Thursday, April 8, 2010

Yom HaShoah

Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is the day in which we recall the Nazi genocide and the murder of six million Jewish souls.  This is the day when we remember six million of our people, 1.5 million of whom were children.  Even after years of studying this tragic and horrific event I am still struggling to come to terms with the enormity of the loss.  If I were to spend every minute of every day reading the names of those who were murdered (at a pace of 20 names per minute) it would take me more than six months to read all six million names.  If I were to read six stories of those who perished, one for each million, each and every year, and if God is good enough to grant me a full lifetime of 120 years, I would still only learn some 600 stories in the span of my adult years.  By 1944 at the height of the Nazi final solution 6,000 people were murdered in a day at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Our nation is currently transfixed by the tragic loss of some 25 miners in West Virginia, and we hope and pray the rescue of four trapped miners. Six million is roughly equivalent to that of the Jewish population of the United States and equal to the entire Jewish population of the State of Israel.  Perhaps I cannot ever come to terms with these staggering numbers.  And so I am left unable to quantify and count and must instead remember one by one, collecting individual stories.  To that end I would like to begin collecting such stories from our congregation.  If someone in your extended family perished in the Holocaust please email me these names, and their stories, if they are known.  If someone in your family survived the Shoah please email me these stories as well.  Take a few minutes and read some individual stories on Yad VaShem’s website.  Every year Yad VaShem highlights six stories for Israel’s Yom HaShoah ceremony on Sunday evening.  One story, and one candle, for each of the million.  Watch some of the videos on this remarkable website.  If you watch only one video watch the following three minute story about a family from Amsterdam.  This particular story can be more easily accessed on YouTube. Every time I sit at my computer to write a eulogy I am reminded that each and every life is precious.  I always find it an overwhelmingly sacred task to give voice to memories, to grant renewed life to a person’s story.  For millions during the Holocaust, even those who would remember were murdered, even those who would gather to recite kaddish were lost.  This is one of the reasons why Yad VaShem’s collection of nearly all six million names is so remarkable. We cannot adequately remember or even fathom the loss of six million.  We can however tell individual stories.  Please join me in this effort.  Share stories with me and thereby with your congregation.  Perhaps in this way our congregation will take on a sacred task, for the most part lost to history, and begin remembering those who might otherwise be forgotten.

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