From this week’s parshah—Achrei Mot—we focus on the middah “Make good decisions as a community.” It derives from a verse that commands the people of Israel to reject violent laws and practices, performed in Ancient Egypt and the land of Canaan. The Torah teaches us how to draw on practices and traditions that help us act differently than others.
This week, our Grade 8 students led a moving Yom HaShoah commemoration. During the ceremony, they reminded us about those whose lives were enveloped by the Holocaust and those who stood up against the Nazis and their laws.
As part of our commemoration, we were also blessed to have an exhibit on loan to our school from the Consul General of Kosovo, documenting the heroism of Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews during the Shoah.
Little known in Shoah history, Albania sheltered and protected its entire Jewish population. It is the only European country that had more Jews after the Shoah than before. There are 75 Albanian individuals listed in Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations. The Consul General of Kosovo, with permission from Yad Vashem, owns what is likely the only updated version of the BESA* exhibit, featuring photographs of some of these righteous heroes. Special thanks to Mr. Donat Syla, Consul General of Kosovo, and Heschel parent Dave Gordon for facilitating this opportunity.
*“The remarkable assistance afforded to the Jews was grounded in Besa, a code of honor, which still today serves as the highest ethical code in the country. Besa literally means “to keep the promise.” One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family. The help afforded to Jews and non-Jews alike should be understood as a matter of national honor” (cited from Yad Vashem).
Fortunately, today, we have the opportunity to practice the middah “Make good decisions as a community” in much less trying conditions. Still, it isn’t always easy to do so. It takes courage and community solidarity to make and stick by good decisions.
This Shabbat, may we all have an opportunity to reflect on how we can be part of making good decisions as a community.