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Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day)
April 21, 2020
On Yom HaShoah, Jews all over the world mourn the loss of six million Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust.
The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is “Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah“– literally the “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan — a week after the seventh day of Passover. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.
On this day, Jews remember the suffering inflicted on millions of European Jews by the Nazis. They also remember that Jews resisted their Nazi tormentors through “passive resistance” — retaining their human dignity in the most unbearable conditions — and by “active resistance,” fighting the Nazis in the ghettos and joining underground partisans who battled the Third Reich in its occupied countries.
Jews in North America observe Yom Hashoah within the synagogue as well as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs. Many Yom Hashoah programs feature a talk by a Holocaust survivor, recitation of appropriate songs and readings, or viewing of a Holocaust-themed film. Some communities choose to emphasize the depth of loss that Jews experienced in the Holocaust by reading the names of Holocaust victims one after another — dramatizing the unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on or around Yom Hashoah.
While Yom Hashoah rituals are still in flux there is no question that this day holds great meaning for Jews worldwide. The overwhelming theme that runs through all observances is the importance of remembering — recalling the victims of this catastrophe, and insuring that such a tragedy never happen again.
The Shoah (Holocaust) posed an enormous challenge to Judaism and raised many questions: Can one be a believing Jew after the Holocaust? Where was God? How can one have faith in humanity? Facing this recent event in history, does it really matter if one practices Judaism?
Jewish theologians and laity have struggled with these questions for decades. The very fact that Jews still identify Jewishly, practice their religion — and have embraced the observance of Yom Hashoah—answers some of the questions raised by the Holocaust.
To listen to memories of those who survived the Holocaust, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQC6AverG0E&feature=youtu.be
A prayer from Rabbi Brent Rosen of Tzedek Chicago:
Oh, Spirit of mercy,
whose presence dwells
in the highest heights and
the darkest depths:
Shelter the souls
of all who were oppressed and murdered
during the years of the Shoah.
May the memory those who were
singled out, persecuted and destroyed
be sanctified for goodness and
Jews, gays, lesbians
and political dissidents;
labor leaders and Soviet prisoners of war;
resistance fighters, Roma,
Freemasons and Jehovah’s Witnesses;
the crippled of mind and body;
the homeless, the unemployed
and the unwanted…
May all who were once left vulnerable
remain protected beneath the
soft wings of your presence
that they may rest in peace.
Spirit of Compassion,
help us to mourn their loss
in such a way that our
fears and our hopes will become
indistinguishable from the fear and the hope
of all who are oppressed.
Guide us to turn isolation into wholeness
division into fellowship
and bitterness into healing waters of liberation
for all humanity.