20th Century Brought Judaism Two Holidays

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 17, 1999 | Go to article overview

20th Century Brought Judaism Two Holidays


Byline: Amy Memis

All of Judaism isn't as old as one might think. Many of Judaism's holidays and life cycle rituals originate thousands of years ago. The Sabbath, Passover and circumcision, for example, can be found in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). At this time of year, however, Jews observe two special days whose origins began in this century, just over 50 years ago. They are Yom HaShoah and Yom HaAtzma'ut, Holocaust (Memorial) Day and (Israel's) Independence Day, respectively.

Yom HaShoah is a solemn day of remembrance for the 6 million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. It became an official memorial day in 1951 when the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) declared it as a Day of the Destruction and Heroism. Yom HaShoah, as other Jewish holidays, is reckoned according to the Hebrew calendar. It falls on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. This day was chosen because it falls close to the day of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, symbolizing the fall of the Ghetto.

This year, Jews observed Yom HaShoah Monday night, April 12 and Tuesday, April 13. In the Chicago-area, congregations from different streams of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist) united in communities and observed Yom HaShoah with special memorial services. Victims of the Holocaust were remembered and survivors and children of those who lived through or perished in the Shoah were solemnly honored.

Six special candles were lit symbolizing the 6 million lost. Survivors told their tragic and miraculous stories of how the Nazis took away their possessions and homes, transported them on trains and/or forced them to work in labor camps. And they told their amazing stories of how they survived. Memorabilia, posters and/or Torah scrolls saved from destruction filled the foyers of these synagogues where the memorial services took place. Congregants and unaffiliated Jews alike gathered together in prayer with the hope that this horror never happen again.

The message of Yom HaShoah is remembrance of the Holocaust. Few survivors are left to tell their stories. The tragedy of the near annihilation of Jews during the Holocaust must not be forgotten. And when all the survivors are gone, all the more must Jews continue to observe Yom HaShoah, so that they might prevent an event like this from ever occurring again.

Yom HaAtzma'ut, on the other hand, is a day of celebration recalling the establishment of the country of Israel as an independent state on May 14, 1948. …

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