– Holocaust Remembrance Day. Tomorrow in Israel, sirens will wail, and people will stop whatever they are doing for two minutes. Cars will pull over and people will get out of their vehicles. The whole nation will pause for two minutes to remember the six million Jews, two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe at the time, who were murdered by the Nazis.
It was more than just Jews who were targeted – German authorities also went after other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.
It is our duty to remember so say we can ensure that this kind of atrocity – this evil attempt to “purify” the human race, must never happen again. We have often repeated the slogan “never again” in reference to the Holocaust, and it has been evoked in response to other holocausts since – in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Darfur, Rwanda, and now in Myanmar. We hear it voiced anew today in our country in reference to gun violence and the killing of children – Never Again: this killing must not claim one more victim.
What is the wisdom we Jews have learned from the holocaust of our people? How do we best remember and honor those of our people who were slaughtered, whose lives were cut short, who family trees were stunted or altogether cut down? It is overwhelming to consider the numbers, millions and millions of people, each one altogether unique, each one of them created in the image of God, each one a star in God’s constellation of humanity.
In the Jewish calendar, we find ourselves in the Omer, the 50 day period between Passover and Shavuot. It is traditional to stand and count each day – the first day of the Omer, the second day, etc. So tonight we count 12 days of the Omer. Let us also pause in what we are doing and take two minutes to look up at the stars in the sky. Let us try, and fail, to count every one.
Each life is a light – may we go forward, counting each one, trying our best to lift up each life, each light.
Blessings, Rabbi Anna