Following the death of my stepmother, a Holocaust survivor, I felt that the responsibility to tell the cautionary story of the Shoah fell to my generation and to me. I decided to produce and direct The Diary of Anne Frank at Rosemead High School, a majority minority school east of Los Angeles. The challenge was to get the students to make an intimate connection with a young girl and her family who died long before they were born and in a faraway land. I knew that group of kids was special, but was still surprised when every member of the cast gave up a Sunday to visit the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. We were fortunate that we arrived just in time to hear Elizabeth Mann, a survivor, tell her story that brought the entire audience to tears. While we exited Ms. Mann hugged each teary eyed student and gathered the cast together.
“I want you to promise me two things,” she said. “Never give in to hate, because hate and fear caused all of this. And never lose hope, for without hope even in my worst times in the camps, I would not be here today.”
Although we are living in a difficult time, I remember the advice of Elizabeth Mann who survived the very worst of times. I refuse to lose hope. I know that our amazing community will survive our challenges and emerge from this pandemic stronger and more appreciative of each other.
We are Temple Beth Hillel.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when? -Rabbi Hillel