Last December, when the family was in Oakland for Marshall’s Bar Mitzvah, there was a discussion after services of the history of the Torah he read from and Emma will read from tomorrow. At that time Lori asked me to make some remarks at Emma’s Bat Mitzvah to which I replied “you must be kidding, you know I am terrified of public speaking” ……….. Lori can be tough to say no to.
As most of you know, this Torah came from the small Synagogue in Drove, Germany, my mother’s home town. When our family left in November 1938 the Torah was packed with our household possessions for the voyage to our new home in America. It was with us in Missouri, where we first lived, until our move to Omaha in 1945 Sometime after our arrival in Omaha, around 1949, my grandmother, my father’s stepmother, became ill and became a resident of the Dr. Philip Sher home and the Torah went to the chapel there. In 1982 it was moved to the then new Rose Blumkin Home where it resides today.
Since that conversation in Oakland I have been able to reflect a bit on what this Torah has meant to our family and the effect it has had on them. First, of course, is the message its very existence conveys about the importance of Judaism and what saving this Torah meant to our parents. We have no way of knowing what risks were associated with their bringing this scroll to America, but we can be certain that it was important enough to them that they willingly accepted whatever risk there was.
So here we are nearly 77 years later enjoying the freedom and opportunity of this great country that was so important to my parents. Tomorrow morning Emma will be the 8th of their great-grandchildren to read from this very Torah on their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. If Morris and Frieda were able to see this day, how joyful would they feel to know that all they suffered, struggled and worked so hard for was rewarded? To see the closeness these great-grandchildren have to each other would gladden their hearts and reinforce what they already knew-that they had done what was needed to preserve their family and it’s Jewish heritage and I think the outcome would exceed even their wildest dreams.
So …. what does this say to us? I can only define it for myself. To me, it says we must, all of us, remain vigilant to the signs around us that may be reminders of our people’s tragedies of the past or harbingers of potential tragedies in the future. It means we must remember the importance of our support of the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland that did not exist at the time the Torah was brought here. It makes me more aware of the priceless opportunity for family growth and closeness that was made possible for our family in this great country. This beautiful new Synagogue, the vibrancy of our congregation and of the entire Omaha Jewish Community represent for me the values and priorities that my parents held so dear and worked so hard to make possible for their children and their children’s children to enjoy.
To my siblings, cousins nieces and nephews and to all the Miller family, thank you for being here to help Emma celebrate her big day. To Lori and Michael and to Marnie, and also for myself I can only recite the words of the Shehehchehyanu prayer “We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for allowing us to reach this day.”