Bookended by a day of remembrance for our departed ancestors and a day of celebration for the Jewish homeland, this week is considered by some the 'High Holidays of Israel.' This past Tuesday, we observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. We commemorated the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on Wednesday. This coming Tuesday, we will remember Israel’s fallen military personnel on Yom Hazikaron. The following day, we will celebrate Israel’s independence on Yom Ha’atzmaut.
As we remember, observe, and celebrate, we are tasked with acknowledging the difficult parts of our Jewish identity – the persecution and genocide of our people – as well as the inspiring parts – our resilience, our tenacity, our liberation.
As we reflect this week, the Holocaust is at the top of our minds. Though the largest state-sponsored persecution and genocide against the Jewish people took place in the 1930s and 1940s, it was neither the beginning nor the end of persistent efforts to remove and eliminate Jews. On Yom HaShoah, we vow to never forget the atrocities committed by the Nazis toward our people and honor the six million Jews who faced inescapable, deadly fates.
This week, we must also consider both resilience and liberation. Yom HaShoah falls seven days after the conclusion of Passover, in which we share the Pesach story with future generations, detailing our ancestors’ exodus from enslavement in Egypt. It’s a celebration of our liberation from Pharaoh’s iron fist and the start of our journey toward the Land of Israel. It is a promise of our continued existence and perseverance.
Yom Ha’atzmaut is another representation of our resilience. After enduring enslavement, persecution, genocide, and ethnic cleansing, we fought tenaciously for our independence and our home. And we continue to fight.
This week urges us to never forget and never give up in the face of antisemitism. This week is an encouragement to us all to explore and honor what it really means to be Jewish.
In 2023, we still face rampant antisemitism against Jewish communities both nationally and worldwide. In response, we cannot cower or run. We cannot admit defeat. We cannot tuck our Magen David necklaces beneath our clothing or remove our kippot in public. This week – and every week – we have an obligation to carry on the legacy of our ancestors, those who lost their lives in the Shoah and those who gave their lives for the Jewish State. We must always remember our persecution, employ our resilience, and pursue liberation for all.