Yom HaShoah

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Yom HaShoah
Also called Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah
Holocaust Remembrance Day
Observed by State of Israel
many Jews elsewhere
Type Jewish (national)
Significance Commemorating the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and the heroism of survivors and rescuers
Observances Flags lowered to half-mast, public places of entertainment closed; national opening ceremony and closing ceremonies; siren at 10:00 signaling the start of two minutes of silence;
Date 27th day of Nisan
2017 date sunset, April 23 –
nightfall, April 24.
2018 date sunset, April 11 –
nightfall, April 12.
2019 date sunset, May 1 –
nightfall, May 2.

Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; "Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day"), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel, it is a national memorial day. It was inaugurated in 1953, anchored by a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and the President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It is held on the 27th of Nisan (April/May), unless the 27th would be adjacent to the Jewish Sabbath, in which case the date is shifted by a day.[1]


Yom HaShoah was inaugurated in 1953, anchored in a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, and the President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.[2]

The original proposal was to hold Yom HaShoah on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April 19, 1943), but this was problematic because the 14th of Nisan is the day immediately before Pesach (Passover). The date was moved to the 27th of Nisan, which is eight days before Yom Ha'atzma'ut, or Israeli Independence Day.[3]

While many Orthodox Jews commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, others in the Orthodox community – especially Haredim, including Hasidim – remember the victims of the Holocaust on days of mourning declared by the rabbis before the Holocaust, such as Tisha b'Av in the summer,[4] and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter, because in the Jewish tradition the month of Nisan is considered a joyous month associated with Passover and messianic redemption. Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of Conservative Judaism's Jewish Theological Seminary of America held that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b'Av.[5]



Yom HaShoah opens in Israel at sundown[6] in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Authority, in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers.[7]

On Yom HaShoah, ceremonies and services are held at schools, military bases and by other public and community organizations.[8]

On the eve of Yom HaShoah and the day itself, places of public entertainment are closed by law. Israeli television airs Holocaust documentaries and Holocaust-related talk shows, and low-key songs are played on the radio. Flags on public buildings are flown at half mast. At 10:00, an air raid siren sounds throughout the country and Israelis are expected to observe two minutes[9] of solemn reflection. Almost everyone stops what they are doing, including motorists who stop their cars in the middle of the road, standing beside their vehicles in silence as the siren is sounded.[10]

Observance of the day is moved back to the Thursday before, if 27 Nisan falls on a Friday (as in 2008), or forward a day, if 27 Nisan falls on a Sunday (to avoid adjacency with the Jewish Sabbath). The fixed Jewish calendar ensures 27 Nisan does not fall on Saturday.[1]


The March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp

Also during this day, a memorial service in Auschwitz is held, as part of what has become known as "The March of the Living" which has been held since 1988.[11]


In the last few decades all the prayerbooks of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have developed similar liturgies to be used on Yom HaShoah. The siddurim of these groups add passages that are meant to be added to standard weekday service, as well as stand-alone sections. These liturgies generally include:

  • Lighting of a candle (often each member of the congregation lights one)
  • Modern poems, including "I believe in the sun even when it is not shining..."
  • El Malei Rahamim (God, full of mercy, dwelling on high)
  • Mourner's Kaddish.

In 1988 the American Reform movement published Six Days of Destruction (Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Albert Friedlander). Narratives from Holocaust survivors are juxtaposed with the six days of creation found in Genesis.[12]

More recently Conservative rabbis and lay leaders in the US, Israel and Canada collaborated to write Megillat Hashoah (The Holocaust Scroll). It contains personal recollections of Holocaust survivors. A responsa was written by Rabbi David Golinkin expressing the view that not only is it legitimate for the modern Jewish community to write a new scroll of mourning, it was also incumbent to do so.[13]

In response to the lack of liturgy dedicated to Yom HaShoah, Daniel Gross composed, in 2009, I Believe: A Shoah Requiem, a complete musical liturgy dedicated to the observance of Yom HaShoah. An a cappella oratorio scored for cantor, soprano solo, adult chorus and children's chorus, I Believe features several traditional prayer texts such as the Mourner's Kaddish (Kaddish Yatom) and the El Malei memorial prayer, and also includes the poetry of Paul Celan and Primo Levi. On April 7, 2013, I Believe had its world premiere[14] presentation at Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Michigan.

