“’What’s your name?’ they asked me as I walked into the synagogue for the first time in the 1980s.”
“‘Bermant,’ I said.”
“They didn’t seem satisfied.”
“’We don’t know a Bermant. How do we know you’re one of us? What’s your mother’s name?’”
“‘Osinovskaya,’ I told them.”
“Tevel Osinovsky’s daughter? Of course, you’re one of us. You’re always welcome here!”
“As it turns out,” Yuri explains, “my grandfather was in charge of a division of employees in the Soviet Union. A large part of the congregation worked under his watch. When they wanted to take off for Shabbos, he helped make it happen.”
Yuri pauses. In his eyes, I can see a deep sense of pride.
“What message do you have for the youth today?” I asked.
“Think about it,” Yuri said. “If we are here today, it means that many generations of our ancestors kept the light of Judaism going. They’ve been through pogroms, inquisitions, the Holocaust, and communism, yet they kept Judaism alive for us. They passed the torch down.”
“Now that it’s in our hands, how can we let it go out?”