I wrote this for my weekly Religious School newsletter and thought I would share it. Please comment on it as I would like to know what you think.
Sunday is Yom HaShoah a day to remeber the Shoah. Yom HaShoah is a powerful holiday to commemorate the tragedy of Nazis’ rise to power and their efforts to wipe our European Jewry and Hitler’s plan to do that eventually to Jews worldwide. Every year we lose more people who can give us firsthand accounts of this time period, and so this holiday takes on a new importance, especially for educators of young Jews.
Part of the story must also be about survival. I was once at a conference to discuss Righteous Gentiles, non-Jews who saved the lives of Jewish people in the occupied countries. A survivor was there to speak of the man who saved her life. As she told her story of living underground in farmers’ fields, moving at night through thick forests and tricking the not-too-bright border guard who her family ran across I noticed that her poster on the dais was not of Nazi-era horrors but of her son’s wedding, Purim at her synagogue in Florida, her granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah. Her story was about what she lived through as a child, but it was not about the horror she faced but of the survival.
Her theme was that because a man risked his life and lives of his family to save hers, she should celebrate the life that was saved in the most powerful and to her meaningful way. She saw the importance of bringing Judaism into the next generation and beyond. As she told me this, we both at the same moment we whispered, "Am Yisrael Chai," (the Jewish people live.) It reminded me that we must all remember the the Shoah, the Holocaust, even as time moves us further from it. We must pray it never happens again. We say Kaddish for the lives lost and wonder about what the lives that never got started would be like. We must fight those who wish to hurt us because of our traditions and heritage and stand for those who are suffering the same fate today. But we must too also remember Am Yisrael Chai, for the Jewish people live and life is a blessing.