|Photo: Melanie Einzig|
Here are the remarks that I delivered yesterday:
The cycle of the Jewish year has its rhythm. Sabbath days, like a metronome mark the measures of the weeks. Holidays and festivals give a cadence to the year, motifs and melodies that bring meaning to our days. The cycle of a Jewish life has its rhythm as well, the high notes of simchas – births and weddings – the dark chords of death and the ritual of mourning. The cycle of our year has brought us again to this day and to this place to carry out our sacred task.
In that place, we remember and we mourn what we have lost as individuals and what we have lost as a community. Although it may be possible to identify our personal losses and the losses that befell our families and marred our communities, no one can possibly quantify the vast potential that was denied our people and robbed from the world. We mourn a loss that grows in time as we consider generations that were never born, creativity that was never expressed, achievement that could never be realized.
In this place of solitude and community, we also honor those who survived and demonstrated the power of the human spirit to recover and to rebuild. Having witnessed the worst in the human experience they found the best in themselves. The presence here today of so many survivors, although sadly, fewer and fewer, and the presence of their children and their children’s children, and, yes, even their children’s children’s children, is a potent demonstration of the exponential power of survival.
And so we come together and gather alone, moved by our resolve – a resolve that like a stone, is formed by the pressure of memory and the weight of sorrow, a resolve that moves us each year to come to this place, to follow the cadence of the days and the course of the calendar. Today, we will remember and we will honor and we will mourn.
And this year, among the many whom we mourn privately, as a community we recall the loss of two people who were so important to this gathering. Vladka Meed, who along with her beloved husband, Ben, was a driving force behind the move to remember. Her own conduct in the Warsaw Ghetto, 70 years ago, was an inspirational example of courage and action. And we remember Mayor Edward I. Koch, who did so much for this city and who, at this commemoration 31 years ago, conceived of the idea that became the Museum of Jewish Heritage.