Yesterday was Yom HaShoah, the date in the Jewish calendar designated for Holocaust Remembrance. Though the 27th of Nisan is the official date, throughout North America communities have observed this solemn occasion either on the day itself or at time in close proximity. In our community, we observed Yom HaShoah this past Sunday evening at our annual service sponsored by the Tri-Cities Interfaith Council.
It’s striking that our service is the only one in the Bay Area that is interfaith. All others are either sponsored by local synagogues or by other Jewish communal organizations. There is a dynamic tension inherent in the fact that our service is interfaith. Questions arise for those of us who plan the service. To what degree should the service be focused on the horrific experiences of European Jewry during the war? To what extent should other victims of Nazi oppression be included? What theological affirmations – or denials – are expressed in prayer? Is it possible to conclude such a service with any message of hope for humanity?
I welcome wrestling with these questions year after year. It keeps me attuned to the dynamics of Yom HaShoah without it ever becoming a rote observance.
I appreciate the sensitivity my colleagues and friends in the Tri-Cities Interfaith Council have toward this annual day of remembrance. The fact that Christians and Muslims join with us in solemn observance is heartening to me. Clearly, people are impacted by Yom HaShoah. At yesterday’s meeting of the Tri-Cities Interfaith Council, every person who attended Sunday night’s service spoke about how moved he or she was.
I also am reminded that the service can affect people who come in ways I never imagined. Two years ago, during the Oneg following the service, a TCIC friend introduced me to a woman and told me that this woman’s father was born and raised in Germany and was a Nazi soldier. After the war, he settled in America and raised a family. Her father expressed hatred toward Jews and kept Nazi paraphernalia in the home. This woman felt a dark burden from her past and was deeply conflicted about her father. She told me that attending the Yom HaShoah service was cathartic for her.
Remarkably, last year, something very similar took place when two members of our congregation after the Yom HaShoah service introduced me to a woman who also had a parent born in Germany. She too felt heartache and conflict about her parent’s past. The service proved healing for her as well.
One never knows with any certainty the impact a service can have for any individual. But here in the Tri-Cities, I am grateful for the fact that our Holocaust Remembrance Service has meaning for members of our congregation and for our community.