As Jews, we are all too familiar with our history of tragedy, death and destruction. It is part of our heritage and why we are easily able to have/give Rachmones — empathy/compassion/mercy for those who suffer from unbelievable disasters.
In the wake of Mother Nature’s destruction in a land of lush beauty and tranquility, we offer the state of Hawaii our highest of virtues, Tzedakah, or as they call it, Aloha — caring compassion for others. Whether from afar or if you are in the Islands, there are ways to contribute to their needs. It is what Jews do, Tikkun, help repair the world, and what Hawaiians do, Kokua — help, assist, comfort and support.
So many of us Mainlanders vacation in the various islands of Hawaii and enjoy the beauty, peacefulness and traditions or what they call, Maluhia — peace, calm tranquility, security, safety and what we callShalom.
We may even take this fantasy land for granted to bring us the downtime we crave in our busy and hectic lives. But today, a piece of that paradise is gone and to the residents and indigenous people it is more than the deprivation of beauty and commerce: It is the emptiness of Mauna Kea, most sacred/spiritual locations — where holy ceremonies are performed, like our synagogues or the Western Wall.
The now-burnt land represents the loss of the cherished sights of historical and cultural assets along with an emotional and physical connection to their ancestors. We Jews can identify with all of this. We too have experienced this loss and destruction many times over, physically and emotionally.
Jews are survivors, one of our strongest attributes and part of our DNA. Hawaiians who survive their tragedies are known as Me ola and are people of Kupa — always standing firm and steadfast.
Community is a great part of their tradition; can community describe Jews any better? Like Hawaiians, we Jews have a discipline for spiritual ideas, prayers and chants, we Daven, and they also repeat rhythmical pleas throughout the days as if they were having a conversation with their god. We both celebrate a happy dance with the Hula as part of their cultural Hawaiian traditions and we dance the Hora. They prepare traditional foods, like we do, with great care that represents the historic act of loving, giving and sharing. Food is love for both our people.
Ho omau is to preserve, perpetuate and continue as a strong people, so Jewish! The Hawaiian meaning of Mana is their spiritual power and energy, ours is Ruach; Ho’olana is Hope, our Hatikvah. Ola in Hawaiian is To Life, our La Chaim! Ho’onahoa exemplifies courage, we encourage Chazak Ve’Ematz! Ho’o Pomaik — to bless, how many Brachas do we say each day? Hukai/po —Hawaiians encourage their people to hide from the Night Marchers and don’t look them directly in the eye as it is considered an evil omen and we PooPoo the Evil Eye to keep it far away! Laka, the Hula Goddess is the gentle female who is domestic, goddess of love and fertility, gentle, docile and watches over the vegetation which also describes our Woman of Valor/The Sabbath Bride.
An ancient story tells a tale about King David who befriended a wise man from a far and beyond land and was educated in the traditions of foreign and ancient places. The King and his friend indulged in large amounts of intoxicating libations while the friend continuously flattered the King. For a reward, the King bestowed the name of Big Kahuna to the man, which was a prize akin to a title of his own people’s high priests, the kohanim. Not unlike our Kahn or Cohens, the Jewish priest.
Fast forward to 1798 with the first mention of a Jew in Hawaii where a sailor from the whaling ship Neptune was a cook. No evidence of Jewish delicacies, though. Then in 1886 Elias Abraham Rosenberg arrived in Honolulu from San Francisco bearing a Torah scroll and yad that he claimed came from England or Australia while expounding he descended from the Big Kahuna of ancient times. No one was able to verify that disclosure nor the story that he was run out of San Francisco for counterfeit crimes.
His legacy is that when he fled Hawaii in 1887, the Torah and yad were left behind and fell into the hands of the royal Hawaiian family. Their heirs loaned it to the local Jewish community for High Holiday services in the early 20th century and the yad was dedicated to the Reform synagogue Emanu-El in 1960 with the Torah given to them in 1972.
In the mid-19th century, Jews migrated to Hawaii over the years, many coming from San Francisco as merchants seeing trade opportunities, especially in sugar and coffee products. They set up general and dry goods stores. The Jewish population has varied over the years while a Jewish cemetery was established, some Jews went into local politics, teaching at colleges and families established synagogues. In Hawaii today, 8,000-10,000 Jewish people call the islands their home.
Living in the Hawaiian paradise is a dream but often dreams do burn in the wind where Mother Nature takes over for no good reason. Whatever HER grounds for the destruction we don’t know but the Hawaiian people will rebuild with their strength and spirit, their traditions will survive with hope, peace and love, like us Jews have done over and over again.
SO, I’m wondering, are the Hawaiians one of the lost tribes???
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family’s past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs!
She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel.
Her grandmother’s journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.