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Apr 25, 2006

a multi-cultured holocaust thought

Every year at Yom Hashoa we have a short ceremony at work. Everyone comes to the center of the office. Someone turns on the radio right before 10:00 AM and puts it on the speaker system (we cannot hear the external siren where we are). All of the sudden the siren sounds and everyone (120 or so people) go silent for 2 minutes, each person thinking his own thoughts about the holocaust. After the siren completes, someone leads a ceremony with 2 chapters of Tehillim, a mishna, kaddish, the Kel Maleh tefilla remembering the dead, and then everyone together sings the famous rendition of Ani Maamin.

My office is comprised of a large variety of people. The mix includes pretty much the gamut of Jewish/Israeli society. We have old and young and middle age. We have religious and not religious. We have ashkenaz and sefard and hassidic(and if you want to break it down even more, every type of ashkenaz to every type of sefard to various hassidic sects). We have reps from a lot of different countries. We all stand there in silence and in thought during the 2 minute siren.

This is the kibbutz galuyot of Israel today (or as we used to call it in America, the Melting Pot). People from different backgrounds and cultures can stand together and think about a collective memory. Was the Ethiopian woman thinking about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising (the day is called Yom L'Zikharon Hashoah V'Hagevurah), the death marches or the strife her family suffered in Ethiopia? Was the Iranian guy next to me thinking about Babi Yar or the forced conscription of young Iranian Jews to be used to clear minefields in the prolonged Iran-Iraq war? Was the Russian lady thinking about the destruction of the ghettos of Poland or of her families persecution in Russia for being Jewish? Was the American guy thinking about how the worst he ever suffered was the shegetz screaming out "Kikes" as he ran by the yeshiva basketball courts or was he thinking about his grandparents who escaped from Aushwitz?

Does it matter? As Jews we have suffered through persecution and torture throughout history. We can think about recent history or we can think about ancient history. We do not lack events in our history, no matter what country or background you hail from. We think about our past to consider the suffering and exiles. Take this day and think about our collective pain. Normally, in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we do not have time to think about these things. We are too busy earning a living, raising our children or doing whatever, to be bothered. "Leave me alone about what happened 50 years ago, I don't have time for it." One day a year, even if it is just for the two minutes of the siren blaring, take the time and think about what it means to be a Jew, which we were never allowed to forget when the goyim came to murder us.


  1. one of your best posts ever

  2. Great post.I agree wholeheartedly.

    A question, where do you (and if you knw, the religious community in general) stand on the issue of standing for the siren on yom Hazikaron?

  3. the Haredi community in general is against standing, as standing silent is not a Jewish concept and was taken from the non-Jewish ways of memorializing. Jews have other ways, the argument goes, of commemorating and it is inappropriate to commemorate jews in a non-Jewish fashion.
    In general, the overwhelming of religious people stand silent. Even most haredim (not including the ultra hard-core fanatics) stad silent, especially when in public with the general public, so as nto to upset people. What they do in their own home when the siren goes off, i do not know.
    Also, some will stand silent, but will say a chapter of tehillim under their breath, so as to Jew-ize the ceremony.

    I have no problem with the standing. I am generally in a public, rather than private place anyway, so it is a non-issue, as no matter what i think, in public I wouod not go against the general crowd. I waste so much time in my life anyway, what is the big deal wasting another 2 minutes standing silently thinking about the shoah? It is much more productive than most of the thiongs I waste my time on!!!

  4. EXCELLENT POST. You have really developed your writing skills, very similar to dad's style. You are alittle more biting/sarcastic. That could be chalked up to being a little yournger and more zealous than he.

    Anyway, I am not going to comment on the standing thing, except to say, here in ChicagoI am tired of both sides of the argument. It has become so political. Let people do what they wnt. One side says I can't recognize anything except what a Rov from 1000 years ago instituted and you are all "over" an issur d'oraisa of "Bechukosayhem". (which goes back to another post of yours regarding subjectivley translating halach). Another side says, I will sit and talk thru K'riyah, but stand and be silent for The Mi'shebayrach of the Medinah. And yet another side says "Hold on, I just got to shule, let me catch up" - this would be me of course. lol

    Keep it up, Raf (or get some viagra)

  5. a little younger????

    Thanks for the compliments everybody on the post. I thought it was a good one too..

  6. Very Israeli, meaning, that's how it is here. Good post.

    About the standing in silence and all the other goyish stuff, I complained about it here:


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