“Shattered Glass, Shattered Lives”
Four school buses waited in the pouring rain Tuesday evening as over 150 Merrimack students boarded to attend our annual Kristallnacht commemoration, “Shattered Glass, Shattered Lives: Remember, Reflect, Rededicate,” this year held at Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill.
Once on site with wet coats hung and programs in hand, the congregation gathered in silence before a welcome by Rabbi Ira Korinow, “Silence is not just the absence of words and noise. It is a fullness of anticipation. It is a door opening before prayer, toward the realm of the spirit and the heart.”
Merrimack students Paige Sorensen ’19 and Samuel Tankel ’19 read from the Book of Genesis and the writings of Pastor Martin Niemoeller as we moved from the silence before Creation to the silent indifference that enabled the Holocaust. A quote from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, highlighted the destructive aspect of silence, “…and that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Songs from the Merrimack Concert Choir enriched the service including “Ani Ma’amin,” a song composed from lines by Maimonides and sung by Jews in concentration camps as they were sent to their deaths in gas chambers. During this song memorial candles were lit for the victims of the Holocaust: the six million Jews, the five million other victims, and a twelfth candle for groups persecuted today simply because they are “Other.”
Our reflection this year came from Alexander Levering Kern, Executive Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service (CSDS) at Northeastern University in Boston. Alex spoke of his experiences, first as a young adult encountering neo-Nazis on a train platform in Germany, and more recently as the mentor for an interfaith pilgrimage leading students to Selma, St. Louis, and Ferguson in the age of #BlackLivesMatter. Interwoven with his stories were important messages to stand up and speak out when you witness prejudice and discrimination, and of the power of loving your neighbor as an act of social justice. Messages we hope our students will put to good use in the days and months ahead.
Following was a Ceremony of the White Roses, to honor the Nazi resistance movement and remember other groups suffering persecution in the world today. The Mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish memorial prayer that does not mention death but instead praises God, was recited by the congregation and followed by an affirmation of the sacredness of every human life.
Gracious hospitality was provided by Temple Emanu-El following the service, when students and community gathered for cookies and had a chance to reflect before the ride home.
Many thanks to Rabbi Ira Korinow and the Temple Emanu-El community for hosting; to the Merrimack Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Hugh Hinton and with accompaniment by Sarah Tocco, for the rich addition of music to our program; to Alexander Levering Kern for his wise and impactful reflection; to Roberta Braverman for underwriting this program; to Max and Hilda Perlitsh for their gift of the Courage to Remember exhibit; and to Christina Condon for organizing the display in McQuade Library every year. A final thanks to the professors who continue to support us by bringing their students each year.