Hot on the heels of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur comes Sukkot. In Jewish literature the festival is known as a particularly happy festival. The Torah itself says of Sukkot: Vesamachta bechagecha vehayita ach sameach, "You shall rejoice on your festivals and you shall be ach sameach, particularly happy."
Growing up in London, the festivals brought us together. The Jewishness of our family life was Seder night with Oma and Opa; Rosh Hashana with Oma and Opa, going into the fast with Oma and Opa and breaking it with them as well.
Each festival was a celebration of Jewish life, a celebration of family, a celebration of inherited traditions.
But Sukkot was different. Sukkot had no festive family dinner. It wasn't just because Oma and Opa lived on the second floor of an apartment block.
We could always have gone as a family to the sukkah at shul.
Sukkot was different because for Oma it was a festival without joy. There was no ach sameach, no particular happiness.
And why not?
It was on Sukkot, itself, that her family were taken; her parents, her siblings, young cousins, nephews and nieces, dragged from hiding. Chayim and Sara Offen, respected, decent, destroyed.
Oma, aged twenty three, was already in England. It was only after the war that the scattered survivors shared the final memories and passed on their tragic stories. For Oma, Sukkot was a festival without joy. It was the family Yahrzeit.
Ach Sameach? How can you be happy on such a day? Whatever the joys of life, can you ever forget the sorrows?
Ach Sameach? Survival and the building of new families has its joys. Children born into a happier more decent world. A renewal of Jewish life and Jewish living. And yet, is there any escaping the survivor guilt? Why me?
Why not me? What could I have done differently? Painful stories, memories, questions which nibble at our conscience.
We live. But we live with paradox.
In our home there was never an ach sameach on Sukkot. The festival was muted and reflective, a recollection of a family who had lived by their faith and who were seized, as we were told, from their Sukkah, their protective shelter.
Friends, we remember the Shoah in public and we remember it, too, with our families in our homes.
It with these emotions in mind that we launch the new Ner Zikaron home service booklets. We have many public celebrations of survival, recognitions of heroism and valiant resistance and we have our prestigious and well attended commemorations at the Martyrs' Memorial and of course here at the Museum. While we have all of these, there is also a need to sanctify the cherished memories of family and of home life, and to do these in the privacy of the home.
Whether we mark the conventional or personal anniversaries; whether we reflect in silence or say words of prayer; whether we take readings from a book or we look over old photographs and keepsakes, we welcome our lost parents and grandparents, our brothers and sisters into our homes. We invite them to linger with us. Though their bodies are gone, we keep their memory alive and we give sustenance to their immortal soul.
Everyone here at the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants is a witness or if not a direct witness is an ambassador to humanity; a representative of Truth.
The truth that it happened.
The truth that it was allowed to happen.
The truth that humanity can act without any humanity or compassion.
The truth that the imperative to survive enables us to dig deep, to resist and to find hidden strengths.
The truth that light can sometimes be found in the very darkest corner. That in an age of horror and state-sponsored evil, good men and women risked their lives to save desperate souls.
Our Holocausts Survivo' Association attends to the needs of our survivor community and champions the education and promulgation of these truths of memory and responsibility.
It is our dream that knowing the truth and facing the truth will guide subsequent generations to build a better world.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the 11 years that George Foster has spent at the helm of the Association guiding its holy enterprise. Our community appreciates all that he and Margaret along with their hard working board have delivered.
Our Parasha this coming week is Ki Tetze. It ends with the admonition to remember the evil of Amalek, who attacked those of us who were vulnerable as we headed out of Egypt. How does the Parasha conclude? Zachor et asher asah lecha Amalek - we are told. Remember what Amalek did to you. Zachor! Remember!
And then: Vehaya bechoniach Hashem Elokecha Lecha mikol oyvecha mesaviv (When the Lord your God gives you rest from all your memories around you.)
When you are in the land, when you are safe, when you are secure: even then when you might be inclined to bury the past, to draw a line in the sand and move forwards.
No, says God - that is the time for timche et zecher Amalek - to blot out the memory of Amalek. Lo Tishkach - Never forget.
We must never forget. For ourselves, we will never forget; we can never forget but for society, even peaceful, tranquil society, for society, we must never forget. For humanity, for society, it is our mandate and our destiny to be witnesses, to be ambassadors and to be a conscience.
Through our schools and our institutions we see our children and grandchildren enjoy freedoms of worship, of study and association - though we should not gloss over the undercurrents of racism and intolerance which exist in society as well as the insidious Holocaust Denial campaigns which our enemies promote.
Of course, it is with God's blessing that we are more secure rather than less secure. And it is with great pride that we have built a community and rebuilt a nation from the ruins and ashes of European Jewry. Our survivors and their families have been at the forefront of our renewal.
A couple of years ago I was in New York with my mother's cousins. My uncle made Kiddush on Friday night and sang zemiros with his children, using the melodies and intonations he had learned from his father, Jack Offen. He, in turn, had learned them from his father Chayim Offen; my great-grandfather, whose Yahrzeit I commemorate each Sukkot. It was quite haunting to stand in his presence.
Exterminated but not forgotten. His body, ashes, but his melody and his memory alive.
May we continue to safeguard the memory of the victims and the testimony of the survivors. May they be blessed with the health and the strength to see a better world. May the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants continue in its good work for the service of humanity.
And may we find joy in our festivals, that we may celebrate them unreservedly - ach sameach.
But we will continue to commemorate; so that the world can never forget.