At sundown today, Sunday 4/23 through Monday the 24th at sundown is a solemn day for the Jews. Its full name Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; which in English translates to “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.” The day is more commonly known as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה), a worldwide day of remembrance for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies, and we also remember the Jewish resistance in that period.
This year’s commemoration is particularly relevant as less than eight decades after Hitler was defeated, Antisemitism and Holocaust denial is growing at an accelerated rate throughout the world, yet it is mostly ignored here in America, and led by members of the government in Europe.
In Israel Yom HaShoah is a national memorial day. It was inaugurated in 1953, anchored by a law signed by the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion and the Israeli President at the time, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It is held on the 27th of Hebrew month of Nisan (generally sometime in late April/early May, unless the 27th would be adjacent to Sabbath, in which case the date is shifted by a day. What started out a commemoration recognized only in Israel, is now a day of remembrance throughout the world.
You may have heard that the reason the 27th of Nissan in the Hebrew calendar was chosen was because in matches the date of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising –that isn’t true. The ghetto uprising was considered for Yom HaShoah, but rejected because it would have meant the observance would have taken place the day before Passover. Those who observe the Passover holiday are busily preparing their homes for that observance that includes getting rid of all of one’s yeast/grain related products as well as rituals observed at home, there was no room for an additional observance
The 27th of Nissan was chosen because in Jewish tradition is everything bad is always balanced by something good. For example, in Deuteronomy God says I put before you a blessing and a curse; or in Exodus the Golden Calf is followed by forgiveness. In that same vein exactly week after Yom HaShoah is Yom Ha’atzmah’ut Israeli Independence Day (the Israeli equivalent of July 4th). So the horror of the Shoah is balanced by a Jewish people having the power to defend themselves.
We light a memorial candle on Yom HaShoah as a recognition that the souls of the victims are still alive in our hearts and that many entire families were murdered meaning there are none left to mourn for them. We light a memorial candle on Yom HaShoah to remember never to forget.
Much of modern Antisemitism is different from the traditional Jew-hatred, it is disguised as anti-Zionism, and claimed to be simply criticism of Israel. The state department defines antisemitism as:
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” –Working Definition of Anti-Semitism by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia
Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism…