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Apr 19 2012

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, How Do We Pay Our Respects?

By at 1:18 pm

This image is part of a design contest from the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

It’s Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we are supposed to stop and take a moment to remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. I will argue that a moment is not nearly enough.

The “#neverforget” hashtag is woefully inadequate, as are the viral pictures of shadows, children, Jewish stars, and barbed wire. Facebook and the Internet reduce the brutality of the Holocaust to memes. Memorial candles, ceremonies, wreath layings, moments of silence–none of these are enough. With grief so vast, there can never be an adequate synopsis or tribute.

What, then, would be enough, to pay our respects to all those who were murdered?

Only you are the answer to that question.

If you’re here reading Kveller, there’s a chance you are a Jewish parent, or are parenting Jewish children. By doing so, you are strengthening a chain that goes back thousands of years, and forging links that will take it forward into the future. You are telling those who would murder Jews, “No. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”

Maybe you keep kosher, or you’re not sure if you want to, or you’re exploring what that means.  Maybe you observe Shabbat. Maybe you have never set foot in a synagogue in your life, but are thinking about it. Maybe you have just lit Shabbat candles for the first time with your toddler, at their request because they learned about Shabbat in nursery school. Maybe you don’t know what being Jewish means, to you, or your family.

Being part of the people of Israel is always a struggle. Today certainly reminds us that it has long been a struggle with external forces. Amalekites, Spanish Inquisitors, Crusaders, Nazis, al Qaeda, Hamas, KKK–the list of our would-be murderers is long, and scrolls back hundreds of years.

But being part of the people of Israel means struggling with what it means to be Jewish, and taking that struggle in both hands just as Jacob wrestled the angel beneath his ladder in the biblical story. Our history and heritage are so rich because of our struggle, because ours is a culture and people that have always relished, not feared, questions. We are people who believe that questioning and exploring make us stronger, not weaker. We are people who believe that struggling with holy texts and observance is what brings us closer to God.

We, and our children, are lights. We are lights that people like the Nazis tried to extinguish entirely less than a century ago. We are lights that defeat the darkness of people like the recent murderer in Toulouse, bombers in Argentina, the terrorists in Israel, anti-Semites on our shores. By living our lives each day as Jews, and committing to actively explore what that means, we are a vivid refutation of hatred. We are an affirmation of life, heritage, history and determination.

Am Yisrael Chai: the people of Israel live. And as Jewish parents, you make that happen, every day.

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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