Two years ago, I had the opportunity to spend Pesach with the Jewish community of Belarus along with another HUC student. By far the most powerful day of the trip was the time I spent in the community of Lida. Igor, a member of the community there, showed us around the city and its Jewish sites. We stood in the parking lot of an apartment complex, as Igor gestured around us and said, “This used to be a Jewish cemetery.” Were it not for the small plaque put up by the Jewish community, no one would know. We drove a little bit out of the city proper, to a monument on the side of the road, across from a forest. This monument, Igor told us, marked the spot where all of Lida’s Jewish children were killed when the Nazis liquidated the ghetto in the spring of 1942. Their parents were marched into the forest across the way. In the forest, we needed no monument. Mounds of earth rose unnaturally from the ground in a clearing, now covered with grass and wildflowers.

At our seders, we pair the salt water of Jewish tears with karpas, the greenery symbolizing springtime, rebirth, and renewal. That night in Lida, the seder was our karpas. We walked into a room bustling with seder preparations. A young girl, Lena, sang the Four Questions beautifully. We applauded the children’s choir, recently returned from a choral competition in Minsk. They proudly sang for their parents and their community, without any hesitation. The pride in their voices and reflected in the faces of the adults around them was a powerful contrast to the sites we had seen earlier that day.

The Gevurot prayer speaks of m’chayeh ha’meitim, the revival of the dead, in its traditional version. While we might not believe literally in this idea, the revival of Jewish life in Europe, in communities like Lida, testifies to the power of imagining a different future than the expected, obvious path. The Jewish community of Lida is finding its own way across the sea, building a vibrant Jewish community for the next generation. Lida’s Jewish presence is not in its monuments and memorial plaques, but in the voices of its children, and in the community’s hope for a better future.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Posted on March 29, 2013, in 2013, March, Ram's Horn. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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