Wednesday, May 4, 2016


May 5, 2016 has been designated as Holocaust Remembrance Day is the U.S.   I had previously written about Lily Isaacs, the matriarch of the singing group, The Isaacs.  She had written her autobiography in which she tells about her parents’, both Holocaust survivors, descriptions of their experiences in the Concentration Camps.   Lily was born in Germany and grew up in the Bronx.  Although I have known her for several years, the subject was never brought up.

Ida Piller-Greenspan, a long-time resident of Briarwood, wrote a book entitled “When The World Closed Its Doors”.   Ida and Maurice were living in Belgium, when the invasion occurred on their wedding night.   The tales were of their fleeing and the attempts to get a Visa into any country that would allow them.  Anti semitism was amok and countries turned them down.  Able to avoid being caught and sent to a concentration camp, they finally made it to the U.S.   Along with the book her artistic talents left her legacy and two daughters, Rosie (who was a “college buddy”) and Liane to pass the haunting stories down to the generations. 

An Intergenerational Holocaust Freedom Seder, known as the Munich Enclave, was recently held at the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives located on the campus of Queensborough Community College.  Rabbi Abraham J. Klausner, a U.S. Army chaplain and Josef Dov Sheinson, a concentration camp survivor, created a Seder to celebrate the first Passover since the end of WWII. 

They undertook designing a ceremonial Hagaddah different from any other one being used naming it The Survivor’s Hagaddah.  They were given out where Rabbi Charles Agin presided over the ceremony at the Center.  “How often our people has had to defy prejudice and slander, hatred and oppression”, begins the introduction. “We have survived all those who vowed to destroy us. We lament those who perished at their hands.  We give thanks for our many deliverances and for the steadfast faith of those who endured, whose love of life did not falter. They have left us an example of courage never to be forgotten”.

The traditional Four Questions of why we eat matzoh, eat bitter herbs, drink four glasses of wine and recline in our chairs at the dinner table are replaced by, “why did I survive, why were my loved ones destroyed and why do I continue to suffer.”  In the telling of the story the statement “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt” gave a new meaning in 1946.  “We were slaves to Hitler in Germany”. 
“He took us out of there (Egypt), so that He might bring us home, and give us the land as He had promised our fathers”, the undying message.  Having first taken place in Munich, it came time for The Four Questions to be recited.  Traditionally, they are recited by children.  “1,500,000 were murdered in the Holocaust”, quotes this Hagaddah.  “Those in attendance fell silent, weeping until one man began asking the questions and all the rest joined in.”

There is a traditional song, Dayenu, meaning, “It would have sufficed”.  Here, the changes were made in the Munich Seder.  “Had He scattered us among the nations but had not given us the First Crusade, Dayenu. Had he given us the First Crusade, but not the blood libel, Dayenu. Had He given us the Badge of Shame, but not the persecutions of the Black Plague, Dayenu. Had He given us the persecutions of the Black Plague, but not the Inquisition, Dayenu. Had He given us the Inquisition, but not of the pogroms of 1648, Dayenu. Had He given us the slaughter in the Ukraine of 1919, but not Hitler, Dayenu. Had He given us Hitler, but no ghettos, Dayenu. Had He given us ghettos, but no gas chambers and crematoria, Dayenu. Had He given us gas chambers and crematoria, but our wives and children had not been murdered, Dayenu.  All the more so, since all of these have befallen us, we must make Aliyah, even if illegally, wipe out the Galut, build the chosen land, and make a home for ourselves and our children for eternity.”

“And there was silence”, the Hagaddah continues.  “How many stood aside, mute and unconcerned, forgetting the divine command: ‘You shall not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds’.  For the sin of silence. For the sin of indifference. For the secret complicity of the neutral. For the closing of borders. For the washing of hands. For the crime of indifference.”

Never Again, by Martin Gilbert, tells the history of the Holocaust published in 2000.  The chant, “Never again. Never again” had already been coined to express during protests and to remind us that we must not allow fear and false promises to obstruct our judgements in who reigns. 

“Next year, in Jerusalem” are the words stated at the end of a seder.  On May 14, 1948 Israel official became a Jewish State, separating it from Palestine.  The pact, signed by David-Ben Gurion, took place at the UN General Assembly, located at what now houses the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 

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