Orthodox Judaism[edit]

While there are Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, others in the Orthodox community – especially Haredim, including Hasidim – remember the victims of the Holocaust on traditional days of mourning which were already in place before the Holocaust, such as Tisha B'Av in the summer, and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter. Some ultra-Orthodox rabbis recommend adding piyyutim (religious poems) written by contemporary rabbis to the liturgy of Tisha B’Av; some adherents follow this advice.[15]

Reform Judaism[edit]

Reform Jewish congregations have tended to commemorate the memory of the Holocaust either on International Holocaust Remembrance Day or on Yom HaShoah. These commemorations of the Holocaust have used a ceremony that is loosely modeled after a Passover Seder. The focus of the seder has changed with time. The earlier Holocaust seders commemorated the losses of the Holocaust through a reenactment events from the Holocaust[16] and through the lighting of six yahrzeit candles to reflect the approximately 6 million Jews murdered.[17] More modern Haggadot for Yom HaShoah, such as Gathering from the Whirlwind,[18][19] have concentrated on renewal,[20] remembrance, and the continuity of Jewish life.

Gregorian dates[edit]

Upcoming dates of observance:[21]

  • 2017: Monday, April 24
  • 2018: Thursday, April 12
  • 2019: Thursday, May 2
  • 2020: Tuesday, April 21
  • 2021: Thursday, April 8
  • 2022: Thursday, April 28

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Remembrance Day Calendar". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  2. ^ Gilad, Elon (April 27, 2014). "The history of Holocaust Remembrance Day". Haaretz. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Marking Yom HaShoah: Calendars And Memory, God And History". The New York Jewish Week. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  4. ^ Feinstein, Moshe (1996). Igros Moshe, Volume 8, Yoreh Deah, Siman 57. New York. p. 289. 
  5. ^ "Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Ha-Shoah)". Jewish Virtual Library. 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2011. 
  6. ^ In the Jewish calendar the day begins in the evening and ends in the following evening.
  7. ^ "Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, April 18–19, 2012". Yad Vashem. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ Schechter, Jack (2014). Journey of a Rabbi: Vision and Strategies for the Revitalization of Jewish Life. UPA. p. 464. ISBN 9780761863991. 
  9. ^ "Siren brings Israel to a halt as country marks Holocaust Remembrance Day". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  10. ^ Harman, Danna (April 28, 2014). "WATCH: Israelis Pause in Silence as Siren Sounds for Holocaust Remembrance Day". Haaretz. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Thousands walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau in March of the Living". Jerusalem Post. May 5, 2016. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  12. ^ "Six Days of Destruction". Science Direct. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Megillat HaShoah: The Holocaust Scroll". 
  14. ^ Gary Graff. Interfaith Shoah Requiem at Orchestra Hall
  15. ^ "Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Memorial Day". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  16. ^ "A seder for Yom Hashoah". washingtonjewishweek.com. Retrieved April 20, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Seder Yom Hashoah – Welcome". www.sederyomhashoah.com. Retrieved April 20, 2017. 
  18. ^ "Gathering from The Whirlwind". 
  19. ^ "Changing face of Holocaust education | TJP". tjpnews.com. Retrieved April 20, 2017. 
  20. ^ Reporter, Janice Arnold, Staff (April 10, 2012). "Third seder created to commemorate Holocaust – The Canadian Jewish News". The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved April 20, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Yom HaShoah". Hebrew Calendar. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 

External links[edit]