April 15, 2015: Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. The day, called Yom Ha’Shoah Ve Hagevurah in Hebrew, is celebrated on the 27th day of the month of Nisan, a week after the end of Passover. The day was established by Israel’s Parliament in 1951, and has been adopted by Jewish communities throughout the world as a day to reflect and to remember the victims and survivors of the atrocities committed on them by the Nazis in Germany and eastern Europe during World War II.

In North America, Holocaust Memorial Day is observed in a variety of ways. Some communities plan special programming that could include educational discussions, presentations by Holocaust survivors, or Holocaust-themed movies. Others observe the day in reflection by attending services at their synagogue. Efforts have been made to compose a special liturgy for services taking place on this day.

Remembering the Holocaust by having a day devoted to memorials of the victims and survivors is becoming more important as there are fewer survivors to tell their own stories. It is estimated that, in the United States, there are fewer than 140,000 Holocaust survivors remaining. By having formal observances, Jews are able to express their respect to the survivors and to the memories of the victims.

The formal manner of celebrating Yom Ha’Shoah is evolving, yet the importance of the day to Jews is undeniable. The slogan, “Never Forget,” was originated by Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust to emphasize the importance of the tragedy and to encourage everyone to remember the inexplicable horrors inflicted on a religious community. Holocaust Memorial Day is one day during which Jews will ensure that they “Never Forget.”

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