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Yom Ha'shoah

On this day we remember the most devastating episode of our history. From year to year it recedes a little further into the past, but the magnitude of it remains beyond our comprehension, and the pain of it beyond consolation. All we know for certain is that we have a duty to remember: for the sake of those who perished, so that they may not be forgotten; for the sake of those descendants who survived them, so that they may know they are not alone in sorrow; for our own sakes, so that we may not be blind to the evil of which human beings are capable; and for the sake of future generations, so that they may consider well what is needed to prevent such a sho'ah - such a destruction- from happening again to our people, or to any people.

Do not forget!

Denmark 100
Norway 750
Italy 9,000
Belgium 40,000
Bulgaria 40,000
Yugoslavia 58,000
Austria 60,000
Czechoslovakia 60,000
Greece 60,000
France 65,000
Latvia 70,000
The Netherlands 104,000
Lithuania 104,000
Germany 180,000
Rumania 500,000
Hungary 700,000
The Soviet Union 750,000
Poland 2,600,000

"Let us ask ourselves about silence, the silence of God and the silence of man. We listen to the testimony of survivors and witnesses, stammering their haunted words, struggling to explain. Through their words the silence becomes still thicker, more terrifying still. For behind the silence we know this deepest human sin will be found: the sin of indifference. What pains were taken to protect cathedrals and museums lest treasures of art be destroyed! Meanwhile in the streets and camps of Europe an infinitely greater treasure lay dying - mothers and fathers and their children, while many looked away. To look away from evil, is this not the sin of every generation?"
Rabbi's Chaim Stern and Albert Friedlander

You who live secure
In your warm houses,
Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces

Consider whether this is a man
Who labours in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no
Consider whether this is a woman
Without hair or name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a frog in winter

Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house,
When you walk on your way
When you go to bed, when you rise.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.

Primo Levi, 10 January 1 946


Holocaust Remembrance Day

It has been over 60 years since the Holocaust. To survivors, the Holocaust remains real and ever-present, but for some others, sixty years makes the Holocaust seem part of ancient history. Year-round we try to teach and inform others about the horrors of the Holocaust. We confront the questions of what happened? How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen again? We attempt to fight against ignorance with education and against disbelief with proof.

But there is one day in the year when we make a special effort to remember (Zachor). Upon this one day, we remember those that suffered, those that fought, and those that died. Six million Jews were murdered. Many families were completely decimated.

Why this day?

Jewish history is long and filled with many stories of slavery and freedom, sorrow and joy, persecution and redemption. For Jews, their history, their family, and their relationship with God have shaped their religion and their identity. TheHebrew calendar is filled with varied holidays that incorporate and reiterate the history and tradition of the Jewish people.

After the horrors of the Holocaust, Jews wanted a day to memorialize this tragedy. But what day? The Holocaust spanned years with suffering and death spread throughout these years of terror. No one day stood out as representative of this destruction.

So various days were suggested.

  • The tenth of Tevet was proffered. This day is Asarah B'Tevet and marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem. But this day holds no direct relation or tie to the Holocaust.
  • The Zionists in Israel, many of whom had fought in the ghettos or as partisans, wanted to commemorate the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising - April 19, 1943. But this date on the Hebrew calendar is the 15th of Nissan - the beginning of Passover, a very important and happy holiday. Orthodox Jews objected to this date.

For two years, the date was debated. Finally, in 1950, compromises and bargaining began. The 27th of Nissan was chosen, which falls beyond Passover but within the time span of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Orthodox Jews still did not like this date because it was a day of mourning within the traditionally happy month of Nissan. As a final effort to compromise, it was decided that if the 27th of Nissan would affect Shabbat (fall on Friday or Saturday), then it would be moved to the following Sunday.

On April 12, 1951, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) proclaimed Yom Hashoah U'Mered HaGetaot (Holocaust and Ghetto Revolt Remembrance Day) to be the 27th of Nissan. The name later became known as Yom Hashoah Ve Hagevurah (Devastation and Heroism Day) and even later simplified to Yom Hashoah.

How is it observed?

Since Yom Hashoah is a relatively new holiday, there are no set rules or rituals. What kind of ritual could represent the Holocaust?

There are various beliefs about what is and is not appropriate on this day - and many of them are conflicting. In general, Yom Hashoah has been observed with candlelighting, speakers, poems, prayers, and singing. Often, six candles are lighted to represent the six million. Holocaust survivors speak about their experiences or share in the readings. Some ceremonies have people read from the Book of Names for certain lengths of time in an effort to remember those that died and to give an understanding of the huge number of victims. Sometimes these ceremonies are held in a cemetery or near a Holocaust memorial.

In Israel, the Knesset made Yom Hashoah a national public holiday in 1959 and in 1961 a law was passed that closed all public entertainment on Yom Hashoah. At ten in the morning, a siren is sounded where everyone stops what they are doing, pull over in their cars, and stand in remembrance.

In whatever form you observe Yom Hashoah, the memory of the Jewish victims will live on.

Yom Hashoah Dates

2006 April 25

2007 April 15

2008 May 2

2009 April 21

2010 April 11


From: Jennifer Rosenberg,


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