Sunday, May 13, 2007

Counting the Omer Day 39 - 5 weeks, 4 days

Yesterday was Netzach she b'Yesod - a day of endurance in a week of foundation.

In the late 1960s, early 1970s, when I was a teenager, I went to many demonstrations aimed at raising awareness of the Jews who were not allowed to practice Judaism in the Soviet Union, nor were they allowed to leave. The hope was that the US government would act to help free the Soviet Jews.

With the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev and the thawing of the Cold War in the late 1980s, Jews were more readily allowed to emigrate. Some went to Israel, many came to the United States. What I didn't realize until my association with Beth Sholom is that many of them ended up in San Francisco.

Many of these Russian emigres settled in the Richmond district of San Francisco, which is where Beth Sholom is located. We have a group of elderly Russian men who are regulars at our minyan services. They still have memories of Jewish practice from their childhood. But there are many Russians who came here with their children who never had the chance to practice Judaism on any level. And now those children have children of their own. It is that third generation that now has the chance to learn about their Jewish heritage and to practice their faith.

Last year I participated in a Bar Mitzvah of just such a family. It was the first Bar Mitzvah for three generations. Not only did we witness the first aliyah of a 13-year-old boy, but also the first aliyah for his father. Such a proud and touching moment--there was not a dry eye in the house.

Yesterday at services, we had a baby naming for a little girl whose mother came here as a child with her parents. Both the mother and her parents came up for aliyot--their first ever. While the baby's father is not Jewish, he was there to show his support for the decision to raise their child in the Jewish faith. Another heartfelt, tearful moment.

Sometimes I wonder how Judaism ever survived through the ages. It's time like these that I know why.

No comments: