Prayers for the 6 million, honor for the survivors

Unlike Israel, here we have no sirens wailing at high noon. We do not stop our cars in the middle of the street or bring the nation to a standstill.

But on this Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — we, too, remember. How can we not, with the millions lost in history’s worst genocide?

This year, Yom HaShoah was memorialized on Thursday, May 1.

Locally, Yom HaShoah commemorations are taking place across the Bay Area, many of them sanctified by the presence of survivors. We urge you to go to one or more of these events. Because the day will come — and, sadly, it is not far off — when there will be no more Holocaust survivors left to bear living witness.

For our part, we have two local stories this week on the subject. Stacey Palevsky’s cover story about the grandchildren of survivors points out the special burdens borne by the third generation, and how the legacy of the Holocaust lives on in them.

We also take a look at Next Chapter, a wonderful new project co-sponsored by Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the Taube Foundation, Congregation Emanu-El and the Holocaust Center of Northern California. Next Chapter matches local teens with survivors in an ambitious oral history project that stretches all the way to Poland.

As the years pass, educational Holocaust programming like this will become increasingly important. Time has a way of dulling the impact of history. For future generations who will never personally encounter survivors, the Shoah could fade into stuff of dusty textbooks.

The Jewish people cannot and will not allow that to happen.

Not only for the sake of our own dead but also for the sake of other peoples facing genocide. It is no accident that Jews have taken a leading role in stopping genocide in Darfur and elsewhere. We understand what’s at stake.

As solemn as Yom HaShoah may be, it’s comforting to remember that less than a week later, Jews around the world will celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. This year will be the greatest party yet, as Israel celebrates 60 glorious years of life.

One cannot help noting the proximity of these two holidays. The first perhaps the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, the second easily one of the happiest.

If that doesn’t crystallize the Jewish saga, what else does? As a people, we have known great sorrows and great joys. We remember it all.

We honor the many Holocaust survivors in our midst, and we offer our prayers for the 6 million.