a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Kol Nidre

Posted on: September 24, 2012

From a Kol Nidre sermon in 5769

…A generation later millions of Jews who had survived the Holocaust wandered in search of communities and a way of life that had been shattered, like the windows of their homes and businesses on Kristallnacht. One who emerged out of the fires of the Shoah was Reb Leizer. Liberated from Buchenwald by American forces, Reb Leizer paused at its gates and wondered, “Where should I go?” He harbored some glimmer of hope that his youngest son, whom he had smuggled out of the ghetto just before being deported, had survived.

Reb Leizer bought a hand organ and with it strapped to his back he began wandering the countryside. At each village he came to he would set the organ down and begin playing. Children would flock to his side. As they surrounded him, Reb Leizer would begin playing Kol Nidre. Immediately the faces of some of the children would reveal signs of recognition, of sadness, of longing. Reb Leizer would linger with those children, asking them, “Have you seen my son?” Always the response would be the same. With sorrow in their voices, they would say, “No, we haven’t seen him.” After a while, Reb Leizer, rather than increasing their sadness, would speak to the yearning that he saw the Kol Nidre melody had evoked from deep within their souls. He began reassuring them that Judaism had survived and that the Jewish people together would find homes for each one of them. Though he was unable to find his son, Reb Leizer was credited with saving scores of Jewish children from despair and with restoring their faith.

At the end of his search, Reb Leizer took his organ and buried it in the ruins of a destroyed synagogue in a town in Poland and then went to Israel. People from that district of Poland say that at times they hear the tunes of a hand organ coming out of the earth, and among the tunes is the melody of Kol Nidre.

May the mysteries of Kol Nidre be with you. I hope you have a reflective fast.

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