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Yom HaShoah: Commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Rachel Gildiner | Apr 28, 2014 |

Yom HashoahToday is Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) or Holocaust Remembrance Day, a most solemn day in Jewish history. This day commemorates the approximately six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Watch this video to better understand the history and reasons we commemorate Yom Hashoah today.

The day is traditionally commemorated with rituals and actions that remind us of the atrocities that occurred, and that also remind us of the compassion that exists in the world. Some customs include:

  • Lighting 6 or 7 yahrzeit candles that burn for 24 hours to represent the lives of the 6 Million who were killed
  • Name Reading Ceremonies of those who perished
  • Reciting poetry, psalms, and prayers, particularly the El Maleh Rachamim (God, Full of Mercy), a memorial prayer for victims of the Holocaust (text below)

Each of these rituals, and the many other private and public ways that people mark this day, are based on the strength and power of memory. We remember this day because we do not want to ever forget. Sharing memories, stories, and the humanity of those who died, helps us remember our own history and serves as a reminder to do our part to ensure this never happens again. For as we know, Genocide is not just in the past but exists in many parts of the world today

Here are some additional resources to help commemorate this day:

  • El Maleh Rachamim / God, Full of Mercy

God full of mercy
defender of widows and father of ophans
be not be silent or restrained regarding the blood which was spilt like water
grant proper rest beneath the wings of Your Presence
in the great heights of the holy and pure
who like the brilliance of the heavens give light and shine
for the souls of multitudes of thousands, men, women, boys and girls
who were killed, and slaughtered, and burnt, and suffocated, and buried alive
in the lands touched by the hand of the German oppressor and its followers
all of them holy and pure
may the Garden of Eden be their resting place
therefore may the Master of mercy shelter them in the shelter of His wings for eternity
and bind their souls with the bond of life
God is their inheritance
and may they find peaceful repose in their resting place
and let us say: Amen

אל מלא רחמים
דיין אלמנות ואבי יתומים
אל נא תחשה ותתאפק לדם שנשפך כמים
המצא מנוחה נכונה
על כנפי השכינה, במעלות קדושים וטהורים, כזהר הרקיע
מאירים ומזהירים
לנשמותיהם של רבבות אלפים
אנשים ונשים, ילדים וילדות
נהרגו ונשחטו ונשרפו ונחנקו ונקברו חיים
בארצות אשר נגעה בהן יד הצורר הגרמני וגרוריו
כלם קדושים וטהורים
בגן עדן תהא מנוחתם
לכן בעל הרחמים יסתירם בסתר כנפיו לעולמים, ויצרור בצרור החיים את
יי הוא נחלתם
ינוחו בשלום על משכבם
ונאמר אמן

Rachel Gildiner is the Director of Learning for Jewish Experience at Hillel International.

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