From Sadness to Celebration

Yom HaZikaron & Yom HaAtzmaut

Rabbi's Message - April 13, 2021

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Earlier this afternoon, I watched Masa’s Yom HaZikaron Memorial, remembering all who have died to protect the State of Israel.  After completing the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish came the soulful words of Hatikvah to remind us that “our hope is not lost yet.”   This hope is one that has kept the Jewish people alive for thousands of years.   But our hope often is coupled with loss; Jewish life sometimes appears on a continuum of sadness to joy. It is no coincidence that Yom HaZikaron was set to be the day before Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.  The cost of our independence has been heavy.  Even when the loss has not been ours, we do not rejoice without remembering.  We see this in our retelling of the Exodus from Egypt.  When we chant from the Song of the Sea, we whisper the words of Torah when it tells how horses and riders were hurled into the sea behind us.  Our celebration of independence has always been complex.  It is hard, especially for those who are grieving, to switch so quickly from the depths of sadness to the heights of joy.

But it is the joy that helps to sustain us and give us a glimpse into the possibilities of our future.  This is why we savor the lingering scents of candle, wine, and fragrant spices at the end of Shabbat.  We have all done a lot of grieving this year and for some of us, those moments were made harder by the limitations put upon us by the pandemic.  But now, with the onset of spring, the count up to Shavuot, and the initial success of vaccines, hope is in the air again.

Last year we were disappointed we could not celebrate our 10th anniversary of the Jewish Cultural Festival.  But this year, we have the opportunity to honor years of successful fun-raising and fundraising with our creative hat-tip to our most successful continuous event.  And it comes at a time when we are feeling hopeful that things will not stay closed up and closed off indefinitely.  This Friday’s Taste of the Jewish Cultural Festival will be a safe opportunity to say hello to friends and community members again.  We can also take home the scents and tastes of delicious baked goods, to help us savor the sweetness of community until next month, when we gather again.

I look forward to greeting all of you this Friday at Temple between 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. when you drive through the “Greet the Rabbi” station!  

History and Memory – Rabbi Bodney-Halasz’s Message for April 6, 2021

History and memory are not the same.  Some have described history as “something that happened to someone else in the past,” and memory as “what happened to me in the past.”  This week we observe Yom Hashoah VeHagevurah, “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Bravery.”  When remembering the Holocaust, there are elements of both history and memory.  It simultaneously feels deeply personal as well as unifying for the Jewish community.  As a group we give honor to historical events and individuals that we ourselves may not have experienced or known.  Yet, in many ways we identify personally with these dark times.  Perhaps because of a letter we hold from a grandparent with the names of their relatives we never had the opportunity to meet.  Or candlesticks or chanukiot we use for our own candles that originated in Europe.  It saddens me that we have fewer and fewer relatives and community members left to offer firsthand memories of the Holocaust; but I feel fortunate that those survivors feel compelled to share their personal stories and lessons with us.  Whether we are Jews by birth or Jews by choice, the Holocaust plays an important role in our personal sense of Jewish identity.   These up-close encounters with the past help us to internalize and incorporate these powerful experiences into our own personal understanding of Holocaust.  

It is important that when we contemplate the personal meaning of Yom Ha-Shoah Ve-Hagevurah we recognize its intentional placement on the Jewish calendar.  Not only does it occur in the month that coincides with the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but it takes places within our period of counting the Omer, marking the days between Passover and Shavuot.  This is a time when we, like the Israelites, pass through the lowest and highest spiritual moments of Jewish living. The Israelites spent their time in the desert trying to release themselves of painful memories of slavery while preparing to accept the Torah and find redemption.  Jews today seek meaning in the journey from the horror of the Shoah to the high point of celebration on Yom Ha-Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.  We, too, are asked to grapple with the complexity of Jewish sovereignty as we continue to work toward redemption.  

During this week of self and communal reflection, I encourage us all to think deeply about the role of the Holocaust in our own lives.  How does it influence our identity with the Jewish community?  How does it offer perspective?  How does it help us to weigh answers to difficult questions in the present?  How will we pass all of this on to the next generation in a way that will feel both communal and personal?

Perhaps one of these two opportunities to commemorate the day will help us to discover those answers.

This Sunday at 4 pm the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton offers us the opportunity to hear from our community Holocaust survivors.  Register here.

And on Thursday, April 8, at 10 a.m., we have the opportunity to virtually walk the 3.2 kms between Auschwitz and Birkenau with survivors of the camps and the March of the Living.  Register for this experience.


Together We Remember

Rabbi’s Message – August 4, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Our hearts are heavy today as we mark the first anniversary of the Oregon District shooting.  Some are still processing the trauma, and for others it feels more remote.  Yet today, as we collectively mourn together as a community, we are all experiencing some amount of grief.  Memorializing as a community when we are socially distanced may feel awkward.  Thankfully, the thoughtful leaders of #DaytonShines crafted meaningful opportunities for us to remember and still feel the strength of the community.  In Judaism, we mark remembrance by setting aside time and reflecting on the lives of our loved ones.  I invite you to join me tonight at 8:04 p.m on Facebook as our city offers for a nine minute memorial tribute to Lois Oglesby, TJ McNichols, Logan Turner, Derrick Fudge, Megan Betts, Nicholas Cumer, Monica Brickhouse, Saeed Saleh, and Beatrice Warren-Curtis. Zichronam L’vracha.  May their memories always be for a blessing. 

If you are having a difficult time today, please remember that I am always available to meet by Zoom.  In addition, our local government has also provided mental health resources through a 24-hour Crisis Line at 937-225-5623.