yom hashoah

Just some clarification because I’ve seen certain confused posts in the tags today: 

Yom HaShoah (the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day for Jewish victims, also observed by some outside of that country, observed the 27th of Nissan) 

is different from 

International Holocaust Remembrance Day (day observed for all victims, internationally, on January 27) 

is different from

the Jewish fast days pre-dating the Holocaust on which Jewish victims of the Holocaust and other tragedies throughout Jewish history are traditionally remembered in a religious Jewish context.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

                                         -  Pastor Martin Niemöller

Yom Hoshoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day Prayer

A very relevant prayer today, even for non-Jews.

Ribbono shel Olam – Master of the Universe:

On this most solemn of occasions, we open our hearts, minds, and souls to you.

As we remember the six million, the eleven million, the indifference, and the evil;

As we honor the heroes, the martyrs, the survivors, and the victims;

We ask you to soothe our souls, to amplify our memories, to strengthen our resolve, and to hear our prayers.

We ask for your presence in our midst; for healing, light, and love to soothe and ease our pain, as we commemorate the horrors that were committed not long ago. Please, oh Holy One, be gentle with our souls.

We ask that you help us to forever remember the stories we hear. As tales of the atrocities are shared, as we re-encounter the unthinkable, we ask that these memories be strengthened and never fade, in the hope that those who remember the mistakes of the past will not repeat them. Please, oh Holy One, amplify our ability to remember.

We ask that you strengthen our will, that you help us to ensure that the world does not again see such monstrosities. We say “never again” and we dedicate ourselves to this principle, to the idea that justice does not allow persecution, that genocide shall not be repeated, and that vigilance is the responsibility of freedom, at all costs. Please, oh Holy One, make manifest our resolve that these horrors remain but memories.

We ask that you answer our prayers. We pray that the call of evil falls on deaf ears, that those who fight for freedom and justice always prevail, that those who need protection do not become victims. We pray that the lessons we learn from this darkest hour allow all humankind to better itself, and to truly and nobly embody the idea that we are each made in Your image. We pray for the souls of the millions and millions of victims of this brutality; we pray that we honor their lives and their memories by observing this day, and by doing everything in our power and beyond to make sure that no such shadow again darkens our world.

Above all, we pray for shalom—for wholeness and peace—to be in our midst, now and forever. Please, oh Holy One, answer our prayers and bring us a world devoid of hatred, filled instead with peace.

Ken yehi ratzon – may this be God’s will. And may we all say together, Amen.

This is Hannah Senesh (also Chanah Senesz).  I’ve posted two of her poems today.  They are undeniably beautiful, but she also a personal hero of mine.  You rarely hear stories of Jewish heroism when it comes to the Holocaust.  It’s usually all about goyim saving us or watching us die and then feeling bad about it.  In general, I’ve had to seek out stories like Hannah’s on my own.  Hannah’s family left Hungary in the late ‘30′s when the Nazi threat began to loom large.  They moved to then Palestine where Hannah joined an early form of the IDF.  She became a paratrooper and studied morse code.  In March of 1944, she parachuted behind enemy lines and was almost immediately captured.  She was taken to a military prison where the SS tried to force her to send false information to the Allied forces.  While imprisoned, Senesh forged powerful, desperate bonds with her fellow prisoners; slipping them writing and poems through prison bars.  She kept a diary in prison and wrote the most exquisite, transcendent poetry.  Because there is a kind of liberation in knowing you are dead.  She was tried for treason in October of 1944 and she was executed by firing squad on November 7, 1944, weeks shy of liberation.  She was 22.

It is one of my personal life goals to write and direct a mini-series on her life and death.  Because her name should be better known than Oskar Schindler’s.

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This is Rosa Spier, born in the Hague in 1891.  Recognized as a great talent from a young age, Spier would become the harp professor of the Amsterdam Conservatory in 1925, and later the harpist with the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.  In 1941, all Jewish musicians in the Netherlands were forced to leave their jobs.  Although she continued to play with the Jewish Symphony Orchestra, she was soon forced in to hiding.  She was eventually betrayed, and her home emptied, though before officials could confiscate or destroy it, her neighbor noticed her harp and removed it from the home, storing it themselves.  She was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, but in 1945, during a prisoner exchange, she was able to escape to Switzerland.  When Spier returned to her home after the war, she had lost all of her possessions, except for her harp, kept still by her neighbor.  After the war she continued to give many concerts despite her failing health.  In her late life, an idea came to her for a retirement home for elderly musicians where they could live out their older years while still contributing to the arts.  Although she would not live to see the opening, the Rosa Spier Huis in Laren, NL has been host to numerous elderly artists and scientists of great standing. Rosa died in 1967.  She is remembered for her dedication to music and the arts and her unbridled tenacity.

May her memory be a blessing.

the last generation

We are the last generation. We are the last to hear stories of survival from the survivors.
We are the last generation. We are the last to speak to the people who survived.
We are the last generation. We are the last to hear the first hand accounts of cruelty.

In ten years - at the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen Belsen, at the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, how many survivors will be left to tell their stories?
It is us, the last generation who will be telling them. We have to. Because otherwise, the words Never Again will simply cease to become important.

