A Jan. 18-19 trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington for 44 members of Congregation Adath Shalom in Morris Plains was the culmination of a months-long multigenerational exploration of how the Shoa happened. The community met with survivors of the Holocaust and of the Rwandan genocide, heard from a representative of the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, watched several documentaries, and engaged in plenty of discussion.
They plan to continue their exploration and are planning a trip to Europe next spring that will tentatively include stops in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Cracow and sites of tragic events of the Holocaust, including Auschwitz.
“It has been 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, and humanity has not yet emerged from the shock of that awful revelation, not yet processed the meaning of the Holocaust,” wrote Adath Shalom’s Rabbi Moshe Rudin in a report about the congregation’s work. “As a community, across generations, we have begun our own journey of the search for meaning in the terrible catastrophe. Our community’s journey has led us into uncomfortable territory and difficult topics, but it has also brought us closer together.” He added, “To be a Jew is to engage in Jewish learning with the faith that even the darkest moments contain something that can inspire the future, nourish hope, affirm life.”
The study began in response to a talk survivor and synagogue member Edward Mosberg gave last spring during the community’s Holocaust Remembrance Day program. The ongoing resulting series was made possible by a Holocaust Education Fund created by Mosberg and his wife, Cecille, and through the leadership of congregation member Sam Varsano, son of a Holocaust survivor.
“Seeing the numbers on my father’s arm is what started this for me,” Varsano said. “There were no answers forthcoming to my questions — only tears. It wasn’t until my first son was born and my father would hold the baby in his arms for hours — walking all around the house until Josh fell asleep — that my father began to tell what had happened.
“Now,” said Varsano, “I want the young people especially to not only learn what happened but to understand; we cannot sit quietly ever again. We must always be ready to respond.”