Everything has been mixed again the last few days. The reception of Yom Ha’atsmaoet, 74ste Israel’s Independence Day last night was fantastic. A huge turnout. Many ambassadors, non-Jews and Jewish prominent figures. A place to meet, make contacts, make agreements, put Israel in the spotlight in a positive way, in short: celebrate and network! Of course, it is true that those present in principle all belong to the group of friends of Israel, and unfortunately there is a much larger group that does not explicitly consider itself to be this. In my mind comes the student who, after his youth education, wants to follow an officially recognized and state-funded education in the social sector. He is accepted despite his Judaism, but is then rejected because he had been on holiday in Israel and is therefore a Zionist “and they really could not have that”. The Jewish young man has been training at a Christian training institute for some time now. Welcome to our tolerant Holland! The reception was therefore a great success. The location was also out of the art: Madurodam! The last time I had been there was over 60 years ago, if it existed then.
I am now working on individual assistance to a few refugees from Ukraine and to one of the refugee rabbis who is no longer interested. The flight from Ukraine was extremely complex and dramatic. And then: finally saved! But now comes the psychological problem, unfortunately quite understandable. The rabbi, now in Israel, has seen everything he built disappear. Everything bombed to pieces. His house, his new synagogue, his work, and his future. For the first few weeks after the flight, there was a grateful sense of escape, and he worked day and night 24/7 and therefore also on the Sabbath to save his ward members, but now the flashback and the forward look begin. In the early weeks, the rabbi could tell his story anywhere, and he was welcomed as a hero, even more so than the ordinary refugees. But now everyone is starting to feel the dramatic reality. Well back, not back? How to proceed? Is there an additional one? In one word: total mental and physical upheaval.
But is this upheaval something new? Last week we had a wonderful meeting in Brabant for the members of the chevre kadiesje, the volunteer ladies and gentlemen who take care of the ritual cleansing of the deceased completely selflessly. Fantastic their commitment. It was a kind of refresher course to discuss the various laws, customs and problems that may arise. And suddenly it came to mind of Chief Rabbi Dr. Jacob Frankel zl. He was chief rabbi of Overijssel and acting chief rabbi of Brabant. He was my grandmother’s grandfather. It sounds far away, but since I knew my grandmother well, my grandmother experienced her grandfather a lot. What has that got to do with this diary? He was also a refugee. His parents had a beer factory in Poland / Russia / Ukraine. And when that beer factory was unexpectedly attacked and completely destroyed by the Tartars, his parents understood that the only way out was to flee. And then he had arrived in Holland, distressed, physically weak, left everything and no prospect for the future. My grandmother told me about it as a small child, but they kept quiet about World War II. What my mother told me, and it has been with me ever since, when the Nazi planes flew over May 10, 1940, my grandfather exclaimed: Oh, God, we must!
But both my grandfathers and grandmothers survived thanks to non-Jews who risked their lives to hide my grandparents and all their children, who at the time were all adults. And that’s why I learned that a former student of mine has now taken Ukrainian refugees into his home, because, as she says, if the non-Jewish Dutch had not opened their house then, I would not have existed. And that’s how I experience it. Although it is not an easy task to have refugees with all their grief and therefore often difficult behavior around them all day long. But there is still a difference, for my parents could not go outside, betrayal lurked, and they were actively sought. Our Ukrainian refugees are GZD-free here, have nothing to fear physically and do not have to go hungry. But the uncertainty can gnaw enormously, their worlds are broken, and the fate of their loved ones and acquaintances is dramatically unknown. They have fled from the atrocities, but the atrocities have not yet escaped from them.
But the Yom Ha’atsmaut front desk was wonderful, hopeful.
This is a personal diary for the Chief Rabbi and is not the responsibility of the editorial staff.