Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Memorial Day

Remembering the victims.

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Some Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis have never endorsed this memorial day, nor have they formally rejected it. There is no change in the daily religious services in Orthodox synagogues on Yom Hashoah. The Orthodox Rabbinate of Israel attempted to promote the Tenth of Tevet--a traditional fast day commemorating the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem in ancient times--as the "General Kaddish Day" in which Jews should recite the memorial prayer and light candles in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. Several ultra-Orthodox rabbis have recommended adding piyyutim (religious poems) that were written by contemporary rabbis to the liturgy of the Ninth of Av, and many communities follow this custom.

Jews in North America observe Yom Hashoah within the synagogue as well as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs. A few congregations find it more practical to hold commemorative ceremonies on the closest Sunday to Yom Hashoah. Many Yom Hashoah programs feature a talk by a Holocaust survivor, recitation of appropriate songs and readings, or viewing of a Holocaust-themed film. Some communities choose to emphasize the depth of loss that Jews experienced in the Holocaust by reading the names of Holocaust victims one after another--dramatizing the unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on or near Yom Hashoah.

New Rituals

Rituals associated with Yom Hashoah are still being created and vary widely among synagogues. Attempts have also been made to observe this memorial day at home. One suggestion is that every Jewish home should light a yahrzeit (memorial) candle on this day.yom hashoah

There have been numerous attempts to compose special liturgy (text and music) for Yom Hashoah. In 1988 the Reform movement published Six Days of Destruction. This book, co-authored by Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Albert Friedlander, was meant to be viewed as a "sixth scroll," a modern addition to the five scrolls that are read on specific holidays. Six narratives from Holocaust survivors are juxtaposed to the six days of creation found in Genesis.

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