Remembering the Holocaust, This Year and Every Year

The Fellowship's Yael Eckstein looks up at the Babi Yar memorial in remembrance


This morning, my family and I stood in silence as Israel sounded a two-minute siren commemorating the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.  We stood on our front porch in solidarity with the entire nation as we collectively remembered our past.

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a sacred day marked annually on the Hebrew calendar. It is a day on which we stop everything and reflect upon the greatest massacre in world history.

This year, however, in the shadow of the coronavirus, we could not observe this day as we usually do. Ceremonies commemorating the event were televised in front of empty audiences. Holocaust survivor testimonies moved online. School assemblies took place via meetings over the internet. Even as we paid tribute to Holocaust survivors, they remained isolated safely at home. Yet, for all that has changed in the past six weeks since the pandemic began, our commitment to “never forget” remains the same.

A Shocking Statistic at Yom HaShoah

I recently reviewed the worldwide Jewish population statistics that are usually released before Yom HaShoah. It is always shocking to see that, so many decades after the Holocaust, the world Jewish population has STILL not reached pre-World War II levels. In 1939, on the eve of the Holocaust, there were 16.6 million Jews in the world. In 2018, that number stood at 14.7 million. Three generations later, we have yet to recover from the massive and heartbreaking loss of life.

When I was younger and we marked Yom HaShoah in school, I would wonder how many more friends I might have if the Holocaust had not happened. I wondered how many more relatives I might have if so many had not been murdered by the Nazis. And today, as my own children have reached the age when I once pondered these questions, it is hard to believe that the Jewish population is still profoundly affected by the atrocities committed 80 years ago.

Six million is a number that is hard to grasp. But, while we may never be able to truly fathom the tragedy of the Holocaust, it is our duty to try. It is up to us to educate a world that is increasingly forgetting, and even denying, the horrors of the Holocaust. It is our responsibility to know the truth and teach the next generation.

Our Commitment Through Changing Times

This year, one thing is clear to me. Times will change, even in ways we never imagined. But our commitment to remembering the Holocaust must always remain the same.  I am so grateful that no matter how the world changes or how much time passes, my children and grandchildren will live in a country that will always sound the siren and stand in solidarity on Yom HaShoah.  We must remember the past in order to forge a better future. The lessons of the Holocaust are lessons that we cannot afford to forget.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's signature

Tags: Coronavirus Holocaust IFCJ The Fellowship Yom HaShoah

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