A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 4.9.21

Last night, we concluded our four-class series on Jewish memory, We Are What We Remember. (The curriculum was written by the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, a project of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Over the course of a month, we explored different facets of (as the literature from Melton puts it) the important role of collective national memory in the ongoing development and adaptation of Judaism throughout the generations. As Jews, our consciousness is connected not so much to history as to memory: in other words, to how we have constructed a narrative for ourselves that may or may not be tied to actual history. In certain ways, the actual history may be irrelevant (for the purposes of constructing a national consciousness, at least).

I was reflecting on this over the past few weeks, as we have been busily planning for the flurry of activity at EMJC and in our Jewish lives: first Passover, then (yesterday) Yom HaShoah, then (next week) Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day). Of course, all of these holidays are fundamentally about memory. Passover is the recounting and re-experiencing of the seminal moment in Jewish memory (i.e. not history) – the Exodus from Egypt, the furnace where our peoplehood was forged. This is the beginning of our national consciousness. Yom HaShoah, unlike the 3,000-year-old Passover holiday, is a “brand new” day on the Jewish religious calendar, and we cannot predict what impact it will have on the long course of our consciousness. And the Israeli holidays that memorialize the dead and then, the very next day, celebrate rebirth, renewal, and independence are intimately tied to the act of remembering; but like with Yom HaShoah, we, as a people, are still figuring out what they mean in the larger picture, and also how to observe them.

That does not mean that we have not figured out how to observe them at EMJC however. We had two very moving Yom HaShoah events, on Wednesday night and last night. And this coming week will see a variety of activities for Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut (see yesterday’s bulletin*).

In addition to what is listed in the bulletin, I’d also like to inform you about a special event this coming Thursday (which is Yom HaAtzma’ut proper). EMJC and Park Slope Jewish Center have teamed up to sponsor a class by the extraordinary Israeli teacher of Hebrew poetry and literature, Rachel Korazim. Rachel will be lecturing on the work of the (in my opinion) brilliant Israeli poet Adi Keisar. I had the great privilege of meeting Adi Keisar on my trip to Israel last year, where she did a reading for our small group. Ms. Keisar is a poet who has, in many ways, turned the Israeli literary scene on its head. I know that Rachel Korazim will present a wonderful introduction to her work. You can join this class at 2pm on Thursday (information about links will come out early next week). You might also get to hear me sing the Prayer for the State of Israel at the beginning of that class in honor of Yom HaAtzma’ut.

I hope we’ll see you at some of these events. Keep an eye out for an actual in-person event on April 18th – our shali’ach Tomer Gekler is trying to arrange for a multi-community celebration (socially distanced, of course) in Prospect Park for Yom HaAtzma’ut. If you’re feeling ready to venture out for a short spell, that might be just the occasion – bring the whole family.

In the meantime, please enjoy a Shabbat shalom um’vorach – a peaceful and blessed Shabbat.

Rabbi Sam Levine