Last week, the world took part in Holocaust Memorial Day. I have long appreciated that we have an outward facing time for this, a time to come together as a worldwide family, and also a private day for the Jewish community: Yom haShoah, a time for the Jewish people to mourn together.
It is difficult to make decisions about when to mark remembrance. January 27, Holocaust Memorial Day, is static in the Gregorian calendar and moving in the Hebrew calendar. It marks the day on which Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. Our more intimate Jewish day of memory was long argued over. Many people wished for it to take place on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, to commemorate the fact that Jews bravely fought back. However, this would pose a conflict with the joy of Passover. The 27th of Nissan was a compromise; close enough to the uprising that it retained that sense of strength, but giving Passover enough distance that the two periods of memory could stand alone.
We are, right now, in a crucial generation. We have in our communities survivors of the Shoah, whose voices and memories are so appreciated; we also know that the coming generations of children will not grow with the living memories that we have. It is, therefore, crucial that we learn and listen while we still have time. We will someday in the not-so-distant future be given the holy task of maintaining that memory.
This is the holy task that Noreen Plen will be taking part in on Sunday, as she tells the stories of her parents’ survival. The days we set aside for remembrance are significant and sacred. But the mitzvah of memory is one that takes place every day.