We have just completed the Passover seders, whose primary purpose is to teach each generation how the Holy One saved us from bondage through the Exodus. We go through the annual ritual so that we never forget how we were forged as a people in our escape from Egypt.
It’s appropriate that the next crucial dates on the Jewish calendar also are all about remembrance and our responsibility to educate our children.
From Tuesday evening, May 10, to Thursday evening, May 12, we observe and honor the miracle of modern Israel, including all those who have given their lives for its survival, during Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). Those days mark the renewal of the promise that brought us to Israel from Egypt more than 3,000 years ago, and it is vital that we make sure our children understand how central Israel and our return to the land are to Judaism.
But first comes Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, from Wednesday evening to Thursday evening, May 4 and 5. We have multiple free opportunities to observe the event and honor the memory of the 6 million slain by the Nazis:
- Sunday, May 1, at 11 a.m. is the 51st annual ceremony at the Memorial to the Six Million at Greenwood Cemetery, organized by the survivor group Eternal Life-Hemshech with the help of the Breman Museum. Hungarian survivor Robert Ratonyi is the featured speaker at a ceremony dedicated to the children of the Holocaust. The Breman’s Holocaust exhibit is open to the public at no cost that day.
- Friday, May 6, at 11 a.m. is the Days of Remembrance ceremony arranged by the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust at the state Capitol. Andrea Videlefsky, the president of Am Yisrael Chai, receives the commission’s Humanitarian Award, and the Marist School’s Brendan Murphy gets the Distinguished Educator Award. Under the theme “Mothers and Fathers: Stories of Love and Loss,” the observance of the days also includes the “Georgia’s Response to the Holocaust” exhibit in Sandy Springs through May 4, a documentary screening at 1 p.m. May 8 in Sandy Springs and a presentation by survivor Helen Fromowitz Weingarten at noon May 11 at Fellowship Baptist Church in Roswell.
- Rabbi Joseph Polak, a Dutch toddler survivor, is the keynote speaker at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at the Marcus Jewish Community Center’s observance at the Besser Holocaust Memorial Garden.
As we and others have noted, Holocaust survivors are a dwindling population 71 years after the fall of Hitler and the liberation of the death camps. That’s why the Yom HaShoah observances aren’t just an opportunity; they’re an obligation.
Just as we share the responsibility to retell and remember the story of the Exodus each year, so we share the responsibility to bear witness to the testimonies of Holocaust survivors to ensure the continuity of the memory of the greatest crime against humanity in the modern world. That means not only must we attend at least one of these events each year, but we also must bring along members of the next generation.
Just as we must consider that we ourselves were saved from Egypt, so we must recognize that we ourselves were threatened with annihilation in the Holocaust. And we must never forget.