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Thursday 24, 2022 / 21 Adar II 5782
Dear TBC Family,
Avishai Margalit, a philosophy professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writes in his book, The Ethics of Memory, that at times there is a need for a moral duty of remembrance, especially the memory of “gross crimes against humanity, particularly when those crimes are an attack on the very notion of a shared humanity”. Those memories, of course, shape the way we live in the here and now, and how we respond to gross crimes against humanity in our own time.
It is within this context that I find myself utterly overwhelmed by the generosity of our congregation and broader community. Over the past several weeks, many of you, your family members and friends have donated generously to our efforts to raise much needed funds for Ukraine through donations that TBC pledged directly to Federation’s Ukraine Crisis Fund. I am humbled to report that our efforts raised a collective $5,833.62, $908.62 of which came from our bake sale held on Sunday 3/13 in connection with our Purim Carnival. TBC’s Social Action Committee added $2000 to that, and we have now presented Federation with a check for $7,833.62!! And the donations continue with another $200 pledged right after we cut the check!
As I promised in my initial outreach message, today I include another opportunity to make a difference. There is an international pro-democracy organization called the Free Russia Foundation that is working in Ukraine to organize and provide funding for buses to take refugees out of the country. For $5000, we can sponsor a bus and 50-55 passengers will be taken out of the country. This means 50-55 desperate lives saved. Donations in any amount will be added together to sponsor buses. My brother, Bernard Whitman, has worked with this group in Ukraine and sponsored a bus which earlier this week safely evacuated 53 women and children from the country. Please click here now to give what you can. Any amount will make a difference!
Please also know that I am in conversation with WiAct – Wilton Interfaith Action Committee – regarding opportunities to partner with them and other faith communities in sponsoring a Ukrainian family(ies) if/when that need arises. You may have seen the announcement that the US will be accepting up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. More to come on this as details emerge.
It is important to acknowledge and understand the humility and profound sense of gratitude I feel to be part of such an incredibly generous community. To think that Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazis which resulted in the massacre at Babi Yar was less than a hundred years ago, and to know that some of us have grandparents or great grandparents who fled Ukraine at that time or before is humbling to say the least. For the descendants of those Jews to now come together to save Ukrainians – many of them non-Jewish – is nothing short of extraordinary. It is one of the deepest acts of forgiveness I have ever witnessed. It is an Ethic of Memory that is beautiful and revolutionary.
In this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, the Israelites make forgiveness offerings (or korbanot) to God. These offerings or sacrifices of livestock were made by the priests and were meant to atone for the people’s sins; they were a way of collectively being in relationship with God, of drawing near to the Divine. Therefore, they were known as korbanot – the three letter shoresh (kuf, resh, vet), or root of which is ‘to draw close’. Because by giving sacrifices, they were bringing themselves closer to holiness, and Divine Presence.
Today, by giving of our own resources, we too are effecting forgiveness of a different kind – our own. And that, surely, will bring us closer to Holiness.
B’shira uv’racha – In song and prayer for the people of the Ukraine,
Cantor Harriet Dunkerley