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Connecting with the younger generations

Blessed is the match that is consumed in kindling flame.

Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.

Blessed is the heart with wisdom to stop its beating for honor's sake

Blessed is the match that is consumed in kindling flame. 


Hannah Szenesh, the author of this beautiful poem, was a young, perhaps too young, member of the resistance against the Nazi regime. Having emigrated to Israel, she returned to  Europe and became a paratrooper fighting alongside the Partisans. She was captured and executed after enduring torture and humiliations in an attempt to get her to betray her fellow fighters, which she did not do. Year after year, we remember stories of heroes from our people who, amid barbarism, gave everything so that the People of Israel would survive. 


Year after year, on the commemoration of Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Day, we try to connect with and connect younger generations with testimonies and witnesses of those who survived and managed to start life again, the continuity of the Jewish People and their home, the Land of Israel. 


I must emphasize once again that the term "holocaust" is not the best choice of words for what happened to the Jewish People during World War II. The term Holocaust, derived from a Greek word meaning "burnt offering”, does not accurately capture the magnitude of the tragedy. The term Shoah, in Hebrew, means catastrophe, and describes more accurately not only the realization of the massacre of almost 12 million people, including 6 million Jews but also how the nations of the world allowed it to happen. They did not believe what was happening in front of their eyes and trusted in international organizations that supposedly acted with neutrality to ensure that no atrocities  were committed. 


What a mockery of all humanity! How disappointing it can be to understand that those who should care for us and ensure fairness even in times of war, "distract" themselves and fall prey to the prevailing antisemitism, to anti-Zionisn and decades later, everything repeats once again. 


How much more disappointing it can be that decades go by and the same renewed or new organizations commit the same acts of discrimination and fall prey again to the lies of the murderers and perpetrators of similar atrocities. 


Our calendar cunningly takes us from Yom HaShoah to Yom Hazikaron (Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers in wars and all those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks) and then to Yom Haatzmaut, Israel's Independence Day, which is called the beginning of the flourishing of our redemption. It's like taking us from a point of supreme anguish to hope, Hatikvah, as is the name of Israel's anthem. 


This is really what it is about. Israel is the breath of fresh air in the face of discrimination and persecution. It is the present and concrete future of a People that do not surrender. They are reborn and move forward, surpassing itself in a democratic and respectful society of people's rights, mediating between survival in the face of terrorism violence and respect for life. 


I am not talking about politics. Supporting the existence of Israel has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the right of the Jewish People to have their own land in which to develop with Torah values as a premise. This was true even when the government in power belonged to the political right or left. 


When we say the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we are not taking sides in a particular idea; we are acknowledging ourselves as descendants and continuers of a people that were born, developed, and prepares towards a future. In that ongoing history, with the help of God, there have been manifestations and expressions of various political, spiritual, and philosophical situations. Any one of them and all together they form what we are: the People of Israel with a land and an ultimate home, the Land of Israel. 


The existence of a country and its People does not depend on, nor can it be judged by, the political expression of the government leading it, even when it is wrong. 


This year, after a couple of years of not doing so, I invite you to go from the Shoah to the celebration of the State of Israel, regardless of who is in charge or who was elected. That is what democracy is. The State of Israel has been during doing this her whole life for us; now she needs our support. 


On May 19, we will be celebrating at the Capitol Theatre in Rome the mere fact of the existence of a Nation for the Jewish People and supporting their survival in difficult times in a complicated and cruel world. We need you there to say NO to terrorism and YES to the continuity of our people. 


We will joyously caravan and sing from the JCC to Rome at 4pm. 


Am Israel Chai!! The People of Israel live and maintain the memory of those matches that were lit so that the flame endures and persists. 


Rabbi Gustavo Geier 

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