Yom HaShoah - Where do we go with our pain?
Different people, with different values and perspectives choose from a range of messages that can be derived from the Holocaust. Some are left with a message which is exclusive to Jews, others come away with a universal message. There are those who pray for revenge, and others who seek forgiveness and closure.
1. To analyze the special prayers regarding the Holocaust, Yizkor and El Malei Rachamim.
2. To explore a range of messages that can be derived from the Holocuast, and to stimulate the participants to think and confront their own values and beliefs.
What you will need:
- Copies of Appendix 1 for all the participants.
- Holocaust related pictures (see Method, no. 1).
- Large board and marker
- Optional: video.
1. Set the mood in the room in which you will run this program. This can be done with dim lighting or candles, or you may wish to include a candle lighting ceremony as part of the program. You could display pictures related to the Holocaust on the walls, or play subdued background music.
2. Distribute copies of Appendix 1, which contains translations of two special prayers regarding the Holocaust, Yizkor and El Malei Rachamim, as well as the poem "Upon the Slaughter" by Chaim Nachman Bialik. (Bialik's song was written after the Kishinev Pogroms in Russia in 1882 and is not directly connected to the Holocaust).
Option 1: After reading these texts, ask the group to compare and contrast them. (While El Malei Rachamim is about remembrance and mercy the two others are about anger and revenge). You can discuss the following questions:
-Do you agree with the concept of revenge?
-Do you think these have place in established prayer?
-Do you personally wish for vengeance for the perpetrators of the Holocaust?
-Do you agree with the policies of places like the Simon Wiesenthal Center which pursue and prosecute Nazis who are now quite old and possibly ill?
-Many Jews, still today, refuse to buy German products. What is your stance on this issue?
- What lesson/s do you derive from the Holocaust? What should the legacy of the Holocaust be?
Option 2: Read aloud the El Malei Rachamim. Ask the participants to note down their reactions. Ask for volunteers to share their feelings about the Holocaust. Discuss and write on the board their ideas of what should be done with the anger, fear,sadness etc.
3. Distribute copies of Appendix 2 and ask the participants to discuss in small groups, the different ideas and to arrange them in order of the most important to the least important. The ideas in this Appendix were taken from educational guidelines written by the two best known museums dedicated to the Holocaust, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, (They have been paraphrased here.)
4. Ask each participant to compose their own personal prayer or message which reflects their ideas regarding the message of the Holocaust. Conclude by reading out these prayers/messages.
Also on the WUJS site:
More Yom HaShoah Activities.
Theology of Holocaust Sources
The very basics on Holocaust Memorial Day.
This year's dates for Yom HaShoah can be found in our Jewish Calendar.