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Showing posts with label Ozar Ha Torah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ozar Ha Torah. Show all posts

Monday, April 9, 2012

V’he Sheamda - The Promise To Take A Stand

In Jewish schools and homes everywhere, teachers and parents are preparing their children for the Passover holiday and the celebration of the Jewish people’s deliverance from the bondage of slavery. They are encouraging the youngest to recite the ma nishtana (the four questions) and engaging the older students in the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt. The celebration of Passover lends itself to one of the most significant learning experiences a Jewish child can have and one that is forever imprinted in his/her mind and heart.

On Passover, even while we celebrate our freedom from slavery thousands of years ago, we recite v’he sheamda and are reminded, “in every generation there are those who have risen against us to destroy us.” Last week we were brutally reminded of this declaration when Rabbi Jonathan Sandler (z’’l), his two sons Aryeh and Gavriel (z’’l), and a third student, Miriam Monsonego (z’’l) were gunned down as they entered Ozar Ha Torah Jewish Day School in Toulouse, France.

Rabbi Sandler was a devoted Jewish scholar who dedicated his life to instilling a passion for learning and a love for Judaism in every child. He spent several years studying and teaching in Israel and was a fervent advocate for bringing a quality Jewish education to children with learning disabilities. He returned to France a few years ago to teach in the same Jewish day school he attended as a child. In 2010, Rabbi Sandler participated in a seminar on Holocaust Education at Yad Vashem, where he asked penetrating questions and sought innovative ways to approach Holocaust education. Although, one of many participants, Rabbi Sandler left an indelible impression, declaring that his goal as a Jewish educator was to “educate the next generation to act as moral human beings.”

Sadly, there are three Jewish children who will never again ask “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and with the loss of Rabbi Sandler, thousands of others who will not learn the answer to this question under his gentle guidance. In the wake of this knowledge, our responsibility as Jews becomes increasingly clear. We are citizens of free countries and have the right, and therefore the obligation to speak out and to act. It is our duty to defend the vulnerable, challenge the aggressor and protect and promote human rights and human dignity everywhere. As we take up this charge, we draw courage from ancient Jewish heroes like the Maccabees and more recent inspiration from the Jewish partisans, who in the face of insurmountable odds, fought back against the Nazis to save thousands of lives and help bring an end to the Holocaust. We are empowered by the rebellion of those in the Warsaw ghetto, who on the first day of Passover, April 19, 1943, launched an uprising against their attackers that lasted until September – longer than both France and Poland were able to stave off German occupation.

Interfaith rally after the shootings (credit: AFP)

As we begin our own holiday preparations, we mourn for Rabbi Sandler, a lover of our tradition and for his children and students who will never again gather around the Seder table, nor grow to adulthood and experience the fullness of life. We stand together, shaken by an act of hatred and with a renewed awareness that as Jews we must be vigilant in combating antisemitism and tyranny wherever it breeds.

The Exodus from Egypt is widely regarded as one of the most significant events in the history of the Jewish people and Exodus 13:8 commands us to tell the story to our children so that it is passed from generation to generation. In fact the word Haggadah is derived from the verb “to tell.” Recounting the Passover story is the basis for the education of children in each generation to acquire the social and ethical values of the Jewish people. On Friday night, when you sit down at your Seder table and begin to read from the Passover Haggadah not only will you perform a mitzvah (commandment) but you will take the first step in fulfilling Rabbi Sandler’s dream to educate the next generation to act as moral human beings.

Chag Sameach.

-Sheri Pearl

Sheri Pearl is JPEF's Director of Development and holds two degrees in Judaic Studies from UCLA and Brandeis University.