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April 22, 2015

Yom Hashoah 5775/2015

by Rabbi Dovid Felt

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Commemorating Yom Hashoah this year among the number of different messages, two stood out for me as they were particularly germane to the current situation the Jewish people find themselves. Even though Yom Hasoah has been a fixture in our calendar for the last 70 years these messages had not been as relevant then as they are now.

The first message was the recognition that today’s survivors are not the generation that escaped Nazi Germany, that lived through the labor camps and or the notorious concentration camps. Today’s survivors are their children. While the distinction “survivor” is apt even when describing the next generation the conferring of this title is unfortunately theirs by default. The number of actual survivors has diminished to the extent that one needs to look far and wide to find them. This reality hit me the hardest last may when on May 8th, 2014 Mendel Flaster a Holocaust survivor, who my family and I had come to know fondly, sadly, passed away. Mendel was 19 when the war broke out in 1939. He went through 14 concentration camps and through a combination of self-care, self-sacrifice, and Divine assistance (Siyata D’Ismaya) was able to survive. His powerful message to us was the importance of helping others and he always attributed his survival as being a direct result of his altruism.

The second message was one that Rabbi Stulberger during a special assembly at school and later Rabbi Pini Dunner at a Yom Hashoah event held in his shul (that some of our students  were fortunate enough to attend) shared. They both highlighted the resemblance of current events around the world with the years preceding World War II. They cautioned about the dangers of being complacent and ignoring the rearing of the ugly monster known as anti-semitism.

I am not sure if Yom Hashoah was placed in the calendar so close to Pesach for a specific reason but it seems to me that it echoes the Vehi Sheomda passage that we read during the Seder. Lets us never forget that it is HKBH who ultimately is our savior.

Felt tips

The following is from a news article I read last week.

A Brussels-based European Jewish umbrella organization has launched a campaign which calls on Europeans to wear a Kippah, the traditional Jewish skullcap, and other Jewish symbols to fight rising anti-Semitism on the continent. They are being asked to film themselves walking down the street to show their opposition to rising anti-Semitism.

“The idea is to get as many non-Jews as possible to wear Jewish symbols and show solidarity, and that they are a part of the silent majority that is not anti-Semitic.

While I think this is an interesting initiative I feel the emphasis for us should be on the reason we wear a Kippa. We do so to remind us constantly that we are standing before our creator. The purpose of the reminder is to help us be aware of whose presence we are in and to act accordingly. By following in the footsteps of Hashem we are able to be a light unto the nations. This message needs to be shared with our children who I fear are letting go of their Kippas to blend in with their environment. We need to stand proud of our mission in this world and never shirk our responsibility to Hashem and his creations.

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