As we enter November 2018 and prepare to attend commemorations for events in Germany that took place 80 years ago this month, a particular poignancy is layered on the horrific massacre of Jews going about the routine of everyday lives and attending synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Perhaps especially given the events of November 1938, which began the Kitchener chain of events, this is something that has touched many Kitchener families – religious and non-religious.
It seems appropriate then, to highlight a campaign that families might like to get involved with. Kitchener families are a fairly unique group in many ways, not least in following various forms of Judaism, other religions, and none. And in large part that spread of outcomes comes from our roots as the children and grandchildren of a community that was deliberately separated out, ostracised, de-humanised, and gradually rounded up into a few cramped spaces of towns and cities for deportation and slaughter.
I can’t be alone in having wondered many times over the years how people could stand aside and watch this happen to neighbours, colleagues, and friends. And, of course, not all did stand aside, and some paid for their solidarity with their livelihoods and their lives.
I have also wondered from time to time what I would have done. What would have made a difference – and how – in the face of such onslaught? Some acts are both cultural and political: both defiant and a show of solidarity. Some acts have meaning in the simple demonstration of fellow feeling and a sense of a shared humanity – whatever branch of Judaism or other faith – or none – that we follow.
The Show Up For Shabbat campaign speaks to a wish to stand up and be present rather than allowing our impulse towards comfort and convenience be all that we end up responding with. Will we stand by and watch it happen? Will we let someone else comfort and stand next to those who may now live in increased fear, or in deep mourning.
Once again, in Pittsburgh, elderly Jews especially were killed, as was so often the case in my own father’s country of origin in Germany. Many German Jewish families got out at least one youngster, and many got out father, mother, and children. The upshot was that it was elderly people who were often left behind – such as my grandmother, sent to Auschwitz aged 60; or my great-grandmother, aged 88, who was blind and bedridden following a series of strokes – who was presumably dragged from her bed to be put on a train ‘to the East’. Or shot. Or thrown out of a window to save the bullet, had she been unable to walk to the train on the day of deportation.
All Kitchener families have histories like this – histories of the horror and of the missing, where our extended families should be.
The majority of the 650 Jews who were left in my grandparents’ city of residence once war had broken out were elderly people. They never had their chance to live out their old age and to die in peace, surrounded by their families – to be buried with love and with respect.
The current campaign doesn’t feel like I’d be ‘doing’ very much in some respects, but in another way, the call to Show Up For Shabbat is an act of respect for all our families – our grandmothers and our grandfathers, our great-grandparents, and our children who did not survive the Shoah – at the same time as it is a way to stand with the families who so recently lost parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in the Squirrel Hill community of Pittsburgh.
And we can make this connection, and with the deepest respect, because the loss of life last Friday is part of a dreadful pattern that echoes down the centuries in Jewish homes and hearts, and in Jewish places of worship.
To paraphrase a recent leader’s words – which already feel like they were spoken a lifetime ago – sometime, somewhere, we each have to make the decision: to stand with – or to stand by. And 80 years on from November 1938, things have reached a point where I know what my decision must be.
This Friday evening – regardless of our religion, or the branch of our religion, or our lapsed religion, or our inconvenient religion for a Friday night, or our lack of religion – we can commemorate, we can stand together, and we can choose to stand with.
Wherever you may chose to do so, Show Up For Shabbat.
I thought you might like to see a small number of the calls in support of this global campaign
CNN: A new campaign is encouraging Americans of all faiths to visit synagogues for Shabbat services Friday and Saturday as a show of strength and love against hate https://cnn.it/2Q4VbV6
Reform Judaism is supporting
#ShowUpForShabbat and we are encouraging people to attend synagogue this coming Shabbat, standing up to hatred and honouring the memory of those murdered in Pittsburgh.
This weekend, if you're not Jewish, consider joining the
#ShowUpForShabbat event as a gesture of solidarity with your Jewish neighbors. If you have kids, this is a great opportunity to talk about living in a multicultural society and teach about being a good guest.
Miami Herald: The AJCGlobal is urging the Miami and Broward Jewish communities, as well as people of all faiths, to help fill synagogues in a demonstration of solidarity and unity.
New York Times: With the hashtag
#ShowUpForShabbat, Jewish leaders are encouraging Jews and non-Jews alike to attend services on Friday night or Saturday in a show of solidarity
Harlow Jewish Community will be supporting the
#ShowUpForShabbat initiative in response to the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The synagogue will be open from 10.30am on Saturday. Everyone is welcome.
The JTA: https://www.jta.org/2018/10/31/top-headlines/campaign-urges-synagogue-attendance-on-shabbat-in-response-to-pittsburgh-shooting?utm_content=buffera1e2f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=jtafacebook&utm_campaign=social
My family and I will
Orthodox Union: Wherever you are this weekend, whichever shul you attend, get ready to
Our answer to anti-Semitic murders in Pittsburgh synagogue? We ask people of good will worldwide, Jews & Gentiles, to go to a synagogue service on Fri. evening, Nov. 2 &/or Sat. morning, Nov. 3. Fear? No. Intimidation? No. Division? No. Let’s be strong & united.