Yom HaShoah: Recalling Holocaust victims and heroes

Ruler beneath a list of names

Some memorial events host a reading of the names of the 6 million who perished in the Holocaust. Photo courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET SUNDAY, APRIL 27: In Israel tonight, the national flag is lowered to half mast and six torches are lit: It is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, in honor of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

On this, the recognized anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, massive crowds gather at the Warsaw Ghetto Square; rabbis lead prayers, and places of entertainment shut their doors. Tomorrow, schools and other public organizations will hold commemorative events. Sirens will blare throughout Israel at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., and even those who are commuting will stop their cars, stand beside their vehicles and bow their heads for a moment of silence.

Worldwide, many synagogues light symbolic candles and host Holocaust speakers.

Many Israeli high-school students will, after months of study on World War II and the Holocaust, join non-Jews from several countries for “The March of the Living,” a walk to the memorial service in Auschwitz that stands in defiant memory of the Holocaust Death Marches.

Yom HaShoah was inaugurated in 1953, signed into law by Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. In Israel, today is a national memorial day.

Tension exists among Jews regarding the commemoration of the Holocaust victims: some Orthodox Jews memorialize the victims on Tisha b’Av and the Tenth of Tevet, traditional Jewish days of mourning, because this—the month of Nisan—is regarded as joyous, since it is associated with Passover and salvation. (Learn more from the Jewish Virtual Library and My Jewish Learning.)

Nonetheless, prayerbooks, narratives and liturgies for Yom HaShoah have been written through the decades. In 1988, the American Reform movement published The Six Days of Destruction: Meditations Toward Hope, co-written by Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Albert Friedlander. In 2009, Daniel Gross composed I Believe—A Shoah Requiem, as a musical liturgy. Last year, I Believe had its world premiere at Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fischer Musical Center in Detroit. Michigan.

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