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A People of Survival

11/15/2018 10:53:45 AM


Beth Schafer

I just returned from a vacation in Barcelona. It is a magical city rich with art, architecture and music that I greatly enjoyed. One afternoon, we wound through the gothic streets to the old Jewish quarter where there is a Jewish museum. This museum was small - two rooms not much bigger than my office. Originating in the 6th century, the Ancient Synagogue in Barcelona is the oldest in Spain and one of only five medieval synagogues that exist today. Over the centuries, things had been built on top of it, burying it under modern Barcelona. It wasn’t until 1996 that a historian Jaume Riera i Sans located the original building and reclaimed it as a Jewish landmark. Today the synagogue is a museum with no active congregation (they are elsewhere in the city), however life cycle events are still held there.

It was a haunting feeling to stand in a structure that lay dormant for over 500 years of Jewish expulsion from Spain. It made me think of another time in more modern history. In pre-Holocaust Germany, Hitler had a plan to round up all of the Jewish ritual objects and Torahs to open a museum. It was to be the “Museum of the Defunct People.” We know the end of that story. Many of those Torahs were recovered and brought to Westminster, England, cataloged and sent on permanent loan to congregations all over the world as a testament to Jewish life. One of those Torahs lives in our sanctuary.

The perpetual story of the Jewish people is one of survival. If we can emerge from persecution over and over again, it is our obligation to be a light in a world that still knows darkness and injustice. It is not enough to celebrate the fact that we’re still here, it is for us to take the words of Torah, the living, sacred document of our people, and use them to repair our world. Let us never take the history of our survival for granted.

Shabbat Shalom,

Tue, February 18 2020 23 Sh'vat 5780