Yom Hashoah’s Necessary Story

This is a season of remembering.

Last week, during the holiday of Passover, we remembered one of the defining events of Jewish history — the Exodus from Egypt. On Sunday, our community will gather to remember one of the defining events of our time — the Holocaust, and the effort to annihilate European Jewry some 70 years ago.

The annual Yom Hashoah Commemoration, sponsored by Baltimore Jewish Council, will be held at Chizuk Amuno Congregation. This and other gatherings on Sunday remind us to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and its threat to the survival of the Jewish people, and to honor the memory of those who perished.

As the generation of those who lived through the Shoah diminishes, our memory fades. Yom Hashoah therefore calls upon us to remember the Holocaust in new ways. Until now, much of our connection to and understanding of the Shoah came from Holocaust survivors. We have relied on their experiences and memories to guard us from forgetting. And they have been exemplary teachers, leaders and educators.

But the perseverance of survivors is not a long-term strategy for remembering. For that we can turn to the Passover Seder and its repeated exhortation to teach our children the story. The Seder shows how you don’t need to be a survivor to remember, and you don’t have to have lived in the past to feel for it or to appreciate it.  Rather, you can “ remember”  through symbols, through experiences, through questions and through a ritualized telling.

In order to ensure our communal memory of the Holocaust, we need to make sure that our children are participants, or at least attendees, at our Shoah commemorations. We need to teach them to remember.  We need to educate them about the symbols and the experiences of the Holocaust.  And we need to recognize that it’s not going to be too long before our children will be the ones who will be relied upon to remember and retell the Holocaust story.

If we are to assure “Never again,”  we need to make sure that the memory lives on and that the story continues to be told.

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