Sunday, April 15, 2007

Yom ha-Shoah

Today is Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, on the Jewish calendar, a day to remember the tragic loss of 6,000,000 Jewish lives, the brutal pruning of one-third of the branches on our collective family tree.

Over the years, I've seen many exhibits about the Holocaust, showing the camps, the packed trains, the luggage left behind, the walkways made from tombstones taken from Jewish cemeteries, the crematoria and so forth. It tends to provoke in me a bit of a cringe, but mostly a "yeah, yeah, seen it," reaction. When the atrocities are explicitly and repeatedly displayed, we become desensitized to the horrors of that era.

The exhibit that moved me the most showed none of these atrocities. It was a collection of hundreds of photographs of Jews in Poland before the war, titled "And I Still See Their Faces: The Vanished World of Polish Jews." I saw the exhibit several years ago, when it came to Lancaster PA, and it still brings me to tears to think about it. These pictures were all taken before the Nazis came to Poland. They were family group photos, school class photos, college-aged men and women frolicking in the park, families on vacation and so on. They were pictures much like those that your grandparents probably have sitting around in their closets. The power of this exhibit lies not in what it says or what it shows, but in what we know: that 90% of the Jews in Poland were murdered in the Holocaust, 90% of those children in those schoolrooms, 90% of those families sitting for their portraits, 90% of those young adults frolicking, 90% of those families on vacations, died a horrible death for the high crime of being Jews.

Learn more about "And I Still See Their Faces" at Yeshiva University, where the exhibit is currently displaying:

Yom Ha-Shoah and other modern Jewish holidays at Judaism 101:


elmindreda said...

I know what you mean. We recently recovered such a photo, from the shtetl of my grandfather and that has ever since symbolised the shoah for me.

The exhibit that always gets me crying at Yad Vashem isn't any of the explicit ones, but a small glass cabinet housing among other things a child's tattered and worn shoe.

Susan said...

"It is bitterly ironic that this holiday, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on our calendar."

Your site, Judaism 101 contains comments expressing frustration and unhappiness, with regard to former pogroms against Judaism.

Albeit the problem still exists,I would like to comment upon what appears to be some historic actions which express assimilating and diplomatic sentiments of Jews, building a coherent way of life.

Customs from the far east and europe were adopted into Jewish practise. Even a bead of bulls' blood has remained during actual service, as a symbol of what was formerly worshipped during primitive days, and then engineered into profound Exodus.

It seems to me that continuously expressing frustration and bitterness, rather than adopting the healthier ways of our forebears (they lived in innocent joy) is a further way to alienate Jews from Gentiles, etc.

Everyone works, and in some way must cater to the concerns of industry. I do feel that celebrations like Hannuckah are so easily and happily a part of the darkest days of our seasons- lights, festive gatherings, candles, gift giving.

I am, with great difficulty trying to return to Jewish custom, but I keep hearing and experiencing negatives which amount to the stale, deep ruts made by bigotry, xenophobia and just plain whining.

Personally, I refuse to give up on a profound religion, and the far, great space that it allows me to fly into. However, I feel that the repeated fussing and stalling against social change, that amounts to inconvenience for busy working people, and also a sense of alienation via the daftly peasant litanical screeches of "goyische" this and that plus crys of outrage against tinselled commerce, versus the true life provided for us seemingly only within the almost non-existent synagogue,can only attract other superiorists, like warring Aryan peoples, white supremacists or the mafia.All of them claim they are acting you out, brother or sister.

Since these few fanatics are the only people actually bothering our developed societies, it seems almost a sacrilege to perpetuate a sense of otherness within the tenets of Judaism.

Although it may be trad to not give gifts except to children, maybe a time of merriiment and fellowship would do the whole of Judaism a good turn. We Canadians do it- for instance, many Christians offer the gift of friendship and whole thinking, as they light the Sabbath candles together with we Jews.

There is no person who is not blessed with gratefulness and loving kindness through thoughtful, considerate,a nd joyous giving.

I do not know who you are, but why the moaning in what purports to be a course 101 (I took mine in University, bud- and we could just fly and be well)

Cheers, and Happy Day!

