On resilience: Making us tired is their goal. Let it not be ours.

Rabbi Rebecca Blady, Managing Director of our Partner Hillel Deutschland, opened the annual "Festival of Resilience" with an emotional speech at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

Berlin, 06.10.2022

For the last three years, we at Hillel have been privileged to kick off the Festival of Resilience with a sort of private space, an hours-long, Yom Kippur service in nearby Neukölln.

Last night, I emerged from the services, which always feature prayer leaders and Torah chanters from our small group of Halle survivors, absolutely glowing. Yom Kippur, the sacred annual fast day on the Jewish calendar, focused on self-reflection, atonement, forgiveness, and oneness with G-d, has always been one of my favourites. I felt, finally, like I had reclaimed this day. Disconnected from the world, diminished to the bare essentials of my humanness. My communication with God thrives.

Then, as I do every year, after letting some hours of peace pass after those first bites of food, I turned on my phone to reveal this year’s city under antisemitic attack: Hannover. A broken window in the women’s section, a sanctuary of 200 people, in the middle of the Ne’ilah prayer at the end of the day. The most vulnerable time, before the concluding sound of the Shofar, when people are physically weakest.
After reading the initial news, I turned to Instagram. My fellow Jewish activists posting, “Bin ich Müde. I’m tired.”
Indeed: This is the fourth consecutive year in which terrorists have disrupted Yom Kippur and Sukkot in Jewish communities in Germany.

Halle. Hamburg. Hagen. Now, Hannover. Naturally, you are tired. I am tired. But, my friends, “tired” is THEIR goal. Let it not be ours.

Terrorists have been chipping away at our safety in Germany, using our holiest days to drive home the most fatigue. By now, many of us are likely thinking: If we can’t be safe on our holy days, how can we be safe all year? It’s too exhausting, to make a life here. This is what they want us to think – because it discourages us from more visibility, from more authenticity, in how we live our lives.

And it threatens, also, to drive a wedge between us. If we get too tired, we risk weighing one terrorist act in comparison with another terrorist act. I don’t have enough energy to care about everything, so let me pick. But if we find ourselves in a position of rendering judgment on our fellow community members – this, too, achieves their goal.

All of this brings me to what we are doing here. When we initially conceived the Ceremony of Resilience in 2020, we chose to invite speakers who had spent years of their lives cultivating resilience in response to hate. That first year, Farouk Arslan and Anetta Kahane joined us, sharing with us messages of inspirations and tools for building strength.

This year, I find myself in a strange position. Having myself run to safety from the sanctuary of the Halle Synagogue, I can picture the alarm, the fear, the destroyed opportunity to beg G-d for G-d’s last drops of mercy as the Gates of Heaven close on Yom Kippur day. I can empathize, even, with the probable spiritual crisis about to befall members of this community. I extend heartfelt wishes of care and concern to the Gemeinderabbiner, Rabbi Shlomo Afanasev, the Vorstand, and the community leadership – the task before you is too great to imagine. How will you care for this community? How will you bear the burden of carrying them to healing, having yourselves been there too?

And I can tell you, three years later: I have found my own answer here, in Resilience.
Resilience teaches us the many ways human beings might move from moments of trauma and tragedy.

We don’t necessarily “move forward,” and we don’t necessarily “move on” – that’s a lot to ask of someone – but we do move. That’s the difference between remembrance and resilience.

Resilience is a tool for movement. It does not promise to heal all, but it can strengthen us. The beauty of resilience is how many forms it can take. We learn to integrate the past into our existence, to remain dynamic, to find hope, to be inspired by art, poetry, music, text, and testimony. We learn to live in the world, we learn to keep learning, to keep being curious about ourselves and our fellow humans.

The keynote event of the Festival of Resilience, is about building ourselves up from our stories, gathering our strength, finding a way forward. It’s about honouring Jana L. and Kevin S., who lost their lives to hateful violence, whose lives – it feels like – were taken in exchange for ours.

We will encounter people who have endured violence. Hatred. Terror. Migration. Death – of a loved one, of a stranger. We will be reminded of war, as the senseless one ongoing in Ukraine, and of struggles for human rights, like those led today by women in Iran.

We will consider that, as we paint pictures and frame narratives of these human moments, that there is always someone whose story isn’t being told. We can only hope to give justice to those stories.

The Talmud teaches:
לֹא תֹהוּ בְרָאָהּ, לָשֶׁבֶת יְצָרָהּ.

God did not create the world to be a chaotic wasteland; God formed the world to be lived in.

Throughout these presentations, you’ll notice that we find a common challenge: Are we home? This place, Germany – is it our home?

It’s a particularly live question the day after Yom Kippur. Now that we’ve been granted life, how might we live?

Each year, the Festival of Resilience marks my own re-encounter with this question. To me, home is a place I want to build. To others, home can mean something entirely different.

I invite you to grapple with this question. I hope that what we share brings inspiration and strength, and of course, resilience in your own journey.

Thank all of you for your resilience.
Through pandemic, through war.
Through struggles personal, academic, economic, familial.
Through fights for freedom around the world.
Thank you, because you’re here.

Explore what we do

Confront the past

Combat antisemitism

Protect minorities

Strengthen democracy

Reinforce critical thinking

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