It took filmmaker Robert H. Lieberman 50 years to return to his hometown neighborhood of Kew Gardens. But when he finally did, he found that his old friends and classmates — who were raised in the shadow of the Shoah — had grown up to make big contributions to American society.
We has just finished the cycle of days, from Yom HaShoah to Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut, whose leitmotif is Kiddush Hashem: martyrdom for the sanctification of God’s name, in the Holocaust and on the battlefields of Israel reborn.
If the current administration in Washington is sincere in its stated goal of working aggressively to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the days and months ahead will be even more difficult and confusing than the past few weeks have been.
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik
Special to the Jewish Week
Following last week's somber ceremonies marking Yom Hashoa, Israel will, on this coming Monday, observe its annual Yom Hazikaron, a solemn memorial day for her fallen soldiers. Rare is the family in Israel that does not know someone who has died in Israel's defense, or have a family member who has. And then, on Monday evening, the celebration of Yom Ha'atzma'ut, Israel's Independence Day, will begin.
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.
Last week, the world marked 65 years since Auschwitz was liberated. The unique horror and scope of the camp’s mechanization of death has made it a symbol of the Holocaust, prompting many countries in recent years to adopt January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
They were showing the flag a lot in Israel this week. And a lot of flags.
Preceded by Yom HaZikaron, the annual day of remembrance for the soldiers who have fallen in Israel’s defense, Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, marked the country’s 60th birthday.
There were fireworks and torch lightings, concerts and speeches, a bike race and Bedouin festival, TV documentaries and parachute shows.
And it all began with the raising of the state flag at Mount Herzl.
William Donat stood at the podium in the dimly lit main sanctuary of Congregation Emanu-El and peered out at the 2,500 solemn faces sitting in the pews.
"As I look out at the audience this Yom HaShoah [Holocaust Remembrance Day], I see fewer survivors out there," noted Donat, a child of Holocaust survivor and author Alexander Donat. "Time is taking its toll. And it is fair to ask what shall be when all the adult survivors are gone?"
The answer could be found all around Donat, a child survivor of the Warsaw ghetto.
Time doesn’t stand still every year on the 27th day of Nissan, but part of Israel does.
On Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the annual time established by the Knesset in 1951 to memorialize the Jewish people’s collective losses at the hands of the Nazis, restaurants and entertainment venues are closed, Israeli television carries introspective programming and most Israelis stop whatever they are doing when air-raid sirens sound throughout the land.