On Sunday April 23, 2017 Rabbi Hirsch and Cantor Nancy Bach, together with pianist Hila Kulik and members of the Village Temple religious school, led a profoundly moving Yom HaShoah service. Rabbi Hirsch invited an extraordinary speaker, Max Lerner, to talk to the 100 people gathered in the sanctuary about his experiences during World War II—first as teenaged refugee from Austria, then as part of the U.S. Army intelligence forces. Mr. Lerner, who is 92 years old, is a wonderful story-teller who connected his experiences to contemporary issues of social justice and individual responsibility. Though he dealt with painful history, his humor and strength were always evident. A measure of how inspirational he was: when the service was over, he was surrounded by kids from the religious school who had so many more questions they wouldn’t let him leave!
Rabbi Hirsch began the service by asking people who lost relatives in the Shoah—or had family members who were forced to flee their homes and countries—to come to the bima and light a candle in memory. But along with each candle, she asked each person to place a rose in a vase, to remind all of us that strength comes from remembering hardship while honoring life. Survival isn’t merely about escaping death but also appreciating life—a message that resonated in a sanctuary filled with so many respectful and curious young people and their parents.
Mr. Lerner ended his talk with a most relevant quote widely attributed to the philosopher Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It is a message that the Village Temple takes very seriously, as we continue our efforts to find meaningful way for congregants to learn and act on behalf of social justice.