One of the things that synagogues all over America try to do is to connect Diaspora Jewry with ‘Jewish time’. Clearly, we have our own calendar, with its own rhythms, that help define how we are distinct from the rest of the world, and, what we choose to prioritize with our celebrations and commemorations.
Shabbat is the most frequent of these marked Jewish times, where once a week we elevate a day, and the most aspirational parts of our self.
This week, and next, we have a set of Jewish days devoted to our collective memory that begin with Yom HaShoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day (today) and culminate with Yom Ha’atzma’ut/Israel’s Independence Day.
There was a question, post Holocaust, within the Jewish community of when we ought to commemorate our greatest modern tragedy, one that continues to affect our group social psyche, and the world. Should it be commemorated on the 9th of Av, and mixed into our collective mourning for the other national tragedies that we have encountered over time? Should it line up with Kristallnakt, or the Warsaw uprising? In the end, the 27th of Nisan was picked because it is eight days before Israel Independence, thus fitting in with the Jewish model of ‘low point’ to ‘redemption’.
Unlike our biblical, or rabbinic holidays, there is no set formula, or ritual, to commemorate the six million Jews who perished under the Nazi regime. Different communities raise up the memory in various ways. At Temple Emanu-El, this year, our main commemoration is through our Friday night Shabbat service. Here, we balance the Shoah commemoration with the Jewish heroism that resulted in the state of Israel. This approach is in line with what the 1953 Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, intended when he inaugurated the very first Yom HaZikaron laShoah v’L’Gevurah/ Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.
The hope is that our Shabbat service allows you to commemorate the Shoah, and The Hope that lives on through our people to this day.
Won’t you join us?