We Remember The Darkness—Holocaust Museum in Melbourne

On Wednesday the newly rebuilt and refurbished Holocaust Museum in Elsternwick  opened its doors. It is an extraordinary building, stunning in its simplicity and remarkable in the light and air it brings into the dark history it commemorates. It’s a place of memory and history but also one of meaning and legacy -now more than ever we need to affirm its message for humanity. Now when the world is faltering and moral clarity and courage are in short supply we need to be sure to find the strength and hope that feed and nourish the human spirit. And not to despair , for despair only saps us. Remember the words of Nelson Mandela: it always seems impossible until its done.

This is a poem and a blessing I wrote for the occasion: Please click here to watch the video

We remember the darkness

Today we remember the darkness.

Today we reach back into the long black nights
(Ha Laylot Halalu Koolo Choshech)
No light in this cattle carriage mamma
No light in this barren barrack papa.

Oh my people – you who filled this planet with so much colour and light-
You’ve seen
Too many a dark night
(Vechoshech Al pnei te hom ).
Skewered by crucifixes
Carved by cutting crescents
Burnt by heils and heps
Trampled by jackboots
And just yesterday –
Plowed by unholy Allah Akhbars.

Today in this loving light place of shade
Today we remember not to forget
And today we remember to forget.

Not to forget the casual calloused  heart of human kind

But to forget those who would carelessly incinerate  our fiery bushes.


Don’t they know the more you burn us the more you ignite us ?

That we may be wounded, our flesh charred

But our spirit burns ,oh how it burns.

Oh my Lord
Tattie daddy abba Avinu
Don’t forsake me
(al taazveinu)
just hold me for a little longer.

Hold me like you hold the stars
Name me like you name the stars
Let the new sparks grow out of the black earth, out of the charred ovens.

Today we will climb the beams of light
Even as dark rockets pound the fields of Zion
Even as serpentine shadows surround our serene suburbs
We will declare Eden in Elsternwick
We are here to stay and ride our wild lions of Judah into the future
To join the ancient dreamers of this crusty continent.

We the people of the dream –hayinu kecholmim
We the dream people meet here the people of the dreamland
We will not cease our dreaming …

And a prayer:

Mizmor Shir Chanukat HaBayit
A prayer for this house of memory –
May your doors bring in minds that will learn and grow
Hearts that will feel and expand
Souls that will nurture and soar.
May your gates burst open and spill your stories of courage and compassion into the streets
Spread your tales of dignity and
the lovely colours of our differences
Your conviction that remembrance brings redemption
humanity heals a wounded spirit
And generosity grows in the broken bones
That hatred only hurts and festers
That love is stronger than death
That light lingers and gently insinuates itself into the shadows and shrouds.

In this house of memories we will let the light in
From this house of memory we will let the light flow out.

About the Author
Rabbi Genende recently retired as the Senior Rabbi of Melbourne’s premier Caulfield Shule and took up the position of Senior Rabbi and Manager to Jewish Care Victoria, Melbourne’s largest Jewish organisation. He was a senior Reserve Chaplain in the South African Defence Force and is now Principal Rabbi to the Australian Defence Force, Member of the Religious Advisory Council to the Minister of Defence (RACS), board member of AIJAC (Australian Israel Jewish Affairs Council) and member of the Premier's Mulitifaith Advisory Group. He was President of JCMA (Jewish Christian Muslim Association) and a long time executive member of the Rabbinical Association of Victoria. He also oversees Yad BeYad a premarital relationship program, is a member of Swinburne University’s Research Ethics Committee and of the DHHS ,Department of Health Ethics Committee and sits on the Glen Eira City Council’s Committee responsible for its Reconciliation Action Plan for recognition and integration of our first peoples. Ralph has a passion for social justice and creating bridges between different cultures and faiths. For him the purpose of religion is to create a better society for all people and to engage with the critical issues facing Australian society. The role of the rabbi is, in his words, to challenge the comfortable and comfort the challenged. In 2018 Rabbi Genende was awarded an OAM for his services to multi-faith relations, and to the Jewish community of Victoria. Rabbi Genende is a trained counsellor with a Masters degree from Auckland University. He is married to Caron, a psychologist, and they have three children and two grandchildren.
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