The UN’s official institution of Holocaust Remembrance Day is a step in the right direction, but can easily become an empty gesture disguised as meaningful commemoration. In order to learn the lessons of the Holocaust, we must see both victims and perpetrators as real people—people like ourselves. A more effective way of teaching the lessons of the Shoah is via art, film, and literature, which allow us not just to remember what happened but to be changed by it.
Ovadya ben Malka's writings on the shoah and memory
In a new review of A Damaged Mirror, therapist Sheri Oz writes about the limitations of memory and the challenge of forgiving. More than just a book review, this article plumbs the depths of the human need for control over our fate–and what happens when that control is absent.
The juxtaposition of Yom haZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, and Yom haAtzmaut, the Anniversary of Independence, is startling. On Yom haZikaron, we remember those we’ve lost, and we mourn what might have been. And the next evening, the somber atmosphere of mourning suddenly gives way—too suddenly for many of us—to the exuberance of celebration. The transition seems too abrupt; is it really fitting? Can we be expected to shift gears so suddenly?
And yet, there are reasons why this abrupt switch may be fitting after all….
Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo speculates on the implications of resurgent memory in our day. Could it be that we are witnessing the revival of the dead without even recognizing it? “Isaiah’s words, ‘the earth will reveal her bloodshed and will no longer cover her slain,’ are eerily appropriate to the phenomenon described in this book: a memory from beyond the grave takes form and substance, and stands in accusation against the murderers. … Could this phenomenon be the fulfillment of the prophetic vision?”
I am not a citizen of the world; the world is too big a place for me. I belong to a small people whose destiny I embrace with every fiber of my being. To learn a page of Talmud is to be as close to home as I have ever come. In embracing heritage, we gain more than the world. It is ourselves that we gain.
We are free
Free in the dead of winter.
There is no sign of life
No sign that freedom is here
It is ironic, and somehow appropriate that Holocaust Remembrance Day is not commemorated in Israel. At least not on the same day as the rest of the world commemorates it. Truly, we are “a people that dwells alone.” How to commemorate Yom HaShoah is a dilemma that we still grapple with. Here, it’s personal; not a historical event to be commemorated, but a memory to be endured. There are a large number of Israelis who know first-hand “how bad it got”. And even the children and grandchildren know to some extent, just because of the the things that their parents and grandparents can’t speak of. And yet, even here, the survivors were at first afraid to speak of it for fear of not being understood. Either you were there, in which case no words are necessary, or you weren’t, in which case no words are enough.
Miracles do happen, sometimes, to some people. But we still have to be fast on our feet to make any use of them. Shmuel the Glazier points the way.