As I write that descendants of prominent Nazis have chosen to live in Israel today, and that some of them – with surnames like Goering, Goebbels or Himmler -- are converted to Judaism or in process, I realize that readers will reread this sentence to make sure they didn’t misread.
I join people here in the United States, in Israel, and around the world in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, we honor the memories of the six million Jewish victims and millions of others who perished in the darkness of the Shoah. As we reflect on the beautiful lives lost, and their great potential that would never be fulfilled, we also pay tribute to all those who resisted the Nazis’ heinous acts and all those who survived.
One of the reasons why Cantor Azi Schwartz, our cantor at Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan, is one of the foremost cantors of our day is his refusal to allow Jewish liturgy to become rote or be set in a stifling ritual straightjacket.
April is a month crowded with Jewish observances and remembrances this year, both ancient and modern.
Fresh off of Passover and its inspiring message of freedom and spiritual liberation we face the cruel reality of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on Sunday, April 7, recalling a time not only when 20th-century European Jews were denied their freedom but systematically put to death simply because they were Jewish. We are painfully aware that each year there are fewer survivors within our midst to give personal testimony to the tragedy. All the more reason why we should take part in religious and communal observances that mark the day, often featuring survivors telling their own stories.
Six million is an almost impossible number to think of in terms of victims of the Nazi regime. But one person’s authentic recollections can be a powerful reminder of the human suffering that took place and the physical and psychological scars that remain.
Recent events in Europe provide a troubling echo of the fact that anti-Semitism is still with us. Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, whether they are explained as anti-Israel in nature or motivated by hatred of Jews, are deeply worrying. They need to be addressed not only through statements by government officials but by civic and religious leaders in the local communities as well as through vigilance against future destructive acts and educational programs in the schools.
In Israel, Jews throughout the country will mark April 15 as Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for the thousands killed in the country’s wars these last six decades. Those who have been in Israel on that day understand that it is a far more somber, emotional observance than Memorial Day in the U.S. When the blast signaling a moment of silence across the country sounds, all movement stops, and one realizes that hardly a family in the Jewish state has not suffered a loss in Israel’s struggle for independence and survival.
In typical Israeli fashion, though, mourning and joy rub against each other as Yom HaZikaron gives way to Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, April 16. Perhaps the celebration is so spirited because people realize the depth of sacrifice that led to statehood.
Then, closing out the month of April, comes Lag b’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot. Though a minor, ancient holiday, it is a joyous one. But there is no definitive reason why. Some say it is because the Jews marked a victory on that day in ancient times in the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans; others say it was the only day no students of Rabbi Akiva died during a weeks-long plague. But neither explanation indicates a time for celebration. Still, amidst a calendar fraught with solemn occasions and anniversaries, it’s good to have a day to rejoice. We can always find a reason to be grateful.
As we enter a month rich in Jewish tradition and history, we note that its peaks and valleys reflect the human condition, with times to laugh and times to cry, and a responsibility to find meaning in each.
It’s been more than a week since Holocaust Remembrance Day, but I still have not heard a rational explanation of why students attending a play shouted encouragement during scenes depicting Jews being beaten and killed by Nazis.
“Hit him harder,” one student cried out as a kapo beat a Jew.
“Well done,” shouted another.
Others cheered and applauded the work of the Nazis.
This took place not in the United States or Europe but in the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv before an audience of hundreds of Jewish high school students!!!
President Obama will visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday to mark the Days of Remembrance established by Congress. He will speak about how the United States is honoring the pledge of "never again" by developing a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to mass atrocities, the White House reports.
He will be introduced by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and will tour the museum.
The date selected for Yom Hashoah, 27 Nisan, marks the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Chosen—not without controversy—by the Israeli Knesset in 1953, it serves as an occasion to mark the deaths of those Jews murdered by the Nazis for whom no date of death is known.
But what of those whose dates of death were recorded?
Yom HaShoah, the day declared by the Knesset six decades ago to serve as the Jewish people’s period of memorial and mourning for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, takes on a more vital aspect of a Day of Remembrance as the years pass. As the survivors of and witnesses to the horrors of the Third Reich’s near-annihilation of the Jewish people pass on, memory serves an increasingly important role.
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- "Israel is the historical commemoration to the victims of the Holocaust," President Shimon Peres said at a Yad Vashem ceremony marking Yom Hashoah.
Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah, began Sunday night in Israel with the national ceremony, where survivors lit six torches representing the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Among the other rites to commemorate the day will be one remembering Jews who rescued other Jews from the Nazis.