Yom Kippur: New Meaning, New Media, New Martyrology
One of the most painful of all Jewish prayers is "Eleh Ezkereh,” "These We Remember," often called the Martyrology -- the passage we read on Yom Kippur that describes in utter graphic detail the torture and death of ten great Rabbis by the Roman Empire, two thousand years ago.
In the video right below, you can share some newer memories not in words alone but in the media of our generation – film and video -- of ten people who were killed during the last 50 years because they were affirming profound Jewish values.
This extraordinary film was made by Larry Bush, editor of Jewish Currents, a revitalized bimonthly Jewish print magazine that is politically, culturally, and artistically creative. As part of the film, Rabbi Liz Bolton chants some haunting melodies that evoke the ancient and the modern stories.
And we see the faces and hear the words of these courageous men and women of our own epoch: Schwerner. Goodman. Krause. Moffitt. Milk. Linder. Krichevsky. Rabin. Chain. Pearl. A minyan of martyrs. After you have absorbed this film, you can find their stories in words here.
They are Jews, mostly young, who were killed during the last 50 years for affirming what for them were the Jewish values of peace, justice, truth, and healing of the Earth. In most cases, they were killed alongside people from other communities – upholding in the face of death the same values, rooted in other traditions.
That fact itself gives new depth and meaning to Yom Kippur for our generation, because it stems from a new situation of the Jewish people: We are not alone in the world in affirming our deep values. We can have allies — if we turn our attention and our selves to working with other communities to heal the world.
If you want to use this six-minute film in your Yom Kippur services, we can arrange for you to be able to download it. First, please make a (tax-deductible) donation of at least $18 to The Shalom Center by clicking here. and type "Martyrs" in the "Honor of" space. Then email email@example.com to ask how to download the film. (If your donation totals at least $180, we will also send you as our thank-you Rosh Hashanah gift a one-year free subscription to Jewish Currents.)
May the memories of all these tzaddikim continue as a teaching and blessing to us. And may we remember, as I have been taught by Shoshana Waskow, that our memories of these martyrs will not be fulfilled until we have learned from them to create a society in which there are no more martyrs –-- in which no one is killed for seeking peace, justice, truth, or the healing of the earth. -- Arthur