Monday, April 20, 2009

Yom HaShoah



Of all the memorials at Yad VaShem I am always drawn to the "Valley of Communities." This 2.5 acre memorial is part maze and part map of Europe. It was dug out of Jerusalem's bedrock. There is a section for each country of Europe and a corner for each area of that country. All that is etched on the wall is the name of the area's largest city and then all of the surrounding Jewish towns and villages destroyed in the Shoah. In all there are over 5,000 names etched on these walls. In most cases nothing remains of these communites. For hundreds of years, prior to the Holocaust, these towns and villages teemed with Jewish life. Vilna, in particular, was the capital of Jewish learning for hundreds of years and was called in Yiddish the "Jerusalem of Lithuania." We lost not only millions of lives and millions of their descendants. We also lost centers of Jewish learning and creativity. Every year I am pursued by this question: how do you come to understand the destruction of six million lives, six million families tormented? How to undertand 5,000 communites that are no more? We can only tell the stories of individuals. This year in remembrance of the Shoah watch and listen to a survivor's story from the Yad VaShem museum. Spend a few minutes watching the testimonies of this year's torchlighters. This year discover a glimmer of what was lost.

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