Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yom haShoah

Today, as hopefully most of you know, is Yom haShoah. Now, I agree that there is room to debate from a halachic perspective whether such a day is necessary when we already have 9 Av. (It does strike me as ironic to argue that no mourning period can be designated apart from 9 Av in the midst of sefirah, itself a distinct mourning period.) However, the bottom line is such a day does exist, so ex post facto the debate is moot. To ignore the day risks causing ill will that far outweighs any gain. I think it is a bit disingenuous to think that 9 Av in a typical summer camp is given over to real reflection on the Holocaust. Yes, a kinah or two is added at the end, but that does not do justice to the topic in the way a day like today can. The Holocaust is rightly understood as one of the two defining events of 20th century Jewish life (the other being the creation of the State of Israel), and in fact, an event of unparalleled magnitude in modern world history. I recall when we lived in NJ that even the secular school system had a requirement that the Holocaust be taught as part of the curriculum (I do not know if the same holds true in NY State). Since our students learn world history anyway, why should we also not take the opportunity to use this day for Holocaust study and remembrance?

1 comment:

  1. Good points.

    Compare this selection from an article in Haaretz on 4/27/06 (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=709958) --

    Officially, Holocaust Remembrance Day is not a holiday for the ultra-Orthodox. In the past the ultra-Orthodox media even referred to Holocaust Remembrance Day and Remembrance Day for Israel's Fallen as "yemei eidam" (days of misfortune), a phrase usually reserved for describing gentile holidays.

    In reality, the ultra-Orthodox's gradual move toward the state is also evident on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Just as the independent ultra-Orthodox newspapers interview senior ministers on holiday eves, they also devoted numerous articles to Holocaust Remembrance Day in last weekend's editions.

    The ultra-Orthodox Bakehila interviewed the number one ultra-Orthodox Holocaust researcher and the head of the Center for Holocaust Studies at the Michlala Jerusalem College for Women, Rabbanit Esther Farbstein, who spoke about the changes in the ultra-Orthodox attitude toward the Holocaust.

    Mishpaha, another ultra-Orthodox paper, devoted most of its issue to the Holocaust. It interviewed the elder statesman of the ultra-Orthodox journalists, Yosef Friedenson, who went through six concentration camps and stood in line for hours waiting to use the only pair of tefillin (phylacteries) in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

    Mishpaha's Rosenthal reports that most of today's issue is also devoted to the Holocaust. In the past, he says, there were objections in principle to Holocaust Remembrance Day. But over the years, "I don't know why, it somehow spread that after Passover we focus on the Holocaust," he comments.

    Afterward, he offers an explanation: "Because we live here."