Rabbi Ranon Teller
Shabbat Shalom From Jerusalem
Shalom from Jerusalem,
I’m in Israel spending the week at a rabbinic seminar at Yad Vashem. It is the first program of its kind, designed to expose rabbis to the depth of scholarship and research in the Yad Vashem archives, and provide pulpit rabbis with pedagogical strategies. There are 15 rabbis in the group, mostly Orthodox, a few Conservative, one Reform, and several from Chabad.
We are delving deeply into Holocaust studies with the world’s premier scholars in the field. We are analyzing material and data collected through documents, photographs, diaries, archives, and survivor eyewitness interviews. Our focus is creating meaningful connections by studying issues in rabbinic leadership and spiritual resistance.
Yesterday, we met with Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel and the current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. He is a child survivor and the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/survivors/lau.asp
Through Rabbi Lau's emotional presentation yesterday, he charged us to engage in Holocaust education as a continuation of the fight against the Nazi regime. Hitler’s ultimate goal was not the annihilation of Jews; rather, it was the annihilation of Judaism. When we use Holocaust education to bring Jews closer to Judaism, we continue the fight against Hitler. It was a powerful message through a powerful medium.
After the class, we were witness to an historic ceremony in front of a famous photograph hanging in Yad Vashem, shown in this article: https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/191171/the-chaplain-and-the-survivors. In this photograph of a Shavuot evening service at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp just after its liberation, 7-year-old Rabbi Lau is sitting on the bench in the first row, third from the left. He is facing Rabbi Herschel Schachter, who is leading services. Although Rabbi Schachter passed away a few years ago, his son, Rabbi J.J. Schachter, came to Israel to teach us and to participate in a spiritual reunion between his father's legacy and Rabbi Lau. As they stood before the image, we witnessed the connection between past, present, and future.
After the program ends, three of my kids will join me for vacation and family connection. I’ve seen my parents a few times this week, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them when the program ends. I joked with my kids that I feel like I’m reliving my childhood as this morning I took the bus to “Yad Vashem School” and my father picked me up in the carpool line after class.
Tonight I’m going to daven at the Kotel in the egalitarian section with a group from Ramah Programs in Israel. Tomorrow, I’m going to an egalitarian minyan called Sod Siach.
Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim, the holy city.
Blessings and love,