Sunday, April 15, 2007

Holocaust Memorial Day

As the day ushers in the pensive thoughts of a time when my people were tertiated, I leave you with Mark Twain's elegant assessment of a small people's remarkable tale of survival throughout time:

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour; then faded to dream-stuff and passed away: the Greeks and the Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

[The above was written by Mark Twain and first published in HARPER'S magazine, September 1887.]


The following link allows you to look through the Yad Vashem databases for your family members who died during the Holocaust.


It is very disappointing that during this day, a large segment of Israel's Jewish population refuses to acknowledge the one minute long siren in remembrance of the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the holocaust. Instead of standing silently in honor of our nation, the ultra orthodox carry on as they do during Memorial day (for our fallen soldiers). For a people who claim to 'practice' our faith, perhaps a quick lesson in 'sinat chinam' (free hatred) and its role in the destruction of the Second Temple should show them why their actions are so harmful to this country and her fragile unity. One of the reasons the ultra orthodox do not stand for the siren is due to the fact that it is not a religious ritual. However, should this really take precedence over 'shalom bayit' (peace within the home)? Why they'd rather infuriate a large majority of this country who sees this as a complete lack of respect is beyond me.

Jews of Arabic/Spanish descent (Mizrachi/Sephardi) have different customs from Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi). During kadish, Sephardim can sit while Ashkenazim will stand. However, halacha (Jewish law) stipulates that in another congregation, one must stand/sit depending on the congregation's traditions out of respect. Perhaps the ultra-orthodox should take a step back and remember, that unity amongst the Jewish people is extremely important for our survival and their behavior continually hurts it. And as they're members of our congregation (Israel), they should respect the ways the congregation and how it goes about remembering the holocaust, or our fallen. Is that too much to ask of our brothers?


1 comment:

David All said...

Avram, thank you for reprinting Mark Twain's essay. It is certainly touching to read his words now. Then Non-Sequitor strip on passing on the story of the Holocaust was moving.

For a stirring story of the first Sabbath service at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp following its Liberation by the British Second Army, go to and click down to April 23rd's entry, "Hatikvah" It links to several different renditions of Israel's Anthem. The one labeled, "BBC Recording" tells the story of the Sabbath service at Bergen-Belsen.