The Importance of Remembering

The best way to honor the memory of Holocaust victims is through Jewish continuity.

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The Jews who maintained their heritage for thousands of years did so not because they were surrounded by rabid anti-Semitism. (Until Hitler's demonic program, they always had the option to abandon Judaism for another belief system.) They did so because their way of life had value.

Memory and Jewish Renewal

While you are teaching your children about this painful period, remember to teach them that: Don't talk only about the destruction but about what was destroyed: the rich culture, the intellectual accomplishments, the colorful tradition that was Eastern European Jewish life. Our heritage, our unique value system, our contributions to the world are what we must remember along with our troubled history. These are the memories that will prompt us to effectively engage in the revitalization of Jewish life.

The question each of us must ask is "How will I participate in Jewish renewal?" It may be through your children: raising them to be informed, identified Jews. (One suggested response to the tremendous loss of Jewish life is that each family have one more child than it had planned, to replenish the population, and its potential progeny, cut down by Hitler.)

Strengthening the community by supporting--with money and volunteer efforts--the institutions devoted to promoting Jewish life (physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual) is a widespread response. Helping ensure that Israel continues to grow and progress so there will always be a safe haven for Jews is of utmost importance.

Memory, Creativity, and Learning

If you are creative, produce art, literature, music, dance, or film on Jewish themes. Whether or not you are creative, read Jewish books, visit Jewish museums, attend Jewish programs, subscribe to Jewish periodicals. And, most of all, learn. Learning has always been a cornerstone of Jewish continuity and renewal.

In biblical days, the Israelites emerged from periods of idolatry, devastation, and exile by returning to Torah--reading it, trying to understand and live by it. [In modern times, ] from the ashes of the respected European yeshivot [academies] destroyed in the 1940's have arisen new Jewish academies and other educational programs in Israel and in America (many of them supported by funds from Jews who are not themselves particularly tradition-minded or Jewishly well educated).

Day school, supplemental, family, and adult education programs are continually being expanded.  Make sure your children have access to formal Jewish education (don't overlook a good Jewish youth group or summer camp), and take advantage of learning opportunities yourself (don't overlook the possibility of organizing or attending a study group in someone's home).

All of these acts, while honoring the memory of the generations that preceded us, will create positive new memories and strong new Jewish realities for the generations that follow.

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Lesli Koppelman Ross is a writer and artist whose works have appeared nationally. She has devoted much of her time to the causes of Ethiopian Jewry and Jewish education.