The theme for this year’s Yom Hashoah v’Hagvurah or Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day commemoration is My Brother’s Keeper.
Hundreds of communities around the world remember the Holocaust and murder of 6,000,000 Jews in Nazi occupied Europe in World War II.
While the main ceremony with Israeli leaders was held at Yad Vashem, I was privileged to attend a smaller, but special tekes in the Heichal Shlomo Museum in Jerusalem, where the current exhibit
remembers the once thriving and learned Jewish community of Vilna,
With the remnants of Torah scrolls rescued from Vilna after the war illuminated above, a group of Israeli soldiers sat and listened to readings and sad songs.
But these were Lone Soldiers from across the United States, Canada, former Soviet Union, even Israel, who join the IDF to truly be their brothers’ keepers.
As with most Yom Hashoah gatherings, a survivor of the Holocaust told their story and this select group heard from Professor Eleazar Shafrir. Not only was he a survivor of the Krakow Ghetto and Plaszow Concentration Camp, but Prof Shafrir was also a lone soldier.
Prof Shafrir arrived in Israel in 1947 alone, the only one is his family to survive the war. His chemistry studies at Hebrew University on Mt Scopus were put on hold when he joined the fight to save the Gush Etzion and Jerusalem in 1948.
Prof. Eleazar Shafrir returned to his chemistry studies, though Hebrew University was not on its Mt Scopus campus from 1948 until 1967. He went on to have a distinguished career in science and medicine, founding the Center for Diabetes research at Hadassah Hospital.
I was not sure how to bring this together, the loss, the rebuilding and the lone soldiers. However, two little girls in the south, who have been in and out of bomb shelters too often recently, nailed it for me, “It is sad what happened, but we have our own army and soldiers and planes to fight for us and defend us now.”
Thank you, Israel Defense Forces and Lone Soldiers.
The morning siren has sounded… life goes on.