For me there is no greater spiritual feeling than being immersed in art, music, and song and sharing the experience with others. It is sanctifying time and space. JG
For me there is no greater spiritual feeling than being immersed in art, music, and song and sharing the experience with others. It is sanctifying time and space. JGView full post
BY BEIT T’SHUVAH | DECEMBER 17, 2012 · 10:42 AM David in Krakow 2 Votes By David Gole Having just arrived back from my trip to Poland, I have several experiences I am still reflecting on. While Warsaw was a very exiting city, Krakow is a different story. When I picture Poland I envision a… Continue reading »View full post
Rykestrasse Synagogue Berlin, L’dor VaDor, Cantor Joseph Gole and congregation, Cantors Assembly – YouTubeView full post
May the New Year bring you and yours only blessings, good health, success, happiness, peace, wisdom, and love. May sunlight break through all clouds to brighten each day. May new melodies enrich our souls and expand our horizons. May all our hopes and dreams come true. May laughter fill our homes. May the memory of… Continue reading »View full post
BY BEIT T’SHUVAH | DECEMBER 17, 2012 · 10:42 AM
David in Krakow
By David Gole
Having just arrived back from my trip to Poland, I have several experiences I am still reflecting on. While Warsaw was a very exiting city, Krakow is a different story. When I picture Poland I envision a lot of old buildings and snow. Krakow fulfills that exact stereotype in a way that it glorifies the past. During World War II, Krakow was virtually untouched by the Nazis with only a few of the monuments being rebuilt. In retrospective, my experience in Krakow was both joyous and emotional.
Part of my trip was to learn about Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, which runs a program to educate high school students about Jewish culture in their town. The first day in Krakow, we traveled to the near by town of Wadowice, which is the hometown of Pope John Paul II and home to almost 2,000 Jews before the war. There we visited the local high school and engaged in what the students were learning about Jewish culture. The students asked us questions about America and wanted to learn more about what it meant for us to be Jewish.
Living in Los Angeles where a large percentage of the people I know are Jewish, I don’t really think about what it means to me. In this small town where the Nazis exterminated almost every Jew, to be able to come to this town was both a unique and special experience. After a short tour of the monuments around the town, we left an everlasting impression on these students and went on our way back to Krakow.
Along with the happy experience of meeting these kids, I also experienced one of the most horrifying things to ever happen on this planet – Auschwitz. The day we went to Auschwitz, we were on the bus before the sun came up. It was around -14°C and I was still cold with my 3 Layers of Clothing. When we got off the bus, the haunted feeling of being in a place where millions of people were murdered consumed me. In the first camp of Auschwitz, called “Auschwitzy One,” the first thing you notice is the infamous sign that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means “work makes you free”. The barracks, which were intended to house 100 polish soldiers, were used to house 1,000 prisoners at a time.
Auschwitz one is also home to the only remaining gas chamber and crematorium. On the walls of the gas chamber you can see nail marks of the victims trying to claw their way out. Although Auschwitz one killed millions, it seemed like a cakewalk compared to Birkenau, or “Auschwitz Two.”
At Birkenau, the second camp of Auschwitz, everything is outdoors and the shelters consisted of thin planks of wood and tiny three level bunks, which they piled on as many people as they could on one bunk. The toilets were nothing but holes in stone benches and all of the prisoners were given a total of 5 minutes each day for everyone to use them. Only half of Birkenau still stands while the Nazis destroyed the rest of the camp during the Soviet invasion.
The most powerful experience I had was in the building called the Sauna. The Sauna is where everybody who worked in Birkenau got processed and where all of the paperwork was stored. At the last part of the sauna, my father, Cantor Joseph Gole, led us in the Kiddush to mourn the souls of the fallen and we followed with the singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli National anthem. By the end of the prayers, nearly everyone in our group was very emotional with tears in their eyes. In that moment, my father and I shared one of the most emotional experiences in my life as we walked out of the camp in an embrace both crying.
While the Holocaust was a tragedy in itself, there are two ways to view the aftermath. I can either see the Holocaust as the worst thing to ever happen to the Jewish people—an event that took several of my family members away. Or I can see it in a more positive light. Hitler’s goal was to kill off every Jew on the planet, a mission that was never complete. In that sense, we won. Today, Jews are now able to sing Jewish prayers in Auschwitz, which probably makes Hitler scream in his grave.
In a few weeks, I will be going on a birthright trip to Israel. With the knowledge I have acquired on my trip to Poland, I will have a better understanding and appreciation for the creation of a Jewish homeland.
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Filed under Community, Education, Gratitude, Incarceration, International, Judaism, Spirituality
Tagged as 6 Million Jews, auschwitz, Auschwitz One, Aushcwitz Two, Birkenau, Forum For Dialogue Among Nations, Hatikvah, Holocaust, Jewish Homeland, Judaism, Krakow, Poland, The Sauna
May the New Year bring you and yours only blessings, good health, success,
happiness, peace, wisdom, and love.
May sunlight break through all clouds to brighten each day.
May new melodies enrich our souls and expand our horizons.
May all our hopes and dreams come true.
