Yom HaShoah and The 5-Legged Table: the Primacy of Memory

May 7, 2024


What makes for a strong Jewish identity? Some hold that connection to community is required; others say familiarity with sacred texts and the Jewish calendar is necessary, and for others, a taste for dark humor and smoked fish are prerequisites… 

However, according to lifelong Jewish educator, Avraham Infeld, “being Jewish is like having a 5-legged table.” As any engineer worth their salt will tell you, a table needs at least 3 legs to stand firm without the possibility of imminent collapse and so, in this 5-legged table analogy, a strong Jewish identity is most likely achieved when one has deep connections to at least 3 of the following “legs”: Memory, Family, Covenant, Israel and Hebrew.

According to Infeld, “The most important part of being a Jew is a sense of Jewish memory,” and with Passover just behind us, and in anticipation of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the first leg, memory, feels incredibly salient. Similar to retelling the Exodus narrative and, as we are commanded, seeing ourselves as if we too came out of Egypt, it is imperative that we hear stories of those who perished in the Holocaust and first-hand accounts from the precious few survivors still alive to tell their own stories. In doing so, we may remain mindful of this painful aspect of the Jewish people’s collective past and, while not being defined by that suffering, we may incorporate those stories into our own, ensuring that their timeless lessons are brought to bear in the present. This, I believe, is encapsulated beautifully in Vicki Angel’s painting, Family Ties, pictured above. 

We have such an opportunity in honor of Yom HaShoah, next Tuesday, May 7th: Please join us for a conversation with Eva Zelig, director of the documentary, An Unknown Country, and Tomas Kohn who is featured in this film about Jewish families who escaped from Europe and settled in Ecuador during World War II. Though the trailer of the film will be shown at this event, we hope that you will watch the film before the talk at home at the following link (https://vimeo.com/407773235  PASSWORD: exiles). 

We also hope you will join us for Teacher Appreciation Shabbat B’yachad! Tonight, beginning at 5:30pm with Tot Shabbat, dinner at 6pm, and services at 7pm, we will honor those who help to build the foundations and secure those “table legs” for our community’s youngest members – our Ansin Religious School teachers! Please help us thank and lift up these integral members of the Temple Ohabei Shalom community. 


Rabbi Jenn Queen