Updated: Nov 1, 2020
Sunday April 30th 2017.
It was in Vernon, BC.
At a gathering to remember our people and communities of the past, while praying and reinstating our relentless call of "never again" for the future.
People were very friendly.
They expressed their shared pain for what our people have been through, and their proud pledge of support for the future.
After my talk at the podium, one woman walked by and said: "we will always be here to support you".
Another tall man proudly said, as I quickly walked by him: "never again, that's why we're gathered here today".
I particularly remember one woman saying to me: "Such interesting remarks; "remember" is not only a word that connotes the past, rather we also must "remember" (consider) the future".
As I finally reached the back of the room, back to the place where I was standing in attendance, I encountered one more man who also verbalized his words of support and encouragement.
He introduced himself as a Pastor in Vernon, B.C.
"Thank you for your kind words" I responded, slowly concluding what I thought was my purpose in attending the gathering that day.
Standing quietly among the supportive crowed was a young man named Samuel.
It seemed as though Samuel was faithfully standing beside "his" Pastor; the very one who had just expressed his thoughtful sentiments of support for the Jewish people.
Ok, I didn't think much of it.
Seemingly unable to contain "the secret", he semi-accidentally remarked: "This is really important to me because my mom was also Jewish.
"Wow", I thought, "Now I know another reason why G-d brought me here today".
Samuel painfully shared with me that his mom had just passed away.
In fact, she passed away exactly one week prior.
He considered this gathering to be a great honour for her, and was happy that he attended.
We spoke about his mother and the Jewish people, and about what it means to me and to him to be a Jew.
We continued talking....
That you and I can embrace our beautiful heritage.
That we can accept our true selves as members of the Jewish people.
That we can do it all proudly.
It is our essence.
It's the make and model of our soul.
It's our divine destiny that no human has any right to interfere with.
The fires of Auschwitz can't burn it.
Threats of doom and promises of salvation can't deny it.
Nothing can nor should distract us from being who we are.
In fact, that is exactly why we're gathered here today, to stand up and support.
We also conversed about the contemporary value and eternal truths embodied in our Holy Torah, and rediscovered together the potential for an enriching heritage that was full of depth, meaning and joy.
That Sunday afternoon, after a divinely inspired conversation, Samuel decided to remove the cross that was dangling from around his neck, as together we wrapped Tefillin for the very first time in his life.
We recited the "Shema Yisroel" prayer with tears of joyful reconnection, as Samuel re-embraced his people and his faith, in a very unexpected way.
I stretched out my arms and gave him a big huge family hug.
The more we explore as we should, the more we can become fascinated and inspired, finding authentic connection with our Jewishness and valuable purpose therein.
It could very well have been his mother on high, that brought us to do a Mitzvah the last day of Shiva, symbolizing rebirth and a new beginning.
For all of us.