This week we commemorated Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day is always a difficult and painful day as we are reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust and what our Jewish brothers and sisters as well as millions of other human beings suffered through. The recent rise of antisemitism makes this day even more real and frightening.
During a visit to Yad Vashem two years ago I had the privilege of attending the museum with forty students who were on the Birthright Israel program. After the emotional day, as we were sitting on the bus returning to the hotel, one of the students approached me. He said all through his schooling years (he went to Scopus) he kept hearing the message of ‘Never Again’ or ‘We will never Forget’. He never really connected with these expressions or gave them much thought, but after the visit to Yad Vashem he was wondering what that meant practically?
Was it enough to visit a Holocaust Museum once a year in order to fulfil the mission of ‘We will never forget’ ? Was it enough to put his facebook status as ‘Never Again!’ in order to attain the results this expression was seeking to achieve? I thought these were excellent questions and questions that many others might have as well.
We spoke about this for a while and one of the ideas we had was as follows: In Judaism, to remember something requires actions. We remember Pesach by having a Seder. Sukkot is remembered by sitting in a Sukkah for eight days. Chanukah we light the Chanukkiah. Therefore I suggested that one way to remember those who perished is to do something positive in their memory.
Take on an extra mitzvah or good deed and actively do it while having in mind those who lost their lives. By attaching the memory of those innocent souls to our actions, I think in some way they live on through that deed. For the children and grandchildren of those who perished this might be more personal as they can have their relatives in mind. For those who did not have relatives in the Holocaust then it might mean remembering someone they may have read about or having in mind all the lives that were lost. The student decided to take upon himself the mitzvah of putting on tefillin once a week and I am still in touch with him and he has continued ever since!
May the souls of all those who were brutally murdered in the Holocaust have an aliyah and may their memory continue to live on through our actions!