Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Yom HaShoah at UC Berkeley Hillel, year 2000

Posted by Oyster on July 29, 2012

[This is a recollection of something that transpired over ten years ago. Why am I writing this now? Just seemed apropos for Tisha B’Av.]

I ate my last meal before the fast took hold. After sundown, I took off my shoes and socks, and slipped out of Bowles Hall to walk down Gayley Road to the Reutlinger Center. The Berkeley Hillel had organized a 25-hour schedule of activities commemorating the Holocaust, starting with a memorial service. Students gathered and began to kindle tealights near the auditorium.

Josh Miller, then the JCSC fellow, helped lead the service and introduced everyone to a niggun that he learned on a trip to Poland. I recall that he said that when his trip was taught that song, and they began to sing the niggun and dance in a former Jewish neighborhood, an old Polish woman came up to them and said that she had not heard that song since her early childhood. [Please listen to this niggun and propagate its memory:  M4A format]

I went back to my dorm for a short rest, then arose at 3 AM to head to the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft. The sky was red, reflecting the urban light pollution off of the underside of the fog bank hovering over the city. I could see snatches of the Campanile as it faded in and out of the fog. I found a group of four students standing in a tight huddle around a memorial candle, clutching reams of paper. A close inspection showed that the pages held, in dense, fixed-width font the names of thousands of victims of the Holocaust. The students took turns reciting the name of a victim, perhaps with their age and their country. Sadly, sometimes entire families were listed together, and one could envision the tragedy that the terse computer print-out did not explicitly recount. This solemn vigil was kept for 25 hours throughout Yom HaShoah, and I joined in for an hour in the dead of night, barefoot.

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