- Shmuel Hoffman
Yom HaShoah: Song Of Atonement
Yom Hashoah is today.
And for me it’s a special Yom Hashoah this year for three main reasons
My Oma, age 92, was one of a few thousand “U-Boats” who survived the Holocaust in the heart of Berlin. About 2-3000 Jews are known to have survived the onslaught of the Nazis in the dragon's lair itself, and made it through in hiding with the help of mostly non-Jews, fake papers, and the many hiding spaces in the nooks and crannies of the sprawling metropolis of Berlin.
Right now is the time of a pandemic that mostly hits the elderly. Every day, survivors who are some of the last who can tell their story firsthand pass away from this deadly virus. I’m worried about my Oma and the other last survivors: Will they make it through so that we can honor them for the years to come especially on the recurring Yom Hashoah?
This year we have produced a film honoring Yom Hashoah by bringing it into the moment, the very real and existential threat that new antisemitism poses. It is a film about the experience of the Borovitzes of Base Berlin, and the Yom Kippur in 2019 that they spent inside a synagogue where an active shooter was outside aiming for them and the other Jews with them in prayer.
I got a phone call in January from Rabbi Paul of Addlestone after he'd seen my Siyum HaShas film. He asked if I’d be interested in participating in producing a short film about the Halle Synagogue terrorist attack that happened in November 2019 on Yom Kippur. The film was to be shown at the Yom Hashoah memorial gathering that was supposed to happen today in Charleston, NC. The event was to include a talk by Dr. Heike Fuller, German Consul General, and a screening of the award-winning Holocaust film German Shepherd by David Scott Paul. The event was to be held in one of Charleston's biggest movie theaters, and was to conclude with a banquet to honor the last survivors in the region.
It was a great coincidence/fate that I knew and was friends with two American Rabbis, Rebbeca Blady and Jeremy Borovitz, who live and help build a community of young Jews in Berlin. I had met them when filming for the Koren Noe Talmud film we produced. On that holy day in November, they had been invited to lead Yom Kippur prayers in the Halle synagogue, some two hours away from Berlin. So, in January, I traveled together with the Borovitzes from Berlin to Halle and had them tell their story of what it felt like to be attacked in Germany, 75 years after the end of World War II, because of being Jewish.
Then came Corona and changed everything. The live event was put on hold and I said: We are not giving up. Jetzt erst recht. We have to make it an online event. Who knows how long the last survivors will be around so that we can honor them for the years to come? For many it might be the last year we have that opportunity, G-d forbid.
Today, I present you the film that was supposed to be the opener of this live Yom HaShoah event. At first, it pained me that this event was not happening as planned. And then I thought. Wait, this is an even bigger Zechus: Now this can be something we can share worldwide with all of you. G-d had a plan for this to happen this way. To honor our last survivors in a big way and unite together in these challenging times.
Unfortunately, as antisemitism has been on the rise again for the last few years, the event in Halle reminds us that we need to strengthen our resolve in "Never again," and work to fight antisemitism however we can. I'll start with this film.