I’m writing this on January 27, designated by the UN as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, the Jewish Federation of Sarasota Manatee chose to honor the women of the Holocaust.
I was asked to give the invocation at their memorial service, and I spoke about Rabbi Regina Jonas, the first modern woman rabbi. She was ordained in 1935 in Berlin and died in Auschwitz in 1942. It is told that in the concentration camp she ministered to her fellow Jews, leading services, praying over the sick and ailing, giving support to those around her. She did more than merely break a 2,000 year old glass ceiling by becoming a rabbi. She taught all of us, women and men alike, about breaking barriers, about courage, and about devotion to God and community.
I wonder how she would have reacted to the US Supreme Court’s action in overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which became the law of the land on January 22, 1973 and was abruptly overturned last year. She was a champion of individual freedom, and I imagine her dismay at learning that a government would limit a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, especially in light of Jewish law’s insistence that a woman’s rights supersede those of a fetus.
This week we read in the Torah about the penultimate plague brought upon Egypt, the plague of darkness. The Torah teaches that the darkness was so thick that it was palpable, and none of the Egyptians could move. They could not touch one other, could not find each other in the thick, thick darkness.
The thick darkness that descended on our world during the Holocaust is behind us, yet we insist on remembering it, because we know that we must ensure that it never happens again.
Today, there is a new darkness spreading across the face of America, one fueled by fundamentalism, by antisemitism, by fear of the unknown, and by fear of knowledge. Women’s rights to control their own reproductive freedom are being abrogated. Here in Florida, children are being “protected” from reading books that until recently were permitted, and teachers are removing books from their classrooms in fear of prosecution.
I pray that this new darkness will be dispelled by the light of truth, the light of justice, the light of freedom. But these lights do not exist in a vacuum. They are torches that much be lit and carried by people who are willing to stand up and speak out.
Today I asked God’s blessing on the women of the Holocaust, the children and adults who died and those who lived, and their children, and their children’s children. May our communities of today flourish, fighting antisemitism, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred in all its forms, as we honor the memories of those who went before us.
Elliana Goldberg said:
So powerful. Thank you for your voice, for saying truth to power. So glad you’re here in Sarasota. Florida needs you
SRQ Jew said: