Yom HaShoah - יום השואה - is always challenging, and especially so this year as we see a steep rise in anti-Semitism and other forms of hate across the country and the world. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) recently began an historic partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and here at Temple Beth El we have initiated an Anti-Semitism Task Force to develop and implement both reactive and proactive measures to address local problems and threats. https://urj.org/what-we-do/social-justice/urj-adl-partnership
It’s especially painful to acknowledge that Jews are not always the victims of terror but sometimes the perpetrators. This winter the URJ joined the ADL and other Jewish organization to take a strong stance against “ongoing terrorism and political violence committed by Jewish Israeli extremists in the West Bank against Palestinians, Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers.” https://www.timesofisrael.com/adl-other-jewish-groups-denounce-ongoing-terrorism-by-settler-e
In a happier world, the confluence of Passover, Ramadan and Easter would be a time of interfaith education and celebration, but this year we are seeing heightened tensions and tragic deaths of Israelis and Palestinians. It was heartening to hear that President Biden will visit Israel in the coming months, reaffirming the United States' commitment to an equitable and secure two-state solution. Biden accepts Israeli PM's invitation to visit Israel - Israel News - The Jerusalem Post
And as Yom HaShoah approaches, we witness the tragic escalation of brutal conflict and war crimes in Ukraine. The shocking photos of murdered civilians on the streets look like pictures from the Holocaust. We commonly translate shoah - שואה - as holocaust, from the Greek word holokaustos, meaning a ritual sacrifice that was "burnt whole." But the Hebrew word shoah simply means destruction.
The systematic Nazi genocide perpetrated on the Jews of Europe cannot be separated from the historical context of the Nazi devastation of European cities. In a cruel irony of war, halting the Nazi destruction required the Allied bombing of cities in Germany and Japan, with huge numbers of civilian losses and environmental damage. Those terrible years saw destruction of both flesh-and-blood and material communities. With horror we watch this being repeated in the near total destruction of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
"In 2019, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, issued a joint appeal on the use of explosive weapons in cities and other areas with population concentrations, calling for an end to the devastation and civilian suffering.
As the world urbanizes, so does armed conflict. When cities are bombed and shelled — whether by airstrikes, rockets, artillery or improvised explosive devices — civilians overwhelmingly bear the brunt. In fact, the majority of casualties — over 90%, according to one estimate — are civilians. The harrowing images from population centres in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine — to name but a few — show a pattern of grave civilian harm impossible to ignore, yet too often forgotten."
Environmental legacy of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas
Cities and the Dust of Destruction
Observed since 1951, Yom HaShoah is considered a religious holiday, yet there are no special prayers for the occasion, as if contemplating the enormity of the suffering makes prayer impossible, like the time between the death and burial of a loved one when even the most strictly observant are not expected to participate in prayer.
In Israel, Yom HaShoah is marked with numerous ceremonies. At 10 a.m., sirens sound and the whole nation stops for two minutes of silence.
At Temple Beth El, we usually honor Yom HaShoah with moving songs from our Choir, a special presentation and chanting of the Mourner’s Kaddish, This year we’re honored to have special guest Irv Lubliner reading from the memoir his mother wrote about her Holocaust experience, Only Hope - A Survivor's Stories of the Holocaust. It will be viewable on Zoom for TBE members.