S Blog: Guest Post by Rabbi Joel Soffin

March 26, 2012
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I wanted to share with you an experience I had in Rwanda that  relates in a small way to the theme of the latest issue of Sh’ma.

My son was there taking video testimony of genocide survivors.

Some of the testimonies lasted as long as ten hours, for the survivors were telling the stories of their lives, their families and their communities.

I was able to sit in on one of these sessions. The young man had come at the suggestion of his cousin who had shared his testimony some two weeks earlier.

On the way to meet with him, we stopped to buy a simple, long bread.

He came into the room tense and anxious, with his mouth closed tightly and little expression on his face.

We shared the bread and introduced ourselves. The young man began to ease up a little. Then my son explained that he was named for his great-grandfather who had died in the Holocaust.

The young man whispered through pursed lips: “Then you understand.”

When the testimony was completed some five hours later, he repeated words that my son had said earlier: We are a family.

It was the shared bread and a similar historical experience that helped to make it so.

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Rabbi Joel E. Soffin served as the rabbi of Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ, for twenty seven years until his retirement in 2006. He founded the Adult Mitzvah Corps of the URJ and the teen Bonim Banim building projects, as well as the Million Quarter Project to feed Ethiopian children, micro-loans in Mexico and Israel, and other projects in Rwanda, Cambodia, and Ukraine. He is the founding president of Jewish Helping Hands.

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