launching a new 3G group.  Our hope is that several of these 3G’s will be trained to share their grandparents’ stories from their unique perspective as a living link to our precious Survivors. It is this generation that is the future of Holocaust education, providing hope, and will ensure that we never forget.  L’Dor V’Dor – from generation to generation.

Wendy Weisbrot is Chair of the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo.

Hope, Humanity, and Passing the Torch - Jewish Thought of the week 2022
Hope, Humanity, and Passing the Torch - Yom HaShoah 2023 half page April JJ