Thoughts From Cantorial Soloist Arielle Goldfarb
Sunday, May 1st was the community Holocaust Memorial Service, which was held at
the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach. For all who were able to attend, I
thank you for being able to be part of the community and for coming to hear some very
emotional musical pieces sung by myself, Cantor Nancy Linder, Cantor Sara Hass, and
Cantor Kenneth Jaffe. Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is one filled with solemnity, sorrow, and even fear — fear that the memory will fade, that hearts may one day turn again to hatred, that history may yet repeat itself. Even if you were unable to attend the memorial, I thank you all for your efforts daily in this world to never repeat, never forget.
This past winter I traveled with Rabbi and the confirmation class to Washington, D.C., as part of the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminar. It was an incredible weekend, as I’ve talked about before, and with the confirmation class service coming up this month, you’ll get to witness just how much they grew over the course of the year and how they’ve applied everything they learned during the seminar. However, one of the hardest portions of the trip was when we visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum with the rest of the participants.
I’ve been to many Holocaust museums — New York, Israel, LA — even some of the concentration camps themselves. Each trip, I am sad to say, is less distressing than the last. After seeing the concentration camps, after walking their paths and being steeped in absolute loathing, fear, disgust, sorrow, nothing can compare to that. Every time I walk past another exhibit, I am still filled with those emotions, still filled with the same pain, but outwardly it doesn’t affect me nearly as much. I don’t burst into tears at every image; I don’t feel as washed in hopelessness and utter incomprehension. Slowly the sting wears off and it’s still just as horrible, but it doesn’t penetrate the heart as much.
When we went with the students to the Holocaust museum it was much the same for me. The images, the stories, were all horrifying, but I wasn’t going to cry. I was more horrified than sad, more angry than afraid…until we walked out of the museum and into a memorial vestibule. After walking through an hour and a half of darkness, here was a large stone chamber filled with radiant natural light and an eternal flame burning in memorium. I hadn’t realized how much the museum had affected me, with its close quarters and dim lighting, and standing in the middle of the open chamber I was filled with emotion. I looked up to the borders of the room where quotations were inscribed and saw the familiar words from Hannah Senesh or Eli Weisel, but stopped when I got to words from scripture. There, words recorded in the beginning chapters of our written history, out of the story of Cain who murdered his brother Abel, were the words, “And God said, ‘What have you done? The blood of your brother cries out to me from the ground.'” And in that moment, faced with that indignation and sorrow, I remembered the images from the museum, I remembered the music, I remembered the fear. I remembered standing at Auschwitz and Dachau, I remembered the torn up ground and the tightly constructed barracks. I remembered the train tracks leading back out to a world most who entered but never returned. I remembered the cold Poland winter and the grey skies and the desolation.
And I wept.
May we always remember. May we never forget. And may we ensure a better world for all peoples, for all times.