Interfaith Holocaust Service This Sunday

holocaust_serviceFor Jews, remembering is a sacred task both as individuals and as a community.  For us, memory serves the purpose of connecting us with our past and strengthening us on our journey into the future.

Remembering the darkness of the Holocaust is perhaps the most important act of remembrance of our time. We should consider ourselves obligated to remember the Six Million victims of Hitler’s war against our people in the same way that we consider ourselves obligated to fast on Yom Kippur or take part in a Passover Seder.

I am asking you to fulfill the mitzvah of remembering at our community’s annual Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance service. This year’s service will take place on Sunday, May 1 at 4:00 PM at Oheb Shalom. The service is attended by hundreds of people of all faiths. Because we are the hosts of this year’s event, it is especially important that members of our congregation are present in significant numbers.

I also ask you to take part in the March of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 PM at Spiotta Park (located at the corner of South Orange Avenue and Village Plaza near the Chase Bank). The march will be led by members of the South Orange-Maplewood Clergy, who will offer prayers and readings on the theme of support for refugees.

Please park on side streets surrounding the synagogue, as our parking lot will be reserved for those for whom walking is difficult.  If you wish, you may drop off passengers at the main entrance to our building and then park off premises.  You will be able to enter the building through the glass doors on the street level entrance until the start of the service at 4:00 PM.

I look forward to seeing you at this year’s Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service.



P.S. I hope you will join in the celebration of the final days of Passover. We usher in the seventh day with an evening service tonight (Thursday, April 28) at 6:15 PM. Morning services for the seventh day will take place on Friday, April 29 beginning at 9:45 AM. Evening services for Shabbat and the eighth and final day of Passover will take place on Friday at 6:15 PM. And services for the final day of Passover will take place on Saturday, April 30 beginning at 9:45 AM, during which the Yizkor prayers will be recited. After Shabbat ends eat as much Chametz as you want! Chag Sameach!


Reason to Be Ashamed

This year’s observance of Yom Hashoah V’Hagevurah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, was marked, as it has been for years, with candle lightings, readings and the recitation of special liturgies. Doing so is entirely appropriate, and it should be the case that observing Yom Hashoah is considered to be a sacred obligation, in the same way that we feel an obligation to fast on Yom Kippur or participate in a Passover Seder. Remembering what happened to our people during the dark years of the Shoah should not be an option, something left to chance. Of course, no religion can control people’s thoughts and feelings. But remembering the Shoah should be ritualized, set in a ceremonial context. That is the way young people will come to understand the profound importance of remembering what happened and be encouraged to help to build a world where such things cannot happen again.

Remembering, of course, is not sufficient. We should feel an obligation to honor survivors of the Shoah, to ensure that they live the years left to them in dignity and comfort. Yet reports that nearly 50% of Holocaust survivors in Israel are living at or below the poverty line amount to reason to be ashamed. The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel estimates that despite a plan to invest nearly one billion Israeli shekels in helping Holocaust survivors, thousands live in poverty, with insufficient food and nutrition, decrepit housing, poor health and inadequate healthcare, and feelings of loneliness. Many survivors believe that their suffering will soon be forgotten.

On the eve of Passover, a story in the Jerusalem Post reported that a group of Shoah survivors who wished to hold a Seder but could not afford to do so. They did not have sufficient funds to buy kosher for Passover food and the Orthodox Mashgiach in the hotel where they finally made arrangements to hold their Seder on Friday afternoon would not let them bring in food that was not certified for Passover since it was considered forbidden to eat chametz on Erev Passover.

Holocaust survivors living in poverty, alone and afraid, is nothing less than disgrace, a reason for the worldwide Jewish community to feel shame. All of our efforts to strengthen Judaism, to plan for our future, are somehow tainted if we neglect this most sacred responsibility- to remember the past not solely with prayers and candle lightings but by ensuring the dignity and peace of those who lived through the darkness of the Shoah.

To learn how you can help Shoah survivors living in poverty, click here.

And I urge you to attend the annual Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service at 4:00 PM this Sunday, April 19 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Maplewood. More information can be found here.