Beth Israel Synagogue would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. May the year 5774 bring peace to Israel.
L’Shana Tova U’metuka
Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day 2013
We commemorated Yom HaShoah on Sunday the 7th of April. Jewish communities around the world, get together to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins at sunset on Sunday, April 7 and ends at sunset April 8, 2013. The actual proper title is “Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah,” which mean “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance.” It is a solemn reminder of the attempt by the Nazis to completely eliminate the Jewish people, and the torture and murder of 6,000,000 men, women and children in ghettos and concentration camps during WWII and the preceding years. It also commemorates the few who resisted the systematic persecution and slaughter.
Holocaust Day originated in Israel in 1953, and it a national holiday in that country. The original proposal was to hold Yom HaShoah on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943), but this was problematic because the 14th of Nisan is the day immediately before Passover. The date was moved to the 27th of Nisan, which is eight days before Israeli Independence Day.
Aruba’s very small Jewish community gathered at sunset around the Anne Frank Memorial in Wilhelmina Park in Oranjestad to mark the occasion. Pastor Eusebio Petrona of the Evangelical Church and Pastor Gilbert Martes of the Emmanuel Church, along with some of their congregation, joined them during the poignant and simple service.
The recently installed Rabbi Kripper led the congregation of Aruba’s Temple Beth Israel in the short session of prayer and song. Sabrina Sonenshin read an excerpt from Anne Frank’s Diary, expressing hope for the future despite the years spent hiding from the Nazis in an attic in Amsterdam.
Group prayers ended with a recital of the Mourner’s Kaddish, the traditional prayer for those passed on, and in singing the Hatikvah, the Israeli anthem, which literally means “The Hope.”
Pastors Martes and Patrona came forward to explain why they felt compelled to attend the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony. Paster Martes recounted being in Berlin at the same time of year and observing the city lit with memorial candles, and having the opportunity to see the sites of camps. It was an occasion that heightened his belief in tolerance, and awareness for all the Jews had suffered, but still they endure. Pastor Patrona pointed out the very important role that Jews fleeing the Inquisition two hundred years prior to the Holocaust, then settling on the two neighboring islands, had played in the establishment of commerce and prosperity for Aruba and Curacao. It is his belief that most having been Sephardic Jews from Spain and Africa, allowed them to understand the languages of the slaves brought to the Curacao markets, enabling them to maintain more of their original language, which eventually evolved into Papiamento.
The evening ended with the placing of six yahrzeit candles, the traditional lights of memorial to those passed on, at the foot of the statue of Anne Frank. Each one is in memory for a million of “the six million Jews whose lives were extinguished during the Holocaust. As we light these candles, we commit ourselves to the responsibility for one another to build on this earth a world that has no room for hatred, no place for violence. Together, we pray for the strength to fulfill this vocation.”
First 50 Years Project:
Our fundraising campaign for the renovation of our facilities at Beth Israel, marking, 50 uninterrupted years of Jewish life in Aruba is under way.
We thank our local members who have made generous donations for this purpose.
We are also grateful for the many Overseas Members that have made donations of symbolic bricks for the renovation.
You can join them too. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to pledge your amount. We’ll be glad to contact you when we receive your mail.
Thanks very much in advance from all of us.
Jewish Community Welcomes a New Torah
It is a rare and remarkable occasion in the life of any Jewish person anywhere in the world to participate in a Siyyum Sefer Torah, the occasion of welcoming a new, kosher Torah into the synagogue. Members of the congregation of Temple Beth Israel of Aruba were so blessed on Monday evening, January 24 2011.
The tiny Jewish community was faced with a dilemma; they were informed by their spiritual leader, Rabbi Dr. Mario Gurevich, that the existing Torah scrolls, which have rested in the Ark of the temple sanctuary more than 50 years, were ravaged by time and tropical weather. For a scroll to be truly kosher it must be absolutely perfect, and the community did not have the funds to acquire a new one, which takes at least a year to be made by a special scribe, or Sofer, trained for this holy task. There are over 4000 laws a Sofer must know before qualified to produce a Sefer Torah. There are 304,805 characters in a Sefer Torah, and each must be flawless, as must be the spelling of each name and place.
Temple member Judith Lindenfeld and her daughter Vivien Ressler responded to the needs of her temple with a great mitzvah, a kind act which comes from the heart, and purchased a new Kosher Torah for Temple Beth Israel. It was donated in the name of Vivien’s son, Jordan Alexander, who died in an accident 6 years ago at the age of 23. “Jordan was always active and involved in his faith;” recalled Judith and Vivien, “we believe this donation in his name would have meaning for him, and we feel it is a proper tribute to his memory.”
Judith and Vivien performed the ritual ceremony of bringing the new Torah into the shul accompanied by an honor guard that held the huppa, a holy canopy. The torah was joyously greeted by the congregation with song and dance, and temple members each took a turn parading the new torah around the sanctuary while others greeted it with a kiss. Along with the new acquisition were also two of the Beth Israel’s old holy scrolls, returned after being restored and declared sefer, thanks to the generosity of temple members David Cybul and Benjamin Pick. After prayers of welcome and blessing, the scrolls were placed in the Aron HaKodesh. Judith and Vivien graciously hosted a celebratory dinner in the social hall following the welcoming service.
“The perfection of these scrolls is so important that no matter what are our religious positions, from the extreme Reform to the ultra-Orthodoxy, we all agree in this point,” explained Rabbi Dr. Gurevich. “For the first time, our Congregation will own three kosher Sifre Torah, which is a matter of holiness and a milestone in our Jewish life.
Aruban P.M. Welcomes Future Rabbis to Caribbean
Dovid Kotlarsky and Shua Greenspan travelled to the Netherlands realm last week as part of a swing through the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. They were among 400 students sent to communities around the world by Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, and its colloquially-known “Roving Rabbis” program.
With a Jewish history going back more than two centuries, Aruba today is home to an estimated 20 Jewish families. Its Jewish prime minister leads the Aruban People’s Party.
Aruban Prime Minister Mike Eman, the country’s fifth since gaining constitutional independence from the Netherlands, dons the Jewish prayer boxes known as tefillin with a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinical student who travelled to the Caribbean island as part of the “Roving Rabbis” program.
Tony, a long time member of Aruba’s small Jewish community and its de-facto historian, led Dovid Kotlarsky and Shua Greenspan on a tour of the island, including the cemetery where his parents were buried.
Prime Minister Mike Eman shows the students a photograph of his recently passed-away mother. Eman’s father, Henny Eman, was Aruba’s first and third prime minister.