Jewish: Remember, defy and persist on Yom HaShoah

SUNDOWN SUNDAY, MAY 1: Commemorations begin tonight for Yom HaShoah as Jews around the world remember the millions who lost their lives in the Holocaust. This memorial is about much more than sorrow, though: Young people are taught about Jews struggling to preserve their human dignity in the most inhumane conditions—and about the need to remember the Shoah and defy genocide in our world today. On the eve of Yom HaShoah, a state ceremony is held at the Warsaw Ghetto Plaza, including speeches, prayers and Holocaust survivors lighting six symbolic torches. (In March, ReadTheSpirit published news about a remarkable documentary on the Warsaw Ghetto.)

In Israel beginning tonight, places of entertainment are closed; television channels air Holocaust documentaries; flags are flown at half-mast; and solemn songs fill radio waves. Sirens ring out during the morning hours of Yom HaShoah, and for two minutes all action in the country is stopped. (Read more at the Jewish Virtual Library.)

For Jews in the Diaspora, memorial candles are lit in synagogues and homes to commemorate Holocaust victims. Many communities schedule special talks by Holocaust survivors, and some read names of Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

To further engage young people in Yom HaShoah’s intent, a March of the Living is performed by thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish students each year. The March of the Living trails through the Nazis’ largest concentration camps and into former Jewish hubs that now stand nearly deserted. Today, participants march from Auschwitz to Birkenau. (Check out a live broadcast from Auschwitz-Birkenau at the MOTL website.)

Although Yom HaShoah’s official date—the 27th of the Jewish month of Nisan—occurred today, the observance is moved to a Monday if the date falls on a Sunday, as it does this year.

Care to read more? ReadTheSpirit maintains a webpage with reviews of recent educational resources related to the Holocaust.

Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.


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