The Haredim And Yom HaShoah
04/27/11
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The Holocaust, whose memory usually serves as an honored shared point for the Jewish community, sometimes is a point of contention for haredi Jews, who say they feel excluded from mainstream histories of the period. Those histories, and exhibits in Yad Vashem, emphasize the exploits of secular partisans and pay less attention to religious Jews who resisted the Nazis by studying Torah in ghettoes and keeping the commandments in death camps. For many Orthodox Jews, the day of mourning for Holocaust victims is Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and other Jewish tragedies, not Yom HaShoah.

Dr. Meir Wikler, a psychotherapist who lives in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, has met with Yad Vashem officials for several years in an effort to sensitize them to the concerns of fervently Orthodox Jews. He discussed the topic with The Jewish Week.

Q: Why do haredi Jews object to Yad Vashem’s presentation of the Holocaust’s history? Because of what’s there or what’s not there?
A: There are videotaped testimonies of only two haredi survivors in the New Wing of the museum. Compared with the 50 or 60 testimonies of non-haredi survivors, it gives the mistaken impression that hardly any haredi Jews survived, and by extension, that haredi Judaism did not survive the Holocaust. And the truth is that at least half, if not more, of all survivors were haredi. And there are only scant illustrations of the countless examples of spiritual heroism, relegating that key aspect of Holocaust history to barely footnote status. The description of Harav [Rabbi] Michoel Dov Weissmandel, of blessed memory, [who led an effort to save Jews from the Holocaust] depicts him as having been naïve and duped by the Nazis. The truth is just the opposite. He was a brilliant rabbinic leader who outwitted the Nazis at every turn.

Is it just Yad Vashem, or do you take issue with the way the Orthodox experience during the Shoah is presented by most historians?
Other Holocaust museums are guilty of similar omissions and commissions. Yad Vashem, however, is the only major Holocaust museum under Jewish auspices. In addition, Yad Vashem has the documentation, artifacts and taped testimonies in their archives that could correct these distortions.

Unofficially representing the haredi population, what proposals have you made to Yad Vashem, or to other Holocaust historians? Are you satisfied with the changes that were made?
I and others have made concrete proposals to Yad Vashem; some changes have been made — some of the immodest photos that were on display when the New Wing opened six years ago have been removed. Furthermore, when the New Wing opened, there were no videotaped testimonies of haredi survivors at all. Today there are two.

There is a perception that remembering the Holocaust is not an important part of haredi life — many haredi Jews don’t observe Yom HaShoah. How does your community honor the memory of the Shoah and its victims?
If Yom HaShoah observance is the only criterion used to measure Holocaust remembrance, then it is understandable why some would conclude that remembering the Holocaust is not an important part of haredi life. Haredi Jews do not observe Yom HaShoah because it was never accepted or sanctioned by haredi rabbinic leaders. Yom HaShoah is completely antithetical to the religious significance of Nisan, the Hebrew month chosen for its observance by the Knesset, even though Nisan is the month of Passover and, thus, of celebration. And the establishment of Yom HaShoah denigrates the significance of Tisha b’Av, the traditional commemoration of Jewish suffering throughout the ages.

Haredi Jews, however, choose to express their remembrance of the Holocaust in ways more meaningful to them: observing the yahrtzeits of martyrs, dedicating sifrei Torah [Torah scrolls] in honor of martyrs, donating tzedakah in the memory of martyrs, reciting Tehillim [Psalms] and studying Mishnayos [sections of Mishna] for the merit of martyrs, naming their children after martyrs, sending their children to yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs [girls schools] that include Holocaust history in the curriculum, telling and retelling their children and grandchildren inspirational stories of spiritual heroism and personal miracles experienced during the Holocaust.
 

Last Update:

09/16/2013 - 18:52

Comments

What does the egg on the Sedar Plate remind use all of ??? Life and death.
Those Korbans of the war might have given use a new leaf on life, with the rebirth of a new nation for the Jewa. Some say it is before our timeother say not. The only thing I know is the ashes of my parents family where the building blocks for our future in this modern world .......

My father, A"H survived Auschwitz along with other camps. We lost an unbelievable and larger than life man a year and a half ago. My mother survived Mathausen, along with her parents and 7 siblings. We are slowly losing all of our survivors. At this point, does it really matter that "Yom Hashoah was never accepted or sanctioned by haredi rabbinic leaders"? To say that "Yom HaShoah is completely antithetical to the religious significance of Nisan" might be true to some but again, I have to ask, does it really matter anymore, at a time when we are slowly losing the last of our survivors? Is Yom Hashoah in competition with "Tisha b’Av, the traditional commemoration of Jewish suffering throughout the ages"? The point is that we must be unified in our mourning and in our celebrations. At the very least, let us not criticize our fellow Jews for how and when they choose to commemorate and celebrate.

