For many years, Temple Beth Torah has commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Our service, sponsored by the Tri-City Interfaith Council, is held on a Sunday night in the spring. The service is always held in close proximity to the Hebrew date of Yom HaShoah, which is the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. The State of Israel in 1953 designated the 27th of Nisan in commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a heroic resistance to Nazi occupation.
However, I was unaware until this week that there is another date besides Yom HaShoah that also is a commemoration of the Holocaust. January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance day, so designated because on this date in 1945, Russian troops liberated the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
This past Wednesday, in our nation’s capital, there was a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy that honored four Righteous Gentiles who rescued Jews during the Shoah. This gathering was attended by elected officials, religious leaders, and representatives of a number of Jewish organizations. President Obama attended this ceremony as well and gave a moving address. Remarkably, he is the first sitting US President to ever speak at the Israeli Embassy in DC.
I know that my own perspective of the Shoah has been deeply impacted by my journey to Poland and Germany a few months ago. I was deeply saddened as I experienced firsthand the Warsaw Ghetto; Auschwitz-Birkenau; a killing field outside of a small Polish town; and the Nazi regime in Berlin. I also was inspired by the people I met both in Poland and Germany who are striving not only to preserve memories of the past but are also striving to revitalize Jewish communal life.
Many congregants have asked me about my time in Warsaw, Krakow, and Berlin. It’s impossible to convey my experiences in a short conversation or during a Shabbat service or in a blogpost. It is far better to have an evening in which I can tell stories, show photographs, and respond to your questions and comments.
On Wednesday night, February 24, I will make a presentation about my journey to Poland and Germany. We will meet in the Social Hall beginning at 7:30pm. Please feel free to invite friends and neighbors and anyone you think might be interested in attending this program.