Thursday, September 10, 2015

Marking the New Year

Ushering in the beginning of the Jewish New Year, a special online exhibition has been uploaded to Yad Vashem's website . "Marking the New Year" features approximately 50 items from Yad Vashem's collections, including greeting cards, documents, religious artifacts and testimonies - all relating to the Jewish New Year. Through these items, Yad Vashem offers a glimpse into some of the ways that Jews marked the High Holidays before, during and immediately after the Holocaust.

One of these special greeting cards comes from the Dasberg family. Simon Dasberg and his wife Isabella (née Franck) lived in Groningen, The Netherlands, where Simon served as the community Rabbi.  They had four children – Fanny (Zipporah), Dina, Samuel and Rafael. 

In 1943, the Dasbergs were deported to Westerbork and from there to the "star camp" in Bergen-Belsen.  Rabbi Dasberg took a Torah scroll with him to the camps, thanks to which he was able to perform the Mitzvah (commandment) of reading from the Torah, and even gave Bar Mitzvah boys the chance to be "called up to the Torah" (the Jewish tradition for boys turning 13).

"This year… I will not tease Rafael".
Rosh Hashanah Card from Samuel Dasberg, 10 years old, Bergen-Belsen 1944

In preparation for Rosh Hashanah 5705 (September 1944), the Dasberg children made "Shana Tova" cards in Bergen-Belsen.  They drew the symbols of the holiday – the Shofar (ram's horn) and the apple dipped in honey, decorated the cards with bright colors, and wished their parents a better year than the one they had just lived through.

Rafael, the youngest, aged 8, wrote in Dutch:

"This year I will be a very good boy, and I will never cry".

"This year I will be a very good boy, and I will never cry".
Rosh Hashanah Card from Rafael Dasberg, 8 years old, Bergen-Belsen 1944
The eldest daughter, Fanny (Zipporah) wrote the following in her card: "We will have a happy and sweet New Year even without apple and honey", and concluded with a prayer: "May peace come quickly in our days, and may we speedily return home with all the family. May you be inscribed for a good year."
"We will have a happy and sweet New Year even without apple and honey". 
Rosh Hashanah Card from Fanny Dasberg, 13 years old, Bergen-Belsen 1944
Tragically, the worst was yet to come.  In the course of the year, conditions in the "star camp" deteriorated, and Rabbi Simon Dasberg, Isabella and their youngest son Rafael perished in the camp.

Fanny, Dina and Samuel survived, and immigrated to Eretz Israel after the war.

Fanny Stahl (née  Dasberg) lives in Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv.  On a Gathering the Fragments collection day in Emek Hama'ayanot, she brought the "Shana Tova" cards that she had preserved from that dark period, and allowed them to be photographed for Yad Vashem Archives.

Even from the depths of despair in the ghettos, Jews hoped and wished for a Happy New Year, "L'Shana Tova Tekatevu", 'May we be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good New Year'.   

The exhibit is featured in English, Hebrew and Spanish.


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