Monday, April 28, 2014

Memory and Action: Reflections on the Jewish World Watch Walk to End Genocide and Yom HaShoah

Selfie with Rabbi Barry Lutz
Yesterday my congregation, Temple Ahavat Shalom, participated in the Jewish World Watch Walk to End Genocide. The TAS team was the largest it has ever been, with more than 70 participants raising more than $2,000 for Jewish World Watch. 

TASTY at the Walk
This year there were more than 3,000 participants, all gathered in Los Angeles’s Pan Pacific Park to start the walk. It was such a joy to see so many Jews gathered in one place, working together to make the world a better place and to alleviate the suffering of others. “Never forget” means not taking our power for granted and remembering that together we can make a difference and save lives. 

But it was not just Jews participating. There were many other groups walking with us, including “Burmese Muslims Against Genocide.” That others would participate in an event with Jewish in the title (though this was not a Jewish event, but a human one) gives me hope — hope that we can come together and remember that the things which connect us are more important than the things which separate us. We cannot just take care of our own group; as part of the human family — each of us in God’s image — we have a responsibility to take care of all people. 

Walking with TAS
To help make that connection every one who walked received a water bottle with a person’s name on it — the name of someone living in the Congo or Sudan who has survived the atrocities there and is rebuilding their life and helping others. We have to remember that the people of the Congo and Sudan are people just like us. If we forget that we are all human, or don’t act as though we know it, that is when tyrants can get away with treating others as less than human — that is when horrors like the genocide in Darfur and Sudan can happen. It was when others thought of Jews as less than human that the Holocaust was possible.

Yom HaShoah Memorial Service led by Dalet
After the walk we returned to Temple Ahavat Shalom for our Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) memorial service led by our seventh grade students. Rabbi Barry Lutz told our students that reading Torah is an act of defiance. Our little Torah comes from Kolin, Czechoslovakia, a city whose Jewish population was destroyed in the Holocaust. There are no more Jews there to read from this Torah, but every bar and bat mitzvah at Temple Ahavat Shalom carries that Torah and reads from that Torah. Rabbi Lutz reminded them what it means to carry Torah in their hearts and how it should inspire them to act in the world. Our seventh grade students spend the year learning about the Holocaust and what happens when hatred goes unchecked; it was inspiring to see them at the Walk in the morning and leading  the service in the afternoon — joining with other Jews to remember our past, to help make a difference in the world, and to save lives.


Rabbi Lutz frequently speaks about what it means for each of us to be b’tzelem eloheim — each one of us in God’s image — and it was wonderful to walk with so many members of the TAS family. We have an obligation to take care of each other — even people across the world, people we may never meet. It is not enough to light a candle and to remember and to say “never again”; we have to take action and work together to make sure it does not happen again.



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