On Tisha BAv, rabbis call for silence, remembrance

On an unseasonably warm afternoon in San Francisco, a pocket of fog sat on the Golden Gate Bridge, obscuring its view from those who observed Tisha B'Av on Sunday at the Holocaust Memorial in Lincoln Park.

The dark cloud — viewed by the 100 or so gathered there — seemed a fitting symbol for a day dedicated to mourning the destruction of the first and second ancient temples and the fall of Jerusalem.

"On this day we also recall all the tragedies the Jews have experienced throughout their long history," Rabbi H. David Teitelbaum, director of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California, said in a later interview.

He noted the pain and horror of the Shoah and the lives lost in creating the state of Israel.

"Standing at the Holocaust Memorial we recall the most devastating crime ever committed against any people…

"Let us remember also that the state of Israel did not emerge without a torrent of blood and tears, and today as we mourn for those who died, al kiddush haShem, throughout the centuries, we also pay tribute to the memory of those who fell in defense of the state of Israel."

Rabbi Jacob Traub of San Francisco's Adath Israel called for a different reaction to the tragedies.

"I spoke to the stance that unfortunately we don't often take," he said after the event. "The true response to the tragedy of this scale — the destruction of the First and Second Temples or the Holocaust — is really silence. And the place where we were assembled, the Holocaust Memorial, is a place that calls out for silence.

"Anything that is said detracts from it. That is the only positive sort of response, because there's nothing to say."

David Henkin, an American history professor at U.C. Berkeley, chanted Lamentations, the traditional text for Tisha B'Av, from a scroll. Rabbi Allen Bennett, spiritual leader of Temple Israel in Alameda, recited psalms and poetry.

The commemoration, in its second decade at the Holocaust Memorial, was co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Board of Rabbis of Northern California.