Gheula Canarutto Nemni
Gheula Canarutto Nemni

How to celebrate Holocaust Memorial Day. Instructions for the world (and especially for those who are opening their doors to Rouhani during these days)

Torah scrolls burned in the streets, mikvos were closed for women who wished to carry on Jewish tradition.

Beards were torn away from fathers and sons, their peot cut in front of everyone.

They were forced to step on holy books, eat on yom kippur.

They could not observe religious rules anymore.

The walking, eating, breathing Jew, who sometimes even ignored the fact that he was Jewish too, should have disappeared without leaving any trace of his passage on this earth.

The Jew had to become a memory, a historical nuance, who students would one day study about in their books. A distant and safe past who could not bother anyone with his swinging during prayers, his faith and his values anymore.

Nazis tried with all their means.

To reduce Jews to pure memory.

But they forgot to study this nation well.

For which memory never goes on its own.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, says G-d in the Torah portion where the Ten Commandments are mentioned for the first time.

Respect the Sabbath day to keep it holy, it is written in the Ten Commandments where they are repeated for the second time.

Remember and respect were pronuonced by G-d in the same exact moment explain our masters.

Without history we are nothing. Without a mother from whom every breath starts, without a granny and her storytelling, without a movement of our head turning back in search of our roots, without fragrances, without even nightmares, man does not actually exist.

Judaism is based on memory.

Passover reminds us when we left Egypt and G-d split the sea for us. Shavuot brings back the memory of the instant in which the Jews received the Torah with its commandments and laws.

Sukkot reminds us of the clouds that protected the Jewish nation for forty years in the desert.

In Judaism memory is holy.

Because from memory we learn how to live today and tomorrow.

And so when we remember our ancestors leaving Egypt and surging from its boundaries, we draw the strength to overcome our mental boundaries every day.

And when we remember the instant in which we received the Torah, we should feel excited about it, as if we just received it today.

When we remember the clouds that protected the Jewish nation more than 3300 years ago, we remind ourselves how G-d’s protection is needed everywhere, because no place is really safe.

History and memory are never the arrival point for the Jewish nation. The Jew does not remember only to prove his memory is still good. The Jew does not concentrate on a past event and then leave it there, confined by far away dates.

History is a link of a chain, it is a wedge. History is a step of a ladder which contains present as its middle part. And future at its end.

Memory is a drawer where Jews put their past experiences. It’s a treasure made of joy and pain, challenges and tears.

Jews have the duty to remember, just as they have to respect the shabbat and put on tefilin every day.

A Jew cannot forget.

But Jewish memory is only a starting point.

And the Nazis knew this very well.

For this reason even they did not try to erase the Jewish past. There would have been no hinderance in remembring that race that was once called ‘Jewish.’

Nazis were bothered by Jewish present and future.

They wanted to erase the state of remaining the same one, as under varying  conditions, they wanted  to annihiliate the qualities, beliefs, that make a particular person or group different from others
. It is an identity, as the vocabulary defines it. And this Jewish identity was the one that had to disappear.

Remember is the memory where everything starts from.

Respect is the way to keep it alive and pulsating.

Memory and life lived according to Jewish standards are two essential parts of a supportive structure.

Celebrating only the memory of those who were physically erased from this earth simply for being guilty of being Jews, is comparable to resurrecting a dead person and not allowing him to leave his grave.

These Jews were exterminated only because they themselves were an identity, a neverending history.

There is but one way to honor the memory of six million Jews wiped out by the Nazis.

And it consists of safeguarding the freedom of religion to their daughters and sons, to their spiritual heirs. Raising our voices in defense of Jews and their right to swing again during their prayers without fear of being interrupted by a terrorist. To guarantee the safety to walk in the street wearing a kippah, without beeing forced to watch their back.

This is what we are asking of the world, to those who are lending their hands, embracing during these days an individual who negates the right for a Jewish state to exist.

Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. (Viktor Frankl)

We Jews have a task too.

We  have the duty to remember those people, who were singing ani maamin, I believe, while being brought to their deaths.

And there is but one way to do it. Resuming their prayers, their Shabbat, their Jewish identity, from the point that the Angel of Death had interrupted them.

About the Author
Gheula Canarutto Nemni is a professor and novelist living in Milan, Italy. Her most recent novel '(Non) si può avere tutto' Mondadori 2015 tells the story of an Italian Orthodox Jewish girl and her challenges in the professional world in Milan.
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