The rain is falling.  It is welcome after a dry winter.  Yo Yo Ma plays his cello, alone – without accompaniment.  It is as it should be in the quiet of the mountain and the gray of the sky.

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“I never got the last chance to kiss my father goodbye.”

Giselle Cycowicz, Holocaust Survivor

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In 1939 the entire Jewish population of Khurt, Czechoslovakia was deported to Auschwitz-Bikenau.  Giselle Cycowicz was a young girl then.  She is now 89 years old.

Her father, Wolf, was put to hard labor.  Undernourished he was gassed in October 1944. Giselle, her mother and sister survived.

Mrs. Cycowicz has just added her name and the names of her immediate family members to the records maintained at Yad Vashem (“A Memorial and Name”) – an ongoing effort to record the names of those murdered by Nazis in the last century.  Thus far 4.7 million names have been recorded. Sadly, so many are not yet known.

You see in Eastern Europe millions were murdered without record. Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) simply killed Jews where they were encountered.  In September 1941, at Babi Yar in the Ukraine, 33,000 Jews were assembled, murdered and buried in a mass grave.  The names at this point largely lost to violence and hate.

One wonders how far we are from attitudes which stir up such horror.

I think of the small, cute, seven year old Syrian girl I was interviewed in her refugee camp in Lebanon. She sparkled as sweet children do.  She wished for a school in her camp, and longed to be a teacher.  Optimistic, with dreams still – but fearful of dogs that roamed the camp, wishing to return to Syria when the fighting ended.

I think, too, of our country today – how we have taken in the disease that is “identity politics” that demonizes others so easily – that builds racism by concepts like “white privilege,” and advances division between men and women, scorns religion and blinds us with ideology.

The hatred of the last century casts a large shadow over today.  Our attitude must be cautious lest we stir up the worst instincts in us.

Frankly, wouldn’t we all be far better off if we stood against discourse and deeds which reduce life – all life?

Shalom.

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