Last week, the Beatles released their final song, a wistful postscript to their career called “Now and Then.” “Now and Then” is built around a demo-track that John Lennon recorded in his home studio 1977. In 1995, fifteen years after John Lennon was killed, the remaining Beatles attempted to finish the song together for the “Beatles Anthology” collection. Now, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have finally completed the track, using both Lennon’s original recording and guitar-parts George Harrison recorded in 1995.
The music video for “Now and Then” features footage of the Beatles in their 1960s heyday juxtaposed against footage of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr recording together in 2023. Now we are only two, then we were four. Now we are this way, then we were that way.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about the phrase “now and then” since the Beatles released their final song, because that phrase has also been resonating deeply with Jews, in a very different sense, for the past month. We have all been thinking about now–our new, post-October 7th reality–in relation to then, the terrifying darkness of the Holocaust. That was especially true yesterday, as we marked the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, which kickstarted the darkest period in Jewish history.
Now–on October 7th, 2023, 1,400 Jews were murdered in the worst mass killing of Jews since the Holocaust. Then–on November 9th, 1938, 1,400 synagogues across Germany and Austria were desecrated, presaging the destruction of European Jewry to come. Now–on October 7th, over 240 Israelis were kidnapped and are being held hostage in underground tunnels. Then–on Kristallnacht, 30,000 Jews were kidnapped and were held hostage in concentration camps. Now and then, our lives, our dreams and our sense of security were shattered.
This is a pivotal moment in the history of the Jewish people. We have an obligation to ensure that now does not become then. I will be in Washington DC this Tuesday, November 14th, as thousands of American Jews march together in support of Israel and against the scourge of antisemitism. This Tuesday will be an opportunity for the American Jewish community to stand together as we let the world know that that now can never become then, that October 7th cannot mark the beginning of another Shoah. As John Lennon sings in the final Beatles song, “If I make it through, it’s all because of you.” If we hope to make it through this dark and terrible time for our people, we need you, and all of us, to stand together as one.