They were partisans, ghetto fighters, child prisoners and some secretly hidden, and they were all present at the Symbolic Seder I attended last week at the JCC's Café Europa program coordinated by Jewish Family Services. Facilitated by the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, we celebrated "Life, Legacy and Freedom", a humbling experience to be in the presence of those who survived the Holocaust and are still here as a testament to courage, resilience and a desire to survive.
At this time of year we revisit our past in hopes of finding new insights into our shared vision of the future. We read from the Haggadah about the suffering of our people and what we had to overcome when we lived under such brutal conditions in Egypt. For me, there was no more powerful way of appreciating the real human experience of going from slavery to freedom than by sharing a meal with matzah and bitter herbs, and listening to real stories of survival. They are the true witnesses of the horrors of modern victimization that occurred in our own time.
I marveled at their transformation from being "slaves" to unimaginable cruelty, to being released from those bonds, and now living as free members of our community. But freedom comes with a price, and that price is memory. While we must make an effort to "Never Forget", these brave individuals can never escape those harsh memories of their struggle for survival and more tragically the memory of all those who did not survive.
This week we will go to synagogue to recite Yiskor, the Prayer of Remembrance for family and friends who are no longer with us. It is a time for all of us to remember those whose memories we hold dear and those who have perished in the Holocaust. It is our obligation to keep their memory alive, but it is also our obligation to ensure that those brave souls who are still with us continue to receive the honor, respect and support they so rightfully deserve. With age, the needs of our survivors increase and become more complex.
The Greater Hartford Jewish community is committed to do what is necessary to address the growing needs of these individuals. Through the efforts of the Federation, Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Family Services and the Mandell JCC, we are supporting the needs of over 100 survivors and family members who live in our community. While many receive compensation from the Claims Conference which distributes funds from Germany specifically for eligible survivors, there are still many whose needs exceed that level of support.
The Symbolic Seder had another powerful message that was delivered by many younger people who are the children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of survivors. From this group grew "Voices of Hope," an organization dedicated to honor all the victims and survivors of the Holocaust by fostering programs to educate and sensitize the public to the lessons we have learned from those terrible events with the belief that we can create a more compassionate, tolerant and respectful world for future generations. They are the true expression of "Voices of Hope" because for us today, it is about hope and the future.
Memorializing the past without connecting it to the future will ultimately cause those memories to fade.
Wishing everyone a meaningful end to Passover and Shabbat Shalom.
President & CEO