May laughter fill our homes.
May the memory of those no longer with us warm our hearts.
And may all be safe.
שנה טובה ומתוקה
Shana Tova Umetuka (Sweet New Year!)
written by: Menachem Rosensaft
It oftentimes seems as if we forget to live in the moment since the moment is all there really is in life. I have no way of knowing what could happen to my loved ones, friends, family or me in the next moment – let alone the next year. In the moment, I look out my window at the magnificent sky, the trees, grass and the beauty that is all around. I am going to try this coming year to live more in the moment and recognize the miracles all around me in the present. I am going to treasure each moment as if it were my last and try to do one positive and meaningful action for those around me and for myself. We read tomorrow in the poetry and liturgy of our Rosh Hashanah Service about what could occur this coming year – famine, flood, earthquake, fire, auto accident, cancer, and a host of other unpredictable events. Allow me to dedicate my awareness to that which is around me and to do what I can to make this world a little better place by my actions, deeds and thoughts in the present and in the moment so as to give meaning to every second of my life. I want to thank all of you for your love and support. May our year be filled with blessings. Shana Tova U’metukah, JG
Friday, I returned from the Cantors Assembly Mission to Germany and Israel. I had the opportunity of singing in Berlin at the Rykesstrase Synagogue and in Munich at Hercules Hall. I also joined with my colleagues in leading a Friday night Shabbat service at the southern steps of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Israel. The trip was full of emotion, education, thoughts and memorable experiences that will take time to process and digest. Everyone on our trip had an experience that they will talk about for the rest of their lives. The unanswerable question that lingers for me is how could the atrocities committed by a civilized and cultured people occur during the dark and horrible years of 1933 to 1945. The other question that haunts me is why does anti-semitism still exist today disguised by labels such as “zionism is racism’? I know scholars have attempted to find an answer and an explanation. However, I shall never understand how a people that has contributed so much to the world in the sciences, art, music, literature, economics and academia is so despised and hated. Meanwhile, the miracle, energy and vitality of Israel is something we should all treasure and cherish. We must be ever vigilant to safeguard the State of Israel from baseless and distorted anti-semitic attacks by those who would twist and manipulate the truth. Thank God for the blessing of the State of Israel. And thank God, we live at a time in which the State of Israel exists for the Jewish people. JG
We need to start our day by pausing and reflecting on the infinite blessings that abound in our lives. Our world is filled with miracles and beauty. We need to stop for a moment from our hectic and frantic lives and reflect on the many gifts that are all around us. We need to breathe and observe for a moment the miracle of life itself and the wonder of our world and universe. May we experience and appreciate every moment and may we learn to give thanks and express gratitude to those around us that give meaning and love to our existence. JG
I want to personally extend an invitation to you. Please join me this coming Shabbat morning, May 12th, at Kehillat Maarav. I will be leading the service with Rabbi Michael Gotlieb, a very dear friend. The service begins at 9:30 and ends at 12:00. I will be singing from the beginning and throughout the service. The service is very participatory and unaccompanied. I know you will enjoy the intimacy and informality combined with the unique sense of community the service offers. The sanctuary is small and the feeling is intimate and warm. I am very excited about my participation in this service.
It would be great if you could join me. Your friendship and support mean a lot and your attendance would be really inspiring. I have provided the synagogues web page address for your convenience:
The address is 1715 21st Street, Santa Monica. It is right off of Olympic Boulevard.
See you on Shabbat morning. Warmest regards, Joe
I am in the process of picking the music for our opening concert in Germany. As you may know, together with my colleagues of the Cantors Assembly, we are traveling to Germany and Israel. Our mission, which will be joined by lay people from congregations all over the world, is part of the Cantors Assembly goal of spreading understanding, peace and love through the universality of our liturgical music. Our goal is to link the past to the present by acknowledging and learning about the history of our people and understanding the important contributions they made to the culture and society of where they lived. I picked several selections of Louis Lewandowski (1821 – 1894), who composed for the Rykesstrase Synagogue in Berlin, the site of our opening program and concert. Louis Lewandowski’s music is used throughout the world and many of his melodies are part of almost every service. One of my congregants attended services at the Rykesstrase Synagogue when she was a little girl. Imagine being in a synagogue where the music we are singing was first presented and heard 150 years ago. I want to extend to you my personal invitation to join with me on a historic and unforgettable trip to Germany and Israel. I promise you it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. JG
Join me on the Cantors Assembly Mission to Germany and Israel. Please click below for details:
This past week, I met a truly remarkable man. He is a French Catholic Priest who has dedicated his life to locating the mass graves of the first victims of the Holocaust. We owe Father Patrick Desbois a debt of gratitude and appreciation for memorializing those whose disappearance would be otherwise lost to the annals of history. Father Desbois, a man of profound personal faith, understands the power of words and teaching and most of all the importance of action. All of us need to learn from him and rededicate ourselves to taking action when we see injustice, to not empowering those who do evil by remaining silent. Today provides us with the opportunity of making a difference. We need to make a commitment to take action and fulfill our obligation of opposing evil and pursuing justice. JG