Remembering, learning and honoring on Yom HaShoah

There is no more somber a day on the Jewish calendar than Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

To mark the day, which falls this year on April 19, we offer several stories about commemorations and related events in the Bay Area, including a “musical opera” based on the diary of Anne Frank (composed by a Palo Alto teen). We also have a story about Rosemary Schindler, a relative by marriage to Oskar Schindler of “Schindler’s List” fame, who will be honored at a luncheon later this month honoring her pro-Israel and interfaith advocacy work.

We also provide a list of commemorative events taking place throughout the greater Bay Area, from the Mendocino coast to Lafayette to Carmel. Fittingly, many of these events focus on teaching Jewish youth the lessons of the Holocaust. It is they who must remember and transmit those lessons to future generations after the last survivor is gone.

At the Friedman Center in Santa Rosa, teens will walk together with Holocaust survivors as they light candles in memory of their friends and family members who fell victim to Nazi death campaigns.

Sixteen-year-old Leah Kaufman has been on the event’s planning committee for three years, and she told us that working face-to-face with Holocaust survivors on that committee has made her understand how critical it is to share their stories.

“I just feel this need to make sure their stories are heard,” Kaufman said. “They’ve taught me how important it is to remember the Holocaust and to continue the memory.”

Indeed, much is made of the fact that with every passing year we lose more survivors. Time is running out for us to preserve the legacies of those who remain.

Nearly 70 years have passed since the end of the war and the liberation of the camps. In many ways, it was a long time ago. But on the Day of Remembrance, when we light the candles and hear the music and listen to the stories of the survivors, it is as if no time has passed at all.

We feel afresh the nauseating horror, as if the Holocaust were happening to us. Not unlike the Passover requirement to imagine as if we, too, had been slaves in Egypt, we feel a dreadful kinship with our kin lost in the fires of Auschwitz and the killing fields of Babi Yar.

Remembering means learning. It means honoring, and sharing, and committing to a better future. Jewish memory is long; the Jewish spirit is indomitable.