Monday, April 8 marked Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, the Embassy of Israel hosted an event for young professionals to gather and remember together.
After some opening remarks, the mood was set by showing a video of the Yom HaShoah siren in Israel. In Israel, Yom HaShoah is a national day of remembrance on the 27th of Nisan signed into law in 1953 by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. At 10:00 am, a two long siren is sounded throughout Israel. The entire country comes to a standstill during the two minutes as silent tribute is paid to the dead.
Following the video, Lt. Col. Dado Barklalifa of the IDF sang the mournful notes of El Male Rachamim. El Male Rachamim is a funeral prayer sung by Ashkenazi Jews and is sung on occasions when remembering those who have passed away. El Male Rachamim was followed by another song, the original Yiddish of “Undzer shtetl brent” or “Our Town is Burning,” Written by Mordecai Gebirtig following a pogrom in the Polish town of Przytyk, it became popular in ghettos and camps and inspired young people to take up arms against the Nazis. Gebirtig was murdered by the Nazis in 1942 during a round up for deportation from the Krakow Ghetto.
Survivor David Bayer shared his story with us. Only 16 years old when the Germans came to his Polish town, Bayer was able to survive ghettos, work assignments, Auschwitz, and a death march. Now 90 years old, Bayer reminded us of the unthinkable horrors the victims of the Holocaust endured. Bayer volunteers on Wednesdays at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum where he continues to share his story.
Finally, Rabbi Shira Stutman spoke on the Hebrew word “zachor,” which translates to “remember” in English. However, the English does not do the Hebrew justice. Zachor means more than just “remember”, it is more accurately translated as “remember so that”. We need to remember the Holocaust so that we can make a better world. We need to remember the Holocaust so that it never happens again.
The event concluded with the singing of Hatikvah.