YOM HASHOAH: Worldwide, men and women recall Holocaust; reflect on challenges of genocide

Teenage boys wave Israeli flags while wearing blue coats

Thousands of Israeli students embark on the ‘March of the Living’ each Yom HaShoah, in defiance of the Nazi Death Marches. Photo released via Wikimedia Commons

APRIL 7-8: Unfortunately, global responses to genocide are not a matter for history books; they’re a very real part of world news in an ongoing way. So, there is good reason for people around the world to reflect on the 60th Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The observance runs from sunset April 7 through Monday April 8. Many Jewish communities around the world marked the solemn occasion on Sunday.

Inaugurated in 1953 by Israeli leaders, Yom HaShoah recalls the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Through educational programs, memorial ceremonies and a famed annual “March of the Living,” Jews in Israel and throughout the Diaspora join the world in saying, “Never again.”

YOM HASHOAH IN ISRAEL

In Israel, Yom HaShoah involves the entire nation. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports: “Israel came to a standstill as a siren sounded for two minutes in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Following a siren Monday morning, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Hall of Remembrance. … Kerry then joined Israeli President Shimon Peres for the ‘Unto Every Person There is a Name’ ceremony held each year at the Knesset, where Peres read out the names of his relatives who were victims of the Holocaust. Names of Shoah victims also were read by notables in religion and government, among others.” (Read the entire JTA report.)

YOM HASHOAH CYBER ATTACK

The New York Times reports on April 8 about a series of anti-Israeli cyber attacks that hit websites, including the website for Yad Vashem, the world-famous Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem. (Read the entire New York Times report.) Apparently the hackers were not too sophisticated. One expert told the Times that the strategies were “childish.” In fact, the Yad Vashem website is up and running with fascinating articles and online exhibits, including one that looks at the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

YOM HASHOAH AROUND THE WORLD

While no specific ritual or text exists for Yom HaShoah, most Jews of the Diaspora light memorial candles and recite the Kaddish—a prayer for the departed—or attend ceremonies at a synagogue. President Jimmy Carter commemorated Yom HaShoah at the U.S. Capitol in 1979, and civic ceremonies have since gained immense popularity across America. Aside from numerous local events, HBO will premiere a documentary this year, “50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, promoting the story of a Jewish couple from Philadelphia who traveled to Germany and rescued the largest group of children brought into the U.S. to date. (JNS.org has a synopsis and photos.)