At our Seder, a teenage guest named Natalie asked a question that is not in the Haggadah. We have Pesach to celebrate the end of Egyptian slavery, she said, so why dont we have a holiday to celebrate the end of the Holocaust?
Why, indeed. Just as we mention the Exodus in many of our prayers, we certainly mention the Holocaust in numerous connections all the time. Survivors who kept silent for half a century are now telling and writing their stories. That is one kind of celebration. Before we realize it, those survivors will be gone. The rest of us still need to put the Holocaust in perspective.
Future generations may well be bombarded with repeated denials of history. For them, for us, and for the survivor generation alike, we do need to observe the ultimate triumph of the Jewish people over the most terrible effort at genocide. The Haggadah itself reminds us that in every generation there arise those who would wipe us out. Bchol dor va-dor omdim aleynu lchaloteynu. They fail. We succeed.
True, we have a Yom haShoah every year on the 3rd day in Iyyar this year coinciding with the 25th of April. It is a sad day, observed as a memorial to those who were murdered in the Holocaust. Similarly the State of Israel holds a Yom haZikaron (Memorial Day) on the 9th day in Iyyar honoring those who gave their lives in defense of the Jewish state. But that is followed just one day later by Yom haAtzma-ut, a day of joy celebrating Israels independence. Why not follow Yom haShoah with a worldwide celebration of Jewish continuity, a day to give thanks for being part of the Eternal People, to bless our destiny and our living creative presence in the world in spite of everything?
I submit that young Natalie is right. We need a religious and communal tribute to our ongoing existence not as victims but as victors. We need a day to declare our connection to Klal Yisrael the total Jewish people to its past and its future, a day to celebrate the end of a tragedy and to bless the beginning of triumph.
What form should this new Yom Tov take? What ritual would be appropriate? What should be its name? How can we make it a worldwide holiday?
Legitimate questions, all. In search of legitimate answers and a workable plan, hopefully for next year, we at the Cohon Memorial Foundation seek your ideas and suggestions. Please share your thoughts, herewith or on our email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Baruch Cohon,
Vice-President, Cohon Memorial Foundation