שירת שלום

Song of Peace


What's in a Name by Rabbi David Degani

05 Apr 2017 9:14 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)


When  I was in  elementary school decades ago in Israel,  the class discussion one day in the  beginning  of the month of  April  was about the up coming  memorial  day for the Holocaust. When the class was asked  to explain the significance of the day I raised my hand and started talking about "Yom Ha Shoa. I did not get far in my explanation. The teacher, Mrs. Morinski suddenly became very upset. "No!" she said in anger.  "There is no such a thing as 'Yom Ha-Shoa!' " 

By  the beginning of 1943 the Warsaw Ghetto population was very depleted. Most of the Jews had been sent to Auschwitz but under the ghost like empty buildings in underground bunkers a group of young Jews  were preparing to do something never heard of before...In the most amazing ways (an incredible story on its own ) they manage  to sneak into the  Ghetto some pistols, grenades and material to make Molotov cocktails.(essentially, bottles with gasoline and wicks so that when ignite  they make a loud breaking noise and produce a little fire.)

On April 19, 1943  a line of German Tanks entered the Ghetto with the intent to raze everything inside to rubble. But the Germans faced the surprise of their lives when an onslaught of exploding Molotovs welcomed them into the  camp . Thinking that they were facing a barrage of heavy artillery they turned their tanks around and retreated. The bravery of these young men and women continued for weeks as a house to house combat  ensued. The Warsaw revolt became known among the anti German underground group throughout Europe as one of the most amazing acts of defiance. However, after the war it became known that in fact, throughout the war many Jewish Ghettos all over Europe revolted  and fought the Germans with the little means they had.  In spite of the wide range of Jews rebelling in Ghettos and fighting as partisans in forests all over Europe, Jewish heroism is not well celebrated and understood in the US.

Mrs. Morinski  dismayed upon hearing  the term "Yom Ha Shoa" ( literally "a day of the Holocaust) is well ingrained on my heart. That day  she went on to explain to the class  that while  we remember the evil, it is even more important to honor the incredible bravery of those who relentlessly fought the evil, having close to nothing with which to fight. As she put it :"one holocaust  is enough. We do not need another "day of the holocaust" every year.

Therefore, although this term is extensively used in the United States one does not hear the term "Yom Ha Shoa" in Israel. In the early fifties when the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) declared a special day to remember the Shoa, the official name became known as the "Memorial Day for the Shoa and (Jewish) heroism (Yom Zikaron La Shoah veh la G'vura). While in the early days  some people called it Yom Ha Shoa including myself as a child, this term quickly disappeared.  

The original suggestion for the date of the  memorial day was the 14th of the month of Nissan, Passover eve, to honor the Warsaw revolt which started on that day. However  the Knesset felt  that such a solemn day should not coincide with the happy holiday of Passover. The decision was therefore  to place the memorial day as close as possible to the last day of Passover. The 27th of Nissan was agreed upon and became the official memorial day for the Holocaust and Bravery.  

May we always remember Who We Are.....

Rabbi David 

      


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