Yom HaShoah is Israel’s commemoration of the Holocaust. Shoah, the Hebrew word to describe the Holocaust, literally means “catastrophe.” Most Jewish communities follow suit and also hold ceremonies of remembrance on the 27th of Nissan. The Jewish calendar (and Muslim calendar!) is a lunar calendar so the Gregorian date changes each year. According to the Gregorian calendar, a new day begins at midnight. On the Jewish calendar, however, a new day begins at sundown. In 2016, Yom HaShoah began at sundown on May 4 and will end at sundown on May 5.
This has always been a day that leads me to think about the state of the present world. Today’s world is violent, full of anger and fear and hate, and in desperate need of peace. There are surely a million and one reasons why we are where we are, but I prefer to think about moving forward. Dwelling on the past has brought us our present. I have bigger dreams for the future.
Whenever I’ve taught about the Holocaust, I’ve focused heavily on the roles of bystanders and upstanders (rescuers). Writer Cynthia Ozick highlights the issue of indifference, which I address with my students.
“Indifference is not so much a gesture of looking away – of choosing to be passive – as it is an active disinclination to feel. Indifference shuts down the humane, and does it deliberately, with all the strength deliberateness demands. Indifference is as determined – and as forcefully muscular – as any blow.”
We need to care. We need to care about everyone in the world simply because they are human. We all are human.
I don’t write poetry anymore, but I wrote a poem last night.
Today is Yom HaShoah.
Holocaust Remembrance Day.
We must remember because if we do not
On this day when we choose to remember
let us not talk
but instead commemorate
I remember the people
I remember the people with stories
I remember the people who
I remember pain
I remember hate
I remember the tears.
I remember the countless trails of tears.
I remember the lives
while I mourn the deaths.
I honor the lives
while I lay the victims to rest.
I remember the lives they cherished.
I remember their fight to preserve
Let us talk not only of the past
but of the hope for the future.
Let us not talk of wishes
but let us take action.
For on this day
on every day
it is not enough to remember.
We’ve promised never again
and we’ve remembered
So let us not only talk of the past.
Let us embrace, build, demand
for the future.
There is clearly work to be done.