November 9, 1938. Synagogues were torched throughout Nazi Germany on Kristallnacht.
November 9, 2018. I went to synagogue for Shabbat services in peace.
Eighty years ago today, our people in Europe woke up to a tragic, terrifying reality after being targeted on a single night in which Nazi leaders unleashed SS paramilitary forces, pogroms and civilians to burn temples, vandalize Jewish homes, businesses and schools, and murder nearly one hundred Jews. Last night, I sat among my people in a beautiful temple here in Puerto Rico, a wonderfully diverse mix of faces, backgrounds, languages, hometowns and ages who unite on Friday evenings, like countless Jews in cities around the world throughout time. It was not without a hint of fear amid the current dark social, political and media landscape, but the bravery of Jews whose names we will never know has sustained us, kept the flame burning and ensured continuity from one generation to the next.
Our existence defies odds. Our free expression of Jewish identity can seem a wonder. Our ritual, traditions and practice of faith act as a living memorial. Our culture is alive.
We prayed, sang, listened, chanted, read, thought, honored the blessed memory of those lost in Pittsburgh, in Germany, in too many places. Kristallnacht marked a turning point wherein Nazi persecution of Jews intensified to physically attack, target, jail and kill Jews, a horrifying beginning of what was to come in the Holocaust. “It is our obligation to not be passive.” My wise Rabbi said. Because the barbarous crimes against humanity, the murderous attempt at erasure/extermination/annihilation, the unfathomable scale of the Holocaust began and was enabled by the passivity of nations, passivity of fellow humankind, even passivity of Jews. Not only can this happen again, it is — in our own communities, across this country and worldwide. We cannot be passive. We must not. We shall not.