by Rabbi Malka
Among the Jewish holidays, Yom HaShoah stands uniquely in its remembrance
of a time without redemption. We remember what we would rather
not remember: that two-thirds of European Jewry (one-third of
world Jewry) were murdered for being Jews. How we experience and
express the memory in our observance reveals who we collectively
It is our generation's work to turn away from the easy path
of mistrust of everyone who disagrees with Israel. While it may
be tempting to see the world as those are with us and those who
are against us, we risk losing more than six million: we risk
the loss of hope and empathy. We also risk becoming an angry,
fearful, paranoid, and xenophobic people in an attempt to secure
a safe homeland.
While some observe the day in deep unredemptive mourning,
reciting the special Kaddish that includes the death camps,
others tie Yom HaShoah tightly to Yom Ha-atzmaut, wanting to declare triumph
rather than defeat. We're not only still here, we have Israel.
They didn't win! Let's celebrate!
No matter how this new observance is understood or expressed,
it could be useful for all of us to ask what we may learn from
specifically from the Holocaust, which means "burnt offering."
Who are we sixty-two years later? We are in great need of
healing, and it would be a mistake not to admit it.
Elie Wiesel, perhaps the best-known survivor
of the Holocaust, was one of the first voices to speak out
against the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War.
He said that he spoke as one of a people who knew only too well
of the dangers of one people not seeing the humanity of another.
For him the Holocaust was a reminder to awaken compassion in us
as a people.
In each of our three daily prayers we remind ourselves that
we were slaves in Egypt. Rabbi Harold Schulweis told me that a black
minister once questioned him about why we as a people must
remind ourselves continually of this shameful chapter in our
history. Schulweis replied that its intention is to goad us into
remembering others who are not yet free.
Perhaps the Holocaust can be a lesson in turning evil into
blessing. It can be our teacher in understanding "Never Again"
as a universal promise to all who are homeless and oppressed. It
can mean that we who have suffered genocide commit ourselves to
never allowing genocide again. It can mean that we as Jews
commit ourselves to become morally sensitive enough to see every
human being as one who is in God's image. More recently, the
many Jewish communities that have challenged the world over the
crisis in Darfur act in the same spirit.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom is in an answer to the Holocaust, a step
in moving us away from the darkness, because it calls us to move
beyond despair, anger, and fear, reminding us that we will never
again be victims, nor will we will support the forces of enmity
and destruction. Perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
in the name of Holocaust, in the name of fear and hatred, does
not release us from the Nazis' grasp. Working with Brit Tzedek
and all those seeking a peaceful future, in which a viable
Palestinian state coexists with a secure Israel, does.
It is more difficult to stand in a place of justice than to
be a partisan for one side or the other. It takes courage to
speak against the injustices of Israeli policy, while still
supporting Israel and its people. But Brit Tzedek, along with
the rest of the peace community, helps us to act as a community
from our highest place.
This week we remember of the six million with memorial
services. We can turn their memory into blessing doing all that
we can to bring a just peace to the Middle East, one in which
the legitimate needs of the Palestinians are recognized, as the
future of Israel is protected.
Suggestions for Yom
- Attend a Yom HaShoah service. Discuss with other congregants
the needs of the Israeli people for long-lasting peace . Visit
the "Let's Talk" website for ideas about how to
talk about the sensitive issue of the Israeli-Palestinian
- Light a yarzheit (memorial) candle. There is no
prescribed prayer; use the opportunity to create a new prayer in
your family, involving ways to remember all oppressed peoples as
we mourn our own losses.
- Many Palestinian peace activists report that they knew
little or nothing about the Shoah before becoming involved with
peace efforts. Become acquainted with the work being done by
Palestinians who attempt to incorporate an understanding of the
Holocaust in their activism. Read the account of American-Israeli
Yossi Klein Halevi, the son of a Holocaust survivor, describing
his visit to Auschwitz with a joint Jewish-Arab delegation; read about the efforts of Khaled Kasab
Mahameed to teach Muslims and Arabs about the
- Make a contribution to Brit Tzedek as we bring a Jewish face
to peace and justice in the world. Consider a donation in
multiples of 18 (36, 54, 72, 108, etc.), the numerical
equivalent of the Hebrew word chai, which is a
traditional way to symbolically bring life into a moment of
If you have additional suggestions, please send them to Rabbi
John Friedman, chair of Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet at email@example.com
Drucker is the founding rabbi of HaMakom: The Place for
Passionate and Progressive Judaism, in Santa Fe, New
Mexico. She was ordained in 1998 from the Academy for
Jewish Religion, a transdenominational seminary.
Rabbi Drucker is the author of 20 books, including the
award-winning Frida Kahlo, Rescuers: Portraits of
Moral Courage in the Holocaust, Grandma's Latkes
and White Fire: A Portrait of Women Spiritual Leaders
in America, which won the 2005 PEN Southwest Book Award in
non-fiction. Her highly acclaimed Jewish Holiday Series won the
Southern California Council on Literature for Children Prize
For further information about Rabbi Drucker, see her website
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance
for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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