' ''[+ Michael Diament -- 1905 - September 30, 1995 (7 Tishri 5756)+]''' InMemorium
Our High Holidays took on a special poignancy this year  with the death of Mr. Diament on Saturday night, just three days before Yom Kippur. His funeral was, in a way, a final gift, helping many of us forget the world's turmoil and focus on the upcoming day of introspection. Yet it was very sad not to have the privilege of washing his hands during musaf and hearing his powerful, warbling chant during the Priestly blessing.
Most of us, if it were offered to us, would be happy to live nine tenths of a century, spending our final years in our own home, with a sharp mind and frail but ambulatory health. Yet Mr. Diamond's really had three lives, two too short and one far too long.
I know little of his first life--just what I heard at his funeral and saw of the pictures in his apartment during shiva. He grew up, married, had a fine-looking son, ran a clothing business; the normal things we take for granted.
His second life I know a bit more about, but cannot really imagine. Sent to the German extermination camps, his wife and child were murdered and he survived the liquidation of Auschwitz through a combination of perseverance and the grace of HaShem.
The Tanach's great example of faith in the face of tragedy and suffering is Job. Yet Job, for all his reversals of fortune, was never given cause to doubt the fundamental value of human civilization. Mr. Diament not only lost his family and endured extreme physical hardship, he also saw the daily, unspeakable cruelty of one of the worlds great nations bent on conquering the word.
While at Dachau, Mr. Diament wrote a moving poem in Yiddish about what he had been through. On a number of occasions, most recently this past April, he has read it at the Holocaust Memorial Day observance held at our Shul. He also read it on Yom Kippur a year ago, during the martyrology.
There is no shortage of material on the Holocaust. But hearing about it from someone who was there, whose memory was clear and who articulatesboth the events and the emotions keeps this horrible time from becoming just another episode in the history books. Giving thousands of people, Jews and non-Jews, the opportunity to take Mr. Diament's witness is one of our Shul's greatest accomplishment.
Liberated from Dachau, Mr. Diament came to America in 1949. Welcomed by second cousins he hardly knew he began a third life. He remarried but had no more children. His wife passed on some years ago. Throughout all this, Mr. Diament remained an observant, active Jew. He has been a member of Temple Beth Shalom for decades, attending services whenever his health permitted.
When we receive an honor during the service, it is customary to shake hands with others in the congregation while exchanging blessings. One of Mr. Diament memorable qualities was his systematic traverse of the sanctuary after an alyah, seeking out as many hands as he could. Mr. Diament knew the value of community. One fitting way to perpetuate his memory is for us to take on his practice and make a special effort to shake everyone's hand after an honor.
I feel privileged to have known Michael Diament and our Schul was honored by his presence. I will miss him.