Israel’s warm afternoon sun shone through the small glass bottles suspended in air. Each glass bottle held delicate flowers adorning the dusty dirt path walked by the bride and the groom to their Chuppah. The prism created by the glass bottles transformed the sun’s white light into a rainbow of colors. On that beautiful mid-September day, I saw my daughter, Shoshana Goldberg – the bride – and her groom, Micha Hacohen, in that spectacular transformation of nature.
Shoshana was radiant. Her face shone with love and life. Her simple, yet magnificent dress was alive as she moved as one with the cloth. Micah, the consummate Israeli, donned simple mustard-colored pants and a white button down shirt. His eyes were afire and his emotions unmasked. As afternoon turned to evening, the setting Jerusalem sun fired up the sky, turning it pink and red. The love of bride and groom matched the hues of the heaven.
When the dancing began, the power and magic of the prism took control. The guests came from all over Israel and the United States. They represented a wide group of friends and family, including nearly one hundred unleashed millennials. The food, the dancing, the laughter, the songs, the video, and the emotions transformed this grape vine and tree-filled outdoor setting into a wonderland. Here, the white light split apart, creating separate bands of color and space. Each person was at once separate with their own colorful personality, while at the same time part of the whole – bands of light joined.
With their union, Shoshana and Micha united the Goldberg and the Hacohen families. There is much that unites us – our Jewish traditions, love of family, friends, and the State of Israel. But there is also something tragic that unites our families – Treblinka.
Yes, Treblinka. Sam Goldberg, born in Bagatelle, Poland, is likely the person who survived the longest (13 months) at this place of death and torture. He was captured in June of 1942 and forced by the Nazis to help build the camp. Lasting 13 months, he participated in and escaped during the prisoner uprising on August 2, 1943. He survived, but for 870,000 others Treblinka meant death and torture.
Micha’s paternal great grandfather, Shmuel Hacohen, came to Israel well before the second World War from Salonika, Greece. But other members of the Hacohen family remained on the Mediterranean island. Some family members moved to nearby Macedonia. One such family member was Shmuel’s sister, Rebecca Phangi. With the Nazi takeover of Greece completed in June of 1941, the Jews were doomed. The Nazis and their Bulgarian allies gathered the Jews of Macedonia and sent them to Treblinka -by boat. Doda Rebecca was on one such boat to Treblinka. Micha’s great grandfather, Saba Shmuel, told that Doda Rebecca’s family died when the boat they were on sunk.
While weddings are joyous moments – and this one was indeed joyous – it is a deeply ingrained Jewish tradition to recall the destruction of the two Jewish Temples by stomping on and thus shattering a glass (or glasses) at the end of the ceremony. Even in our moments of greatest joy, we recall the sadness of our history.
The shattering of the glasses by Micha and Shoshana announced to all that we shall never forget the tragedies of our people. We shatter the glass to remember the Temples. We shatter the glass to mourn the death of Doda Rebecca and her family. We shatter the glass to remember Sam, whose Talis, together with my dad’s (Irwin Treiger), were part of the Chuppah above their heads.
On that unforgettable evening, just nine days ago, the prism of my heart was filled with joy, memories, hope and love.
Chuppah – Wedding Canopy
Doda – Aunt
Saba – Grandfather
Talis – Prayer Shawl
Eden Hacohen, September 24 & September 27, 2016
Wikipedia article: Axis Occupation of Greece: