April 1, 2021
Five days after Pesach ends we commemorate Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day. Why is Yom HaShoah observed on the 27th of Nisan? Did something significant take place on that day? It turns out that the 27th of Nisan was actually a compromise date. Secular Israelis wanted to commemorate Yom HaShoah on the day that the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto began their revolt against the Nazis. This was on April 19, 1943, which was the 15th of Nisan—the first day of Pesach. It was no coincidence that the Nazis looked to destroy the Warsaw Ghetto on one of the most joyous of Jewish holidays. This day was not going to work as a day of Holocaust Remembrance in Israel because of Pesach. Although no particular Holocaust-related event occurred on the 27th of Nisan, it does take place during the time that the Warsaw Ghetto uprising continued and falls one week before Israel Independence Day.
The Israeli government wanted to draw a connection between the murder of the Six Million Jews and the creation of the State of Israel three years later. When the 27th of Nisan falls on a Friday, as it does this year, Yom HaShoah is moved to the day before, Thursday. This is a powerful message about our people. In 1945 we were truly in the lowest depths in our history as we were decimated and the world looked on and essentially took The Monthly Newsletter of Beth El Synagogue APRIL 2021 APRIL 2021 NISAN/IYAR 5781 NISAN/IYAR 5781 no action. We will never forget those righteous gentiles who risked everything to save our people as well as those government leaders who did what was necessary behind the scenes to make a difference. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, three years later the State of Israel was born. The Jewish people were finally in control of their destiny. We have watched during these almost seventy-three years the growth of Israel in so many areas. The small nation that was attacked from all sides on Independence Day is a leader among nations. Israel has come a long way in such a short period of time. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to transmit this message to them so they will impart it to future generations. It is a timeless message about never giving up no matter what we face as a nation.
We, as a Beth El Synagogue community, have the opportunity to mark these moments together. On Wednesday, April 7, at 7 p.m., via Zoom, we will commemorate Yom HaShoah with a program that has been crafted by Marilyn Bellis and Trudi Perlman. Ma’ariv will follow the program at about 8:15 p.m. in person and on Zoom. I hope that you and your family will join us as we pledge to remember and to never forget. One week later, on Wednesday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m., in person and on Zoom, we will honor the memory of over 23,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces who were killed in battle throughout all of Israel’s wars as well as victims of terrorism. After we pay homage to Israel’s fallen, we will make Havdalah (separation) as we leave the sadness behind and go right into celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut—Israel’s Independence Day. Ma’ariv will follow in person or on Zoom at about 8 p.m. After the service, you will be able to pick up a special snack in honor of Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
As I reflect on this period on the Jewish calendar, I am convinced that these days represent the saddest day and the happiest day for our people. In order to truly appreciate what Israel means to our people, we need to experience the pain of Yom HaShoah and in order to comprehend the pain of Yom HaShoah, we need to celebrate the triumph of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. These dates may be only one week apart on the Jewish calendar, but they represent polar opposites in the life of our people. We need to try and experience both emotions in order to become Shalem – complete as individuals and as a people. Let us remember the tragedy and let us celebrate the victory. I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, April 7, at 7 p.m., and on Wednesday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m., as we stand in solidarity as a community. Best wishes for a Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach!
—Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold