July 10, 2015 admin

The violets are not blue any more

I would rather not write most of this email. I would have preferred to focus on the strawberries and cauliflowers in the synagogue garden.
The Torah says clearly and simply: ‘Lo ta’amod al dam re’echa – You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour.’ How are we to live that commandment?
It’s been a week of memorials, with the 75th commemoration of the Battle of Britain beginning today, the date when the Luftwaffe began to attack the South East of England just as Sir Winston Churchill had predicted when he spoke to the nation on 18 June 1940: ‘The battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin.’ I remember well the gratitude with which my grandparents and parents spoke of the courageous pilots and crew of the RAF.
On Monday I was at Westminster Abbey for A Solemn Commemoration For Srebrenica Memorial Day, marking 20 years since the massacre of 8372 men and boys, after the United Nations troops abandoned its so-called ‘Safe Haven’ and left those who had sought shelter there to the mercilessness of their killers.
I shan’t forget the words of Munira Sybasic, President of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association. She spoke with a passion obvious even to those who, like me, understood not a word of what I think was Serbo-Croat. Her speech was not translated. Whoever arranged this powerful service understood that it was not right to require everyone to speak in English. The vast majority followed Ms Sybasic by reading the translation provided:
       Although it has been twenty years since this inhuman atrocity, some mothers are still searching for the bones of their children…I doubt all of you can understand the pain and suffering we must endure, but I am certain that any mother can. Help us find the bones of our children!
The next day, we stood in Tavistock Square outside the British Medical Association in the silence at 9.47, ten years after the Number 30 bus was blown up by a terrorist murderer. Maybe it’s because I know Mavis Hyman and her family so well, whose daughter Miriam died here, that I found myself noticing the mothers. I saw Mrs Fatayi-Williams, whose son Anthony was killed:
         Oh, how I miss you sorely, such that the rose is not red and the violets are not blue any more for me…He lived for humanity and radiated joy and peace from childhood to adulthood.
On Wednesday evening at my home I listened as Tongomo Okito, leader of the Congolese community in Britain and long-standing friend of our community, describe how under the brutal regime of Joseph Kabila, who has outstayed as President the terms allowed him by the constitution, ‘young people are vanishing off the streets; university students disappear; their parents do not know what has happened to them…A mass grave has been discovered. The regime scorns the United Nations and the West. I feel powerless. I don’t know what to do’. His words are all too familiar from Jewish history. We must arrange another shared event with Okito’s community; it’s the least we can do by way of solidarity.
Last Shabbat at lunch in the small Czech town of Holesov I met Mrs Frelichova, the daughter of the lady who persistently sent food parcels to try to save members of my father’s family who’d been deported to Terezin, although she herself had little to eat and she never received a single sign that any of her gifts arrived. ‘I didn’t think this history would come alive again after seventy years’, she said, and she wept, and so did most of us there.
Commemorations are profoundly important. But, as was said at Westminster Abbey, ‘It’s not enough to remember. We also have to act’.

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