Sixty Years Later
Romy Golan

The sky lit into sparks of golden fire as the sun receded behind the trees. The ground darkened, and uncertainty filled the air. Pulses pumped rapidly as cold air crept its way around people’s spines.
Shabbat was entering quickly, and they were prepared to welcome it. With hushed whispers, they gathered into the main lobby – Hanover was ready to bless the Sabbath. Men and women separated, hustling to their reserved spaces.
“All females upstairs, please,â€? the Cantor announced. The whispers soon became a loud roar; voices echoed off each other and reverberated from the walls. People reunited, greeting long lost friends. Eyes wide with excited anticipation, people looked around at vaguely familiar faces. Four loud bangs sounded from the pulpit; the room abruptly plunged into deafening silence.
It was hard to believe that sixty years ago these men and women gathered with many others at this very synagogue. Very few had survived the Holocaust, and those who did had no place to worship. Their beaten faces and disheveled clothing reflected the broken ark and benches, the burned books, and shattered windows. Just as the synagogue lost its roof, many of the worshippers lost their ability to believe. However, this Friday evening, sixty years later, the building stood strong, as did its visitors. Their faces had seen many years, yet these survivors still stood together. There was not an empty seat to be found. Generations crowded together, determined to stand as one and remember. Memory was painful this evening as harsh and vivid images of the past raced through everyone’s mind.
“Shema Israel Adoshem Elokeynu, Adoshem Echod.â€? The majestic sentence cut through the emotional reverie, as the Cantor officially began services. Male voices, noble and strong, joined with lighter notes as the women joined in, and together all chanted the holy words. The stained glass windows reflected the last bits of sunlight and danced to the powerful tone filling the room.
Earlier, so many different languages could be heard, each with its own inflections and melody patterns, yet it was the Hebrew text in the Siddur that bound everyone that night. Language barriers– English, Hebrew, Polish, German, and French – were lost as all joined in Jewish ritual.
I will always remember that poignant scene. Sixty years after their liberation these valiant souls opened their hearts to forgive but never to forget.

* Romy Golan, a 16 year old high school junior at the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School in New York City attended the sixtieth anniversary ceremonies commemorating the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp with her grandparents who are Holocaust survivors.