Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah in Hebrew, tomorrow pays tribute to the 6 million Jews killed in German concentration camps more than 60 years ago.
It also happens to be one of the days when photos are being taken for Temple Emanu-El of Honolulu’s 50th Anniversary Commemorative Pictorial Directory. The date of the photo shoot was approved only after a lot of reflection by Rabbi Peter Schaktman.
Initially, he thought, "No, that is not a day on which Jewish families should be smiling for the camera. That would not do justice to the millions who lost their lives to the Nazis, and to their children and grandchildren," Schaktman wrote in the temple newsletter.
"I stopped and thought again. And what I realized is that there could be no greater tribute to those who lost their lives, and no greater repudiation of their murderers, than the celebration of Jewish survival and Jewish continuity represented by these photographs. Indeed, every Jewish face that is captured by the camera and every Jewish family that appears in this ‘snapshot’ of our temple community is a statement of our people’s triumph over those who sought to bring a fiery end to Am Yisrael (the people of Israel). …
"(It’s) a way of affirming life on this day on which we recall the death that was the result of unspeakable evil."
Yom HaShoah — "shoah" means catastrophe or destruction in Hebrew — refers to the atrocities committed by the Nazi Party in imposing a doctrine of racial superiority during World War II. It is held on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, which falls on May 1 this year. Established officially by the Israel’s parliament in 1951, the occasion is usually observed at ceremonies with the lighting of six candles to represent the 6 million killed and Holocaust survivors sharing their experiences or participating in readings, prayers and singing.
Yom HaShoah will be observed at Temple Emanu-El’s Sunday school and acknowledged at the regular Shabbat service Friday evening.
The origins of the temple date back to 1938 when 35 Oahu families formed the Hawaii Jewish community. Today its membership consists of 230 families. The temple on Pali Highway in Nuuanu was built about 50 years ago. The commemorative album will be published later this year, Schaktman said.