Thoughts about Holocaust Memorial Day

I have over the years paid tribute to the 6 million Jews who perished during World War Two like many other Israelis: I stood for a 2 minute siren while watching people getting out of their cars at traffic lights, I taught special lessons, and listened to Holocaust survivors come to schools and talk about their experiences. On the kibbutz, I went to the communal dining room the evening previously, to hear another special service. There are programs on television all day long non-stop for twenty four hours.

It’s a very hard day for everybody because it’s a sad reminder of the Jewish history that is so easy to forget because it is so painful for many and horrific for others. There is no one “right” way to deal with it. As a new immigrant, I visited the old facility of Yad Vashem “The Hand of God” Memorial Center in Jerusalem. As you turn each corner and view the shoes, and the letters and the personal effects with each step that you take you can’t help but become more and more overwhelmed with grief and sadness. And so often you will see teenagers entering poking at each other and joking and there you can actually observe the sadness surround them and overtake them.

Last year I taught Elie Weisel’s Night to my twelfth grade students just around the same time coincidentally it made headlines with Ophrah’s book club. I found reading literature to be refreshing. It was the only way to deal with such horrific events even though the subject matter was emotionally difficult to read.

In Israel, it is so easy for people to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust because the whole day is centered around the Holocaust, but as Jews living in the Diaspora, we must take deliberate attempts to connect to the subject in any way we can. At our Jewish Community Center, there is a speaker. I intend to go to that because as a Jew, that is how I can connect. You can also light a candle. This is an extremely important day for Jews living all around the world.