Susan said...

Thanks so much for your true gift to everyone in exploring the spelling for the English version of Channukah.

I am sorry for writing the letter about your site before reading your gift, written on the eve, since the time and dedication it takes to post a workable blog is a true gift to others. For instance, reading Jewish sites (and having the time for it) is my Channukah.

About the spelling: I once wrote to Merriam Webster, to ask "When did the spelling for Channukah change to Hannukah?" They never wrote back, and I was left with some confusion.
In grade school, in Montreal, we learned to spell Channukhah thataway!

I needed a correct spelling for an interfaith book that I have recently written and published.

Since I even know architects and Doctors who have trouble with spelling, I would love to see the significance from within the Sefir Yetzirah become pronounced as meaningful again. (Buddhists call this tantric significance)...

Each alphabetical symbol arranges according to Divine plan- albeit rather natural forces I believe...

When I wrote to a Rabbi about why people find it necessary to ablate the "o" in the English spelling of "G-d", he wote back that the word in print might be destroyed, so it should not be totally printed out.

My question had been about the meanings of the letters. I wrote, why is the sight aspect taken out, between transporting and portal- ( if you use the Hebrew gimel, ayin and daleth).

What he thought in (about sound and seeing from within the Cube of Space) was a different matter- and I do feel that if mysteries are continuously only thought in to others, that a caucophany of folk intent and half-baked concepts will only continue to flourish. Some people are not telepathic, and this results, obviously, in superiorism on either side.

What do you think, about some of the foundations in language, and the folk use of some of the most meaningful words?

I read about the airport Minorah debate with interest, and I do wonder why people don't explore (for the public) the original sciences that evolved the use of both Minorah and sacred tree.

About the airport- it seems that jet transport areas should always have a Minorah, a great symbol of transport power, heat, light, and the sacred shaping of the nature of things.

But (of course, thought in) airport people are concerned about tiny creatures and their celebration of natures' minorah shaping (in the earth). It seems I can hear that large ram jets or natural gas lines, ending with some distinction as minorah shaping, can be affected by human involvement and natures' perception of it, and that they may be in some involvement with the lands of airports.

The gas people have called in for years about their concerns for safety and the actual shaping of natural gas and other geophysical phenomena. In fact, many of them find a reason to worship in these sacred areas. Yet, there is no mention of the modifications to design, which are probably necessary to a pretty fragile world.

We have to be practical. I am probably being pretty bold in discussing some of the esoterica only shared in thought, but I wish that some documents could be made with regard to the origins of design, and their evolution (that aren't k.i.s.s. essays for dummies)and perhaps an exploration of some of the engineering needs of people serving us with great courage.

I watched, in my meditation, how a British miner took his folk need to a synagogue, and saw how Jews adopted the need for a decorated evergreen into the synagogue, for their benefit. This was modified by a Rabbi serving with Dave, and by Daves' brother and himself.

Foresters still hang ribbons onto trees, and say that this custom goes back to the days when people mining in dangerous areas, like fields of Lithium, needed protection from nature, or they lost the family jewels to lithium drag.

Churches adopt sensible health customs. I feel that customs like the Pagan rite of spinning an evergreen above the head are well- celebrated at Christmas, toward safer family existence. They are a symbol of wellness for (originally) the male, and they were positioned in the Jewish temple before Christmas came about, to comfort not just the courageous male, but the family of the future. So, the evolution of the decorated tree came first from Europe, was ritualized by Grecian priests,a dopted by Judaism, and then it became a symbol. So, why not an evergreen with tiers of candles lit to symbolize both, if an airport has sensitive conditions to worry about?

People excavating the originals of these cleaned up tree forms (from the synagogue) will, someday enlighten the public.

To me, symbols for correct science and for clean, pure earth giving powerful energy (together- communications and energy resouces) are decent enough for all people, everywhere.

Without clear interpretation of the origins of these customs (in depth) there will always be ignorant feuding. And that just ain't oatmeal!

HAppy Channukah to everyone!
Love and Joy to you, all ways.