Why so many Jews don’t like International Holocaust Remembrance Day
We cannot define ourselves as the people of remembrance.
We are not a nation that stops and cries in front of historical artifacts kept in a display case.
We are not the nation of museums, people who love saying ‘once upon a time’…
The concept of memory in and of itself does not belong to us.
Memories that allow you to get up as the same person as the previous day are not part of our DNA.
We don’t love commemorations and cliches; we don’t scatter ashes or keep mourning for longer than the law requires.
Our calendar has special dates to remember the destroyed sanctuary of Jerusalem. Our year has special days dedicated for when we cry over the lost golden period of our history.
At the beginning of that day, we sit down on the floor, we say sad prayers, we tell stories about destruction and death. But in the afternoon we get up, we dry our eyes and we ask G-d to build something new on our tears. We ask Him to transform all the past heaps of rubble into a foundation superior to the old one.
In Hebrew, a cemetery is called a ‘house of life.’ It is a place where people who left this world rest in peace. But it is even a place of warning, of reflection, where those who are alive recall the real goal they were created for and their moral duty to use, in a positive way, every minute of life they were granted.
Jewish memory is never only a simple memory for its own sake.
Jewish memory is a path that takes one on a journey to a better self.
During Passover, when we tell the miraculous escape from Egypt, we eat matzah to remember how hastily Jews ran away from their enslavement. We dip bitter herbs to recall the bitter taste of being subjugated to somebody else. But at the end we celebrate freedom, our ability to keep our values, traditions and thoughts free from any external influence.
Celebration focuses on the past, it helps to treasure and transmit its stories and lessons. But celebration means to become stronger, more aware, thanks to those mistakes, to those successes and those pains, that belong to the past.
Memory helps us walk the paths of tomorrow in a better way.
There is no instant of our life that cannot become a springboard. Even the most painful events can become the first of the next steps.
As runners on a historical course, we study the past match so we can be better runners in the next game.
The word zecher, memory, shares the same root with rakaz, to concentrate.
We remember our life and we concentrate on the past days so we are able to live our future in a better way.
When we commemorate our dead, we don’t only stop in front of their pictures and cry. We gather people to study, we offer food and drink in their memory, trying to give continuity to those things death has interrupted.
If today you are heading to a Holocaust memorial, if you are going to listen to a survivor’s personal story, if you are opening the pages of Anne Frank’s diary, if you are crying for our dead, please do all these things in our way.
Listen and learn, read and reflect, process a personal change.
In Jewish history past tense always runs with present.
Past is suspended until the next breath.
Memory is when children finish what their fathers left incomplete.
Memory is the next generation that builds life again where there was destruction and death.
Memory for Jews is transforming a sigh into a better future day.