Remembering is very important. How each person remembers is his own personal choice. For many like my relatives who are Charedei and who lost parents and siblings, the production of Yom Hashoua in any Shule is too impersonal and too staged. To them it is an ongoing conversation trying to understand and make peace with G-d and accept his will. To them, Torah study, prayer and good deeds is how a Jew commemorates significant events. Saying "AL - Eleh ani bochiya" (for these I cry) on Tisha B'av is how they are most comfortable in dealing with their grief and the commemoration. Frankly, watching my relatives say Kaddish for their slaughtered love ones is more powerful to me than any Yom Hashoua commemoration.
This is just one more issue in which the cultural disconnect between Charedeim and the rest of the population in Israel manifests. There is nothing nefarious about what the Charedeim are doing.
Nevertheless, I would like to point out that the Halachic point about not having mourning during the joyous month of Nissan is not correct. the Omer period of Nissan has since the time of Rabbi Akiva turned into a period of mourning and the Talmud recounts days of mourning and minor holidays that were instituted and then abolished over the years. Yom Hashoua is not acceptable because the "Gedolim" do not accept it. Given the climate of separatism that permeates the Charedei world, particularly in Israel, it doesn't seem like this will soon change. At the end, Hitler's henchmen made no distinction between Charedei, Reform, Zionist or Secular. A lesson for us all!

According to Wikipedia, Yom Hashoah is a national holiday of the State of Israel, established in 1953. How that obligates Jews all over the world to observe it is unclear.

Moreover, its official name is "Yom hazikaron lashoah velagevura," "memorial day for the Holocaust and heroism." The founders of the modern State of Israel were unable to come to terms with the fact that the Jewish people had been decimated, and decided that the only good Jew was a strong one who fought for the Zionist cause (think gun-toting tractor-riding kibbutznik singing as he works with hair blowing in the wind), not the old religious European Jew of the shtetl. The purpose of this day, and even its very name, reflect that mindset.

So you can see how it might rub people the wrong way.

Speaking as a child of holocaust survivors who ended up in California, the amount of charedim in the 2 biggest communities (los angelos and san francisco) was less than 5%. I would add that maybe 50% attending an orthodox shul, and then add that about 95% of the shul goers went to work after services on shabbat.
I see this article an a way for charedim to find a legitimate excuse for not celebrating Yom HaShoah. If Yad VeShem had 50% of the testimonials from charedim, it wouldn't change anything in the charedi world.
The reason that the secular Jews can be hypocrites is because charedim see themselves as having taken the high road, the spiritual path, the path of God.
So it always saddens me that charedim have found so many ways to disconnect with the rest of Am Yisrael. Yom HaShoah, Yom Ha'Atzmaut to name just 2.

"And the truth is that at least half, if not more, of all survivors were haredi." Where and how could you come up with such a statistic? Also, who says that the "Holocaust education" in the Yeshivos and Bais Yaacov's aren't guilty of this type of one-sided education either?

"Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust" by Yaffa Eliach is filled with stories of Jewish courage and spirirtual survival under Nazi oppression.

I thought Charedim commemorate the Shoah on Asara b'Teves?

Designating Asara BeTevet, an already sad day on the Jewish calendar, as Yom hakadish, to mourn for the dead of the Shoah PRECEDED the Knesset establishment of Yom hashoah. But Israelis, defending a new country, had a hard time understanding Spiritual resistance, and how so many Jews could have gone 'like sheep to the slaughter' and it was a raging debate at the time. They identified better with the brave (but hopeless) revolt of the Warsaw Ghetto which took place at Pesach time. For them that was a natural Jewish rallying point and overrode the tradition of No Hespaidim(Eulogies) in Nissan, not even for your own parents! and it came one week before Yom ha'atzma'ut so was a natural segue - Jewish might and resistance leads to Jewish Independence! No suprise that hareidim don't identify with the mentality, but DO identify with the event.

to #1. What you choose to believe is your choice obviously. I am interested in where he got those statistics from and will keep an open mind until I am presented with the data.

#2. This article is explaining why the chareidim are not participating and what steps need to be taken so that there is some participation. Additionally, if what he claims is true, the Yad Vashem's displays are misrepresenting history. Again, I am interested in where he got those numbers from.

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