We start by singing Gesher Tzar Meod (a narrow bridge), to prepare ourselves for the difficult journey ahead, across the narrow bridge between destruction and survival.
We light candles, as our ancestors have always done. We use mismatched candlesticks to remind us of how our ancestors made do with what they had in the dark times never gave up their determination to hold onto their Judaism.
As we prepare ourselves for our journey of remembrance, we drink a cup of wine in memory of the sweet life we had before the destruction.
Our journey begins before the war, with a blessing over rosemary for remembrance of the sweet, flavorful life we had.
The Trouble Starts
Then there arose in Germany a man whose hatred knew no bounds. And his hatred spread like poison in water. We read “Refugee Blues” by WH Auden and acknowledge the many who wanted to flee but found they had no place to go.
In the Ghetto
The harsh changes in our lives crept upon us as dusk before night. In this dark time, our days were bitter and we cried. We drink sweet tea in place of the wine they could not find and eat potato skins dipped in salt water for remembrance of starvation and tears.
The Camps & The Killing Pits
Words fail as we come to the darkest times. The Germans began killing Jews in large numbers, throughout Europe. They started in the east, with the murder of whole cities of Jews. We eat turnips to remember the bitter fate set for us and drink water to remember they had nothing. We say no blessing because there are no words.
The Lost Communities
In grief, we remember the thriving, vibrant Jewish communities that were destroyed. We spill a drop of wine for each community as we remember them.
Their Inner Strength
Despite their eagerness to strip us of our Judaism and of our humanity, we held fast. We remember the strength with which our ancestors met these difficult times. We eat olives and dates with pits to represent the unbreakable inner core.
The Righteous Among the Nations
And there were those who saw the great evil for what it was and risked their lives to help us. We take edible flowers to represent what the Righteous gave us: renewal of life, beauty in dakness, and nourishment of body and soul.
Liberation did come. We open the door for the liberators and say a prayer that we may make this a better world.
The Place of the Lost
Most of our lost left no footprints, no fingerprints, no artifacts. As long as we remember them, they are with us still. We covera a barbed wire star with their pictures because we remember them as they lived, not as they died.
We rise to say Kaddish for our dead. We remember the mixed multitude who were murdered alongside us. Roma gypsies, gays, people with disabilities, voices of resistance, all were murdered in the great silencing of speech and opposition. Their spirit is with us, and their loss is felt, as we gather and mourn our own losses.
Counting the Living
While the world counted their dead, we sought to count our living and to find the strength to return to life. We drink a cup of wine to celebrate our survival and our rebirth. We say a Shehechyanu for the survivors.
The Four Questions
As we come to the end of our journey, we give the younger participants a chance to ask the burning questions that arise when discussing this difficult subject, and provide them with answers as best we can.
To celebrate our survival, we share a meal, chosen to honor the culture of the victims and what they would have missed most during the dark times
We finish our meal with a traditional birkat.
We end with the singing of Lo Yisa Goy, to remind us that we must always work for peace.