By Shani Singer
The weather had set the scene before the ceremony of Yom Hashoah UK had even started. It was cold and dismal.
My thoughts went back to when we had been to Poland back in December 2008, there again it was cold and miserable. In both cases we were wrapped up as warm as we could be and yet we were still freezing. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for those in the camps in such weather with nothing to keep them warm. To a certain extent I felt guilty for complaining about being cold.
At various times during the ceremony I couldn’t help but notice the slight change in the weather. When the memorial prayer was being recited and the six candles were being lit the temperature dropped, more grey clouds seemed to appear and there were a few drops of rain. It almost felt like these were tears coming down from Heaven. Towards the end when over 160 children came onto the stage the sun started to appear from behind the clouds. The tears had now slowly started turning into smiles. Hashem is saying, yes, these were very dark times but know that there will always be a light at the end, ‘I am always here.’
We heard a recording of the survivors at Bergen- Belsen when they had been liberated singing the Hatikva (it has been changed slightly to what we now sing). Hatikva, The Hope. It was incredible to think that after the hell that they had been through for so long they were singing of hope. Hope of the soul yearning, hope of being able to live again. They sung this at a Friday night service in Bergen-Belsen, the first Friday night service for many of these people in many years. That service ended with Am Yisrael Chai!
On a personal note I felt extremely humbled, privileged and honoured to be in the presence of over 150 survivors. They have been and continue to be the ambassadors for so long and it is now our duty and responsibility to carry that on for them, we owe it to every single one who perished and to those who survived. We stood, said thank you and applauded them all.
A few minutes before we left I noticed that Ben Helfgott, a survivor was still there. I have no idea who he is in the sense that I don’t personally know him. I went up to him and said thank you. I said that as a mother of one of the children who sang in the choir that it was an honour and a privilege. I then called over my daughter who also said thank you. Ben said that when the children were singing he was crying, I imagine he wasn’t the only one. It was priceless to see the fourth generation listening to all that had been said, they sung with all their heart and soul and had said thank you!
We, the Jewish people are unbreakable, we are one!
Am Yisrael Chai!