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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - February 2020
From the Rabbi - February 2020 PDF Print E-mail


I have had the honor for the past year to serve on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, a commission set up “To bring awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides to Texas students, educators, and the general public by ensuring availability of resources, and in doing so imbue in individuals a sense of responsibility to uphold human value and inspire citizens in the prevention of future atrocities.” As part of this important work I was honored to attend a ceremony at the Texas Capitol at the end of January in honor of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  This ceremony included the declaration of the new “Never Again Education Act” intended to expand the “US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s education programming to teachers across the country to improve awareness and understanding of the Holocaust and educate individuals on the lessons of the Holocaust as a means to promote the importance of preventing genocide, hate, and bigotry against any group of people.”

The question raised here and in much of the discussion and ceremonies on the anniversary of the liberation is what are the lessons of the Holocaust.  Much has been written and said on this, but I was struck by the testimony of one survivor who spoke of her experiences on the BBC.  Anita Lasker was taken to the camp when she was just 18 but escaped the gas chambers because of her ability to play the cello. Lasker recalls: "I was led to a girl...she asked me what was I doing before the war. And like an idiot, I don't know, I said 'I used to play the cello… She said 'that's fantastic. You'll be saved.' I had no idea what she was talking about....[but] that was my salvation." As a result of this fateful conversation, Anita and other musicians  were tasked to perform music at the camp to entertain the SS guards.  

Anita survived Auschwitz, moved to London, and became a founding member of the English Chamber Orchestra. What is remarkable, and what is so powerful about the message she continues to teach to those who hear her story, is that in all this time she has never given up hope and the joy of music.  When asked how she could continue to not only play music but to make it her life’s work despite all the horrific associations and memories she must have of playing music in the camps, she answers: "Hitler destroyed endless things, but music... you can't destroy it."

This is a powerful lesson, that no matter how hopeless things may be, some things are true and beautiful and eternal no matter how much evil people try to destroy them.  Like music, Hitler and those who seek to follow in his footsteps seek to blot out what is true and good today, and we should learn from Anita and always maintain hope in the darkness. That way hope will win and thrive as has Anita’s music. 
   
     Rabbi Ilan Emanuel

 

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