In my 40 years as a congregational rabbi I have officiated at more than 500 funerals of which 10 percent have been for survivors of the Holocaust. These people gravitated to my synagogue after the war’s end because Rabbi Max Nussbaum, who served Temple Israel of Hollywood from 1942-1974, was a German refugee and a national Zionist figure.
I grieve for every family that loses a loved one, but there is an added dimension of grief when a survivor passes away. To a person, their stories are inspirational and often more powerful than the best of fiction. Such was the case of a 93-year old woman I buried this week.
Also this week I received from the mother of an upcoming bar mitzvah, Hank Schoen, a member of a summer film-making program for middle school students at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles last year, an 8-minute animated film of the story of an Auschwitz survivor, Erika Jacoby, who told her story with the animation over her voice.
The talent, care, and sensitivity of these young people astounded me and gave me hope that young Jews will not forget. Their film deserves to be seen far and wide. It occurred to me that the film ought to be submitted to film festivals – it is that good!
Surving as a rabbi in Hollywood with many of my members being leading writers and show-runners, directors and actors in film, theater and television has accustomed me to think in these terms.
You can watch the students’ film here on Vimeo. It is called “Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The Erika Jacoby Story” on Vimeo:
I hope you will share this blog with others. I suspect that you will be as moved I am by it.