Sixty-five years after the Holocaust, and Yom Hashoah -- April 11 -- remains, appropriately, a day that the Jewish community can't figure out how to observe. And rightly so. Most holy days are actually on the day something unique happened, unlike Yom Hashoah, whose Nissan 27 date was a Knesset compromise rather than a holy anniversary.
It is two minutes of silence that have lasted nearly six decades.
In 1951 Israel established Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, as the period observed by most of the Jewish community as the official commemoration period for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and for participants in Jewish resistance to the Nazis.
I worry that with each passing year in this country, Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is quietly and gradually becoming obsolete.
You don’t need an actuary to know that the number of survivors of the Holocaust, which took place between 65 and 71 years ago, is declining rapidly, and thus the authentic voices of those who lived through the horrors are diminished every day.
The new obsession with Jewish vengeance, and what it suggests.
Special To The Jewish Week
In the topsy-turvy post-Holocaust world, genocide never ended and the Holocaust itself became a brand name. Yom HaShoah competed with Yom Kippur for mourners. A museum in Washington, D.C., doubled as a Jewish Mount Rushmore. And Anne Frank was adopted by every culture on earth as a metaphor for adolescence interrupted. Elie Wiesel, a precocious, sensitive boy from a remote region of Transylvania, ended up as a Nobel laureate, a worldwide celebrity, and an honored guest on “Oprah.”
Who would have imagined all that when the death camps were liberated in 1945?
At a recent performance of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s innovative and sometimes astonishing work “Small Dances about Big Ideas,” originally commissioned by Harvard Law School to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials, a young American woman is shown planting red flags in the earth in Rwanda, each one representing the presence of a body (or body part) at the site of a massacre.
Washington Post article questions the legitimacy
of a prominent rabbi who claims he’s rescued
Two years ago, philanthropist David Rubenstein offered to buy a Torah scroll for Manhattan’s Central Synagogue. The story of the scroll was as impressive as the object itself: Rabbi Menachem Youlus, a Maryland Torah scribe and Jewish bookstore owner, said he had discovered the sefer Torah in a cemetery in Oswiecim, the Polish town the occupying Germans called Auschwitz.
The scroll was dedicated in a gala ceremony at Central Synagogue on Yom HaShoah 2008. On Rosh HaShanah that year, Rabbi Peter Rubinstein repeated the Torah’s story of survival.
With Pesach in our communal rear view mirror, there is precious little room for us to kick back and relax. Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Memorial Day- is already upon us, and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel is to be celebrated next week. It is an incredibly dense stretch of the Jewish calendar, taking us on an emotional roller coaster ride from the high of Passover redemption to the low of the Shoah, and back again to the exhilaration of the miracle of Israel’s birth.
In what was, in retrospect, a striking metaphor for this Hebrew month of Nisan, a congregant asked me at services last night whether it was permissible to distribute special memorial candles for Yom Hashoah- Holocaust Commemoration Day- during these concluding days of Passover.
To phrase his question another way- can we disturb the sacred obligation to celebrate our ancient redemption with a jarring reminder of contemporary exile and destruction?