Yom Hashoah


Today is the commemoration of an important remembrance day for Jews the world over, marked by its remembrance in solemn ways. Yom HaShoah is marked in Israel by the public literally stopping what they are doing, to remember, cars stopped in the street, a moment frozen in time.
It is a time when we remember the millions lost, murdered systematically, in the Holocaust, and the remembrance is not only for relations and friends lost, but for whole communities that were lost, with many now nameless people, murdered simply because they were Jews.
We in the Australian Council of Christians and Jews (ACCJ) also remember this day as its meaning is one of the founding bases for the CCJ the world over. Relations between Christians and Jews have improved greatly since that time, and as has been said in the context of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ)’s Berlin Document:
“It is some 65 years since the first document, the Ten Points of Seelisberg, were promulgated. That was back in 1947 when the aftermath of the Second World War was still very much in people’s minds. It was a time when, in the shadow of what had by that time become patently obvious, namely that there had been a terrible and calculated slaughter of Jews and of other minorities in Europe, often enabling those with religious prejudices or jealousies to awfully give vent to their ignorant anger in ways that still haunt us. Many of those people are still alive in Europe, living with the memory of what they perpetrated.
The Ten Points were derived from a strong desire to restore and foster relationships between Jews and Christians, relationships that had taken a battering at the very least in a concerted way in modern Europe, in the period 1933 to 1945. Those who came together to express the Ten Points did so from a standpoint of the expression of profound grief over the Shoah and its decimation of Jewish society and society in Europe generally. The expression was really in the form of a call to churches, one concern having been the inability of churches to prevent the Shoah and another having been a view that the churches and their constituents did nothing to help Jews during this terrible period. Christians wanted to make amends and to improve the relations between the churches and minorities in particular, the Jews.
One thing that was clear back then was that there was a strong desire to combat anti-Semitism which was seen from a religious basis, as both a sin against God and Humanity and also seen as a danger to modern civilization.
The Ten Points were thus a call to the Christian churches to revisit, reformulate form and refresh the churches’ understandings of Judaism and the relationships between Jews and Christians and Judaism and Christianity.
Also importantly, the very coming together of committed and concerned members of the Christian and Jewish communities, prepared as they were to commit to such social action, was an important step in reconciliation, in healing, that was the basis of the International Council of Christians and Jews and what it is today.”

From an interfaith standpoint, from a moral perspective, the commemoration of Yom HaShoah is thus an important day, and the various CCJ’s will commemorate it on other days in their own ways. It is not just remembrance but also healing and reconciliation.
Today, I found an inspiring article and series of photos in the Jerusalem Post, reflective of Yom HaShoah and you can find the photos and narrative at:
It is an inspiring series of photos, depicting life and hope and as the writer of the narrative that goes with those images says most positively:
“Victims. Helpless. Downtrodden.
That’s the narrative that’s been spread about Jews for the last 70 years since the Holocaust. We’ve embraced it to our detriment. We can’t seem to address antisemitism without running to the world and screaming that we’re being persecuted, rather than standing up strongly in defiance, aware of our own inner strength.
The Holocaust has scarred us, a yetzer hara (sneaky bastard of a voice in our heads), that keeps trying to tell us how we are defined by our past, controlled by events that happened to us, instead of using those moments as points of growth.
And, in a weird way, that’s why all those images of us looking so helpless, so gaunt, in heaps of nameless bodies, have become a morbid fascination for us. We, and by extension the rest of the world, have chosen to define the Holocaust with these images.
But there are other images. Images that show a more subtle, more true, story. A story that shows our inner power, our inner turmoil in dealing with a situation we cannot comprehend, our attempts to gain justice, and our final steps into moving above and beyond our past and into a new future.”
Can I commend the photos and the narrative that goes with them, to you as inspiration. There are very poignant photos along with joy and a celebration of life. Dialogue is calibrated towards celebration of life and our commonalities and differences as people, understanding each other better and respecting each other’s religion, lifestyle, culture, customs and history.
Let us remember and never forget, but let us celebrate life and our ability to overcome adversity as human beings.
William Szekely