Yom HaShoah


Yom HaShoah

"Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura" (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; "Remembrance Day for the Holocaust and Heroism"), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as "Yom HaShoah" and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed as a day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. In Israel, it is a national memorial day.

Origins

Yom HaShoah was inaugurated in 1951, anchored in a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and the President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.

The original proposal was to hold Yom Hashoah on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943), but this was problematic because the 14th of Nisan is the day immediately before Pesach (Passover). The date was moved to the 27th of Nisan, which is eight days before Yom Ha'atzma'ut, or Israeli Independence Day.

While there are Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah, others in the Orthodox community – especially Haredim, including Hasidim – remember the victims of the Holocaust on days of mourning declared by the rabbis before the Holocaust, such as Tisha b'Av in the summer, and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter. It is interesting to note that Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (of the Conservative movement) held that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b'Av.

Most Jewish communities hold a solemn ceremony on this day, but there is no institutionalized ritual. Lighting memorial candles and reciting the Kaddish – the prayer for the departed – are common. The Masorti (Conservative Judaism) movement in Israel has created "Megillat HaShoah", a scroll and liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah, a joint project of Jewish leaders in Israel, the United States and Canada. The booklet was subsequently converted into a kosher scroll by sofer Marc Michaels for reading in the community and then into a tikkun - copyist guide for scribes - 'Tikkun megillat hashoah'. In 1984, Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin wrote an article in Conservative Judaism journal suggesting a program of observance for the holiday, including fasting.

Commemoration

On the eve of Yom HaShoah in Israel, there is a state ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Authority. At 10:00am on Yom HaShoah, throughout Israel, air-raid sirens are sounded for two minutes. During this time, people stop what they are doing and stand at attention; cars stop, even on the highways; and the whole country comes to a standstill as people pay silent tribute to the dead. On the eve of Yom HaShoah and the day itself, places of public entertainment are closed by law. Israeli television airs Holocaust documentaries and Holocaust-related talk shows, and low-key songs are played on the radio. Flags on public buildings are flown at half mast.

Those Jews in the Diaspora who observe Yom HaShoah may observe it within the synagogue, as well as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs. Many Yom HaShoah programs feature a talk by a Holocaust survivor, recitation of appropriate psalms, songs and readings, or viewing of a Holocaust-themed film. Some communities choose to emphasize the depth of loss that Jews experienced in the Holocaust by reading the names of Holocaust victims one after another – dramatizing the unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on, or around, Yom HaShoah.

Also during this day, tens of thousands of Israeli high-school students, and thousands of Jews from around the world, hold a memorial service in Auschwitz, in what has become known as "The March of the Living," in defiance of the Holocaust Death Marches. This event is endorsed and subsidized by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Holocaust Claims Conference, and is considered an important part of the school curriculum – a culmination of several months of studies on World War II and the Holocaust.

In Israel, observance is moved back to the Thursday before if 27 Nisan falls on a Saturday or Friday (as in 2008) or forward a day if 27 Nisan falls on a Sunday (to avoid adjacency with the Jewish Sabbath). [cite web|url=http://www.ushmm.org/remembrance/dor/calendar/|title=United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]

Orthodox Judaism and Yom HaShoah

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, in 1949, decided that the Tenth of Tevet should be the national remembrance days for victims of the Holocaust. For this day, it recommended traditional Jewish ways of remembering the dead, such as the study of the traditional Mishnah section about ritual baths, saying Psalms, lighting a yahrzeit candle and saying Kaddish for those Holocaust victims whose date of death remains unknown. On other occasions, the Chief Rabbinate also referred to Tisha b'Av as being a date of remembrance for Holocaust victims. [ [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=1&cid=1208870515173&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull] Jerusalem Post, 28 April 2008, "An anchor for national mourning" (reference applies to entire section of article)]

The Knesset decision taken on 21 April 1951 to designate the 27th of Nisan as Yom HaShoah ignored the Rabbinate's decision from two years earlier, and the Chief Rabbinate, in turn, decided to ignore the Knesset's chosen date, one reason being the fact that Jewish law forbids fasting and certain laws of mourning during the month of Nisan, which is considered to be a month of happiness. Another view, held by influential Haredi Rabbi Avraham Yeshayeh Karelitz (known as the 'Chazon Ish'), held that we in our days do not have the power to institute new days of mourning or commemoration for future generations.

While there are nevertheless Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, others in the Orthodox community – especially Haredim, including Hasidim – remember the victims of the Holocaust on traditional days of mourning which were already in place before the Holocaust, such as Tisha b'Av in the summer, and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter. Several well-known Haredi rabbis, including Rabbi Michael Dov Ber Weissmandl, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam of Bobov, Rabbi Shimon Schwab, and several others, wrote kinnot about the Shoah, to be said on Tisha b'Av.

While most Modern Orthodox Religious Zionist Jews do stand still for two minutes during the siren, in Haredi areas, no attention is given to Yom HaShoah. Most stores do not close, schools continue and most people do not stop walking when the siren sounds. The non-participation of Haredim in Yom HaShoah is one of the points which regularly causes friction between Haredim and non-Haredim in Israel, when non-Haredim consider the Haredi position of ignoring the siren and Yom HaShoah altogether to be disrespectful.

Thus, a situation came into existence where religious forms of commemorance take place primarily on the Tenth of Tevet and on Tisha b'Av, while secular forms of commemorance take place primarily on Yom HaShoah, and either part of the population ignores the other one's day of commemoration.

Israeli historian Tom Segev pointed out in his book The Seventh Million, "From the very start, Holocaust memorial culture was meant to be an integral part of the secular national symbolism of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel." According to Segev, "the Jewish Agency Executive realized that the rabbinate was gaining control over the memorialization of the Holocaust and had to be prevented from giving this important function a religious cast."

Conservative Judaism and Yom HaShoah

The Masorti (Conservative Judaism) movement in Israel created "Megillat HaShoah", a scroll and liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah, a joint project of Jewish leaders in Israel, the United States and Canada. In 1984, Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin wrote an article in Conservative Judaism journal suggesting a program of observance for the holiday, including fasting.

One prominent Conservative Jewish figure shared the general Orthodox sentiment about not adopting Yom HaShoah. Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (of the Conservative movement) held that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b'Av.

ee also

*Holocaust Memorial Day in other countries

References

External links

* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/shoah/eng/eshoah.htm Yom HaShoah from the Israeli Knesset (in English)]
* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/shoah/heb/shoah.htm Yom HaShoah from the Israeli Knesset (in Hebrew)]
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/yomhashoah.html Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Ha-Shoah) at the Jewish Virtual Library]
* [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/848972.html Hundreds protest at Knesset over state neglect of Holocaust survivors]
* [http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/custom.html?year=2008&country=34&lang=en&moon=on&hol=57 Israeli Calendar for 2008]
* United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - [http://www.ushmm.org/remembrance/dor/years/detail.php?content=2008 2008 Days of Remembrance]

Israeli holidays


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