“to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.” — Isaiah 56:5
Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, Jews in Israel and around the world pause to honor the six million Jews murdered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Here is a reflection from my father, the late Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, on the importance for Christians and Jews to never forget and to continue the fight against anti-Semitism and persecution wherever it exists. — Yael Eckstein, Fellowship President,
In 1953, Israel passed a law to never forget the Holocaust. They established the 27th day of the Hebrew month Nissan as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Originally, the plan was to mark the day on the date of the Warsaw Uprising, the greatest instance of Jewish resistance against the Nazis. However, that day, the 14th of Nissan, coincided with Passover Eve. The 27th of the month is one week after Passover ends and one week before the day that Israelis honor the fallen soldiers in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. That day is today.
While Yom HaShoah today is also marked by Jewish communities worldwide and even some non-Jewish communities, nothing compares to experiencing the day in Israel. As evening falls and the commemorative period begins, a somber mood permeates the country. Ceremonies are held, candles are lit, and almost every television channel is filled with Holocaust-related programing. However, the most moving moment by far is at 10 a.m. when air raid sirens sound throughout the entire country, signaling a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims.
People throughout Israel stop whatever they are doing. Cars, in the middle of the highway, come to a halt. Work stops in workplaces. Shoppers pause in malls and grocery stores. Children stand in their classrooms. The silence is so palatable, you can hear a pin drop. An entire country stops – and remembers the millions of victims of the Nazi genocide.
In Isaiah 56 we read: “to them I will give . . . . a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” This verse has become the basis for remembering the victims of the Holocaust. In fact, Israel’s national Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, gets its name from these words. Yad vashem means “a memorial and a name.” We must give those nameless and faceless victims, many of whom were buried in unmarked mass graves, an identity. However, more than just putting names and faces to the victims, we are called to give them a legacy.
These innocent men, women, and children, brutally and systematically murdered by the Nazis, didn’t get the chance to leave a contribution to society or children to carry on their name. We are to be their legacy. As we carry their memory and perpetuate the lessons learned from their tragedy, we give value to their lives and ensure that their deaths were not completely in vain.
Today, pause for a moment and remember the victims of humanity’s most horrendous atrocity. But more importantly, resolve to take action to ensure that such a catastrophe will never happen again. Let’s give each victim a name, a memory, and a legacy.
Never forget. Never again.