Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Yom Hashoa-the day of Remembrance of the Holocaust.  Today we remember those who perished during World War II at the hands of the Nazi criminal war machine.  We remember and honor the heroes and heroines, the liberators and most importantly the survivors. We say kaddish for the millions who were murdered.


Don’t let today go by without remembering our responsibility to NEVER FORGET and Never let it happen again.  Stay vigilant.  Where in the world is genocide happening today?  Congo? Sudan? Darfur? Myanmar?

Their Blood Cries Out

Parshat Tazria-Metzorah/Yom Hashoa

Leviticus 12:1-15:33

Rabbi Denise L. Eger

This week observed Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day.  The blood of 6 million murdered Jews still cries out to us today. Jews who lived throughout Europe and North Africa and the Mediterranean were systematically and cruelly murdered at the hands of the Nazi’s and Axis Forces of World War II.  Can a people ever really recover from such horrors?  The impact on the Jewish People is still being felt.  The wounds and scars are still present from such deep victimization.

Increasingly there are few of the survivors left.  Old age has taken its toll.  That is why it is more incumbent upon us than ever before to observe this day in Jewish life.  To light a yellow candle, to recite the Kaddish for those whose lives were snuffed out in Concentration Camps and Ghettos, in towns and train cars, in the forests of Europe.  We need to say Kaddish for those who starved to death or were gassed or gunned down.  Or those who died of disease that ran rampant during those years as typhus outbreaks infected whole villages. 

Today there are estimated a little over 13 million Jews.  Imagine how strong and healthy are numbers would be if 6 million of us survived and the more than a million Jewish children who perished during those years had grown to have their own children!

And yet we have survived as a people and even thrived despite the hole in our hearts.

Our resilience is in the fabric of our People.  Resilience is the trait we Jews have learned to call upon whenever we have faced adversary. Resilience and Hope are the two ideas that our tradition teach us and help us to reframe our essence through prayer and community! It is the remnant of our people that still connected and made community that stoked the growth and rebuilding of our people.

This week’s Torah portion (as followed in Israel) Tazria-Metzorah is a double portion, two portions together.  It is a Torah portion that speaks to what happens when people, houses, and fabrics have become contaminated with a contagion.  The Torah speaks of a kind of leprosy but it can be mildew, mold, or read even as a spiritual uncleanliness.    The Priest must examine the individual or garment or building and a process and ritual for purification is performed.

So too, the contagion of victimization plagues our people, understandably so.  But these many years later as we have grown and thrived. As the State of Israel was reborn out of the ashes of the Shoa and is a strong nation, and the Jewish community around the world is strong we too need rituals of purification to help us cast away the shame and hurt and dehumanization of those years so that we can fully remember and recall and stand tall for our family and friends who perished. 

May their memory live for a blessing.

Today we rememb…

Today we remember the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust of World War II.   On Monday, My family was present in the California Assembly Chambers for the Holocaust Remembrance Observance. Our Speaker, John Perez presided over a powerful program which honored both survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust and the liberators.  The Speaker’s office funded an amazing film called “Echos of Truth”  Here is a link to the project which was headed by Assembly member Michael Allen and Assembly member Betsy Butler. Many of the survivors interviewed in the film were present on the Assembly floor.   

Thank you to Speaker Perez for spearheading this important California Remembrance.   May the memory of those who perished live in our hearts. May we Never Forget and Never sit silently in the face of such hatred.  Here is the video:

No tears for Osama

I have no tears for Osama bin Laden. There is a reason the crowds have gathered at the White House, Time Square and Ground Zero.  America feels a sense of vindication.  A sense of justice done. The leader and mastermind of attacks on democracy and freedom through his evil terrorist network of Al-Qaida is dead.  The events of 9/11 so seared in all of our consciousness happened almost ten years ago.  Hard to believe that it has taken this long. But it is no less an important moment.  Especially for the families who lost someone that horrible day.
Bravo to the President for his courage and decision in action.  Bravo to the brave Navy Seals who executed this sensitive mission.

