(originally sent to members on Friday 14th August)
This Shabbat is all about linked 75th anniversaries. Why bother to mark them?
I know, as do many of you, how distressing dementia is. The effects are devastating for the individual suffering from this disease, but can be as bad, if not worse, for those who know and love them. As an individual loses memory, they gradually cease to be what they were before the illness. Remembering my mother as she was before the dementia was something I regained after she had died. Only then could I reflect on her whole life.
If communities or nations suffer from dementia or, worse, wilfully forget or expunge difficult or shaming past episodes, then they disrespect the past and leave open the prospect of repeating those episodes in the future.
Our Torah teaches us to remember; it doesn’t tell us to write history! Memory is subjective, it includes facts and feelings, it can include all the senses. History pretends to be objective, but is always written from an agenda. When we remember the past and re-tell it as best we can, we show respect for the generations before us and look to learn from what they went through and how they lived at their best.
None of us should want anyone, anywhere, to experience what the child survivors of the Shoah experienced up to the end of the war in Europe. Remembering the massive voluntary effort led by the Central British Fund will I hope inspire us to compassionate acts in our day and age. Remembering what these children went on to be and become is about seeing the whole of their lives, not just the tragic experiences. So, please join us at this evening’s very special service, beginning at 6:45pm.
None of us should want anyone to experience what the soldiers and civilians in the Far East experienced during the Second World War in that field of combat. The fact that soldiers there felt like the ‘forgotten army’ ought to be a source of regret. So, we will join tomorrow morning with the national two minutes of memorial silence at 11:00 and pay our own tribute as part of our Shabbat morning service.
Please do join us at both these commemorations of inspirational people and their triumphs over adversity. If we respect the past, then we can build upon it and use the mitzvah of remembering to inspire us to build a better future.
Rabbi Richard Jacobi