History & Culture

Yom Hashoah
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Friday 25th April 2014

Not that long ago, in the song “Vehi She’amda” at the Pesach Seder table we sang those famous words “in every generation they rise up to destroy us...”. Now, a couple of weeks later, on the 27th of the month of Nissan, Yom Hashoah commemorates one of the darkest chapters in millennia of Jewish history. An unimaginable number – six million Jews – perished at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. It is a tragedy that took place several decades ago. Yet it remains painfully fresh in our collective communal minds.

At every Seder night since then, there have been Holocaust survivors who recalled first hand accounts of just how true these words of “vehi she’amda” are. How close our people were to being destroyed, how tragic our situation was, and how “Hakadosh Baruch Hu matzilenu miyadam” – G-d saved us from their hands.

Many of us will have heard this message directly from a survivor. However, the unfortunate reality is that in the future this will not be possible. There will come a time when there are no longer any witnesses who are able to relate first hand evidence of the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust. As a community we must make sure to pass their message on to the next generations. We must make sure to pass it on in a way which it will never be forgotten.

For this reason, it has almost become a rite of passage for our youngsters to go on Heritage Trips to Poland, to visit the shadows of their past and learn about the power of their future. In the past few years, Tribe has taken many secondary school students on Poland Trips. During these trips, the students have seen death camps, concentration camps and other places of atrocities with their own eyes. These trips have been informative, emotional and inspirational, and have fuelled a desire within the participants to share what they have experienced.

As the Youth Division of the United Synagogue, Tribe has tried to run these trips in the framework of our communities so that those inspired by them will have a place to share that inspiration. In many of our United Synagogues, the participants of these Poland Trips will be sharing their experiences with their communities as part of our Yom Hashoah commemorations this year.

After seeing the destruction that took place in so many Jewish communities across Europe, we must give our youth the opportunities and capabilities to build and strengthen their own future Jewish communities.