A MONTH OF REMEMBRANCE
November is a month of remembrance. Jewish remembrance of Kristallnacht, the ‘Night of the Broken Glass, of 9th November 1938, when Nazi persecution of the Jewish people turned to violence, almost coincides with the anniversary of Armistice Day, when the First World War finally ended at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Mentioning both these dates in the same sentence reminds us that just 20 years after the so-called ‘war to end all wars’, another world war beckoned. This year, BHPS will be participating in two days of remembrance of the First and Second World Wars, beginning with 11th November, when the Shabbat service will include special prayers and readings, and will be followed by an afternoon of creative writing and reminiscence, accompanied by an exhibition. The exhibition will also be displayed on Sunday, 12th November, when we will be hosting the Brighton and Hove Branch of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women for a special Remembrance Sunday service.
Importantly, despite the proximity of 9th and 11th November, they belong to very different calendars of remembrance. A series of November dates in Jewish history tells an all-too-familiar story. On the 1st November 1290, the Christian ‘Feast of All Souls’, the Jews of England were expelled, following the edict of expulsion signed by Edward the Confessor on 18th July of that year. A century later, the Jews of France were expelled on 3rd November 1394. On 9th November 1526 Jews are expelled from the city of Pressburg in Hungary. On 13th November 1757 the Talmud was burned in Poland. On 22nd November 1547 the tiny Jewish community of Asolo near Treviso in Italy was massacred. On 23rd November 1510 the Jews were expelled from Naples
Jewish remembrance turns, paradoxically, on, both, our continual recollection of our ancestors’ liberation from slavery during the daily evening and morning services, each Shabbat and annually, at Pesach, and remembrance of our history of churban – ‘destruction’ – in particular, at Tishah B’Av, which marks the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
Interestingly, amongst the November dates that tell the story of churban, we find two that played a part in transforming the destiny of the Jewish people in the 20th century. On 2nd November 1917, Lord Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild concerning the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine – a letter that has since become known as ‘the Balfour Declaration’. On 29th November 1947, the United Nations voted to support the partition of the disputed land into two states, Israel and Palestine. Thirty years apart, there is no doubt that if it hadn’t been for the Sho’ah that UN vote would never have taken place. As it happens, Lord Balfour’s letter to Lord Rothschild made it clear that the British government support for a homeland for the Jewish people was contingent upon ensuring that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Sadly, events between 1917 and 1947 were not conducive to a mutually acceptable solution that would enable both peoples to enjoy sovereignty and security. And events since 1947 – not least, the 1948-49 war against the newly established Jewish state, and the Six Day War of June 1967 and subsequent occupation of the land beyond the 1949 ceasefire ‘green line’ – have so far scuppered every attempt at achieving a just peace. We can only hope that another milestone, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel in May next year, will bring renewed efforts towards creating at long last, a State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.