We are the last generation. But we will be the link to the next generation.


Holocaust Survivor Testimonies: Selection in Auschwitz

Holocaust survivors Jacki Handali and Rita Weiss share their terrifying but powerful experience of arriving at Auschwitz.

Watch as they explain what it was like to go through one of these horrendous selection processes.

UGH, all over fucking Tumblr, everyone’s like “Remember the 6 million Jews today…but you know who else died?” and then talks about all the other groups.

Today is not for everyone.  It is for us.  There are days out there for everyone.  Some of the other groups, I believe, have their own days that they chose and set aside to mourn their own loss.

But today, Yom haShoah, is about the Jews who were brutalized, tortured, experimented on, and murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.

Trying to make today about other groups, especially if you’re not Jewish, is antisemitic.  It is telling us that we don’t have a right to a day of mourning.  It is minimizing Jewish suffering, as well as the suffering of the others who died, because you’re using them as a cheap weapon against Jews.

In conclusion:

But you don’t HAVE to be.  Be better, and respect others.  Now get the fuck out of our tags for ONE FUCKING DAY.


Regina Spektor performs Hannah Senesh’s Eli Eli


My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,

The sand and the sea,

The rustle of the waters,

Lightning of the Heavens,

The prayer of Man.


אלי, אלי, שלא יגמר לעולם

החול והים

רשרוש של המים

ברק השמים

תפילת האדם

71 years ago

My Bubie a well educated women, who was 21 (the same age I am today) was rounded up on the first night of pesach and taken with her entire family to Auschwitz. From there she spent 3 years with her name, hair, family, personal belongings, and basic rights ripped away. She spent countless hours working for the Nazis documenting their extermination of her people in the office, even working under Dr. Mengele at times writing up his experiments on fellow inmates. In those three years she lost more than any of us could ever imagine and gained insurmountable amounts of personal strength few will ever match. My Bubie suffered and survived because she believed that there could be a life after for not only her, but the Jewish people.

My grandmother is one of the strongest women I know and I only hope to accomplish even a small amount of what she has in her life time. She’s survived horrors I could never imagine, and rebuilt a wonderful life and felt true joy and a through it all maintained a strong belief and connection to Judaism.

She’s still alive today at 95 but on this Yom HaShoah I take the time to retell and remember her story because I know I’m the last one to ever hear it first hand.

Take time and listen to their stories, not just today but any chance you get.
We are the last ones who will ever hear.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

My grandfather was five feet tall. He and his brother both jumped off the train to Belzec, and lived in the forest for months. He survived Aushwitz. He snuck in Tefillin for a Rebbe (who wasn’t even his Rebbe).

My grandparents moved to L.A. in the late 1950s. Every Shabbat, they had every guest they could find on the street, most of whom were homeless, and not actually Jewish. They took in a homeless man (George) for years.

My grandmother was fifteen when the war ended. She married my grandfather (who was twenty two at the time), and had her first child at sixteen. During the war, she lost most of her siblings, and both of her parents. After the war, she lost two of her four children, and later her husband. Toward the end of her life she had cancer. But not once was she ever angry at God.

And I don’t know why God treats people the way he does. I don’t know if I forgive Him. All I know is that every night my grandmother cried in her sleep. My grandfather hardly spoke. They put bars on their windows, they hoarded food and fed everyone constantly. They fought injustice for everyone everywhere every time they could, and they deserve to be remembered.

this is a picture of the ashes of cremated jews.

i took this picture two years ago in majdanek, a concentration camp located just outside the major city of lublin, poland. actually, the camp is so close to lublin that during the war, citizens had to scrape the fat from the crematories off their windows.

today is yom hashoa and i am not surprised i haven’t seen much about it. this is the first year i haven’t observed yom hashoa. since i am at college i can’t observe it with my family or my march of the living group, so i thought i’d at least call attention to it.

i went on the march of the living april 15 - april 30, 2012 and i spent one week in poland touring various camps such as this one, auschwitz-birkenau, and treblinka along with ghettos, significant places, and the remains of polish jewry. we marched from auschwitz to auschwitz-birkenau and heard the stories of countless survivors, many of whom had not been back to europe since they fled after the war. i learned a lot and i cried a lot, but it was an experience that changed my entire viewpoint on life.

jews were and are just as oppressed as any other ethnic minority, no, i won’t get over the holocaust, and your opposition to the israeli government gives you no right to be an anti-semite.

if the holocaust is forgotten, it will happen again. don’t let it.

…But my biggest victory is you- my family. This whole “tribe” I have created by myself. The beautiful wife I have found. My three childrens and their amazing partners and offspring, my countinues. This is what it was always about- showing them that taking away my family would not stop me from creating one my own. I have a healthy, happy family by my side, I am 76 with my beautiful family. This is Victory.
—  My grandfather, Michael, a holocaust survival who has escaped the ghetto in Romania when he was only six years old, after everyone he ever knew died from Tuberculosis or were murdered by the Nazis. It is something that he repeats about every year, today, the Israeli holocaust memorial day, but it gets to me every time.