The month before 9/11 in August 2001 I was in Washington, D.C. with my family.  We toured the FBI building and learned about the ten most wanted people in the world.  Even then Osama was #1.  My son the baseball player (who was only 7 then) was worried by the tour guide’s description of Osama bin Laden as the #1 enemy.  He asked, “Could he come here?”   We quickly tried to allay his fears and told him no.  On 9/11 when the Towers came down and the Pentagon was crashed  into and the plane down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Osama Bin Laden claimed these evil attacks, the baseball player was properly upset. As we were.

I will never forget that August day when I first learned of Osama bin Laden.  And I will never forget today when even the now almost grown baseball player remembered both that August day and September 11, 2001.

The reaction of our country is as if we won a war.

Terrorism is not over.  Al-Qaida remains a threat.

But on this day of Holocaust Memorial that recalls the evil perpetrated by another human being,

let us  remember the victims of both Hitler and Osama bin Laden.  Let the  souls of the victims of their terror rest in peace.

And let us use today’s news of Osama’s death to help think about the capacity of the human being to do evil in the world.

May the good soldiers, men and women who continue to fight the war on terror be protected in their honorable service.

Remembering the Holocaust

Today is Yom Hashoa-Holocaust Memorial Day.

It is hard to confront the reality of the Shoa.  Six million Jews murdered.  Seven million others murdered by the Nazi killing machine.

Gays, Jehovah Witnesses,Roma, the disabled and mentally ill, political prisoners, labor unionists and everyone else who did not fit the so-called Aryan model of perfection.

There are so many people who still think the Holocaust was fabricated.  How wrong they are.  But the eye witnesses to the events are old and dying rapidly.  So the testimonies collected by the University of Southern California Shoa Project are critical to preserving the memories of that gruesome reality. This was a visual history project started by famed producer and director Steven Spielberg.  But in 2005 the Spielberg Visual History Project was turned over to USC for preservation of the thousands of hours of video testimony by survivors and liberators.

You can watch and listen to many of the stories if you click on the link above. Or for click on the link here of the online exhibitions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

That seems fitting for a day like today.  A day to remember. A day to mourn.  A day for thinking about the human capacity for evil. A day for looking around and wondering whether or not we have learned anything at all from those horror years.

Bosnia, Rwanda.  Sudan. Congo. Cambodia. Kurdistan. Iraq. Liberia.  And just look at what is happening in Libya today.

Our technology enables efficient killing.  But our human nature unchecked will let our fears and hatred and jealousies to rule us.

So today is a day of remembrance and reflection with the sincerest prayer that our reflection will cause us to keep that part of our human nature in check.

May the memories of those who perished in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau, Sobibor, Maidenek, Sajmiste, Ravensbruk,Buchenwald, Chelmo, Warsaw, La Vernet, Mittlebau, Mathausen, Jasenovec, Janowska, Drancy, Flossenberg, Falstad, Kaiserwald, Belzac, Terezin,  Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen and Gross-Rosen be kept alive to remind us of our duties to our fellow human beings.  For the hundreds of thousands of Jews who perished in their towns and villages without ever being sent to a concentration camp we say we remember you.

May your memory inspire us to speak out.

At 4pm today join me and Congregation Kol Ami and the City of West Hollywood for a program of remembrance of the Holocaust  at Plummer Park in West Hollywood.  1200 N. Vista is Fiesta Hall.

I hope to see you there. May the memory of the righteous live for a blessing.

Today in Sacramento

Today in Sacramento I am delivering a keynote address to a special session of our Assembly and Senate.

Today is the annual Holocaust Memorial Observance.  Many survivors and their families as well as camp liberators will be in attendance.  They are living testimony to this horror that happened in the 20th Century.  Genocide. Targeting the Jews, Gays and Lesbians, Jehovah Witnesses, and the physically and mentally handicapped and the Roma people also known as Gypsies.  Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis.  And I am proud that California will remember.  Officially we will remember all those who perished at the hands of the Nazis. I am proud that California will honor the survivors and honor those who in service to our country fought so valiantly to defeat such evil.

I will have the honor of giving the invocation today and a keynote address and then along with the Governor and the Speaker attend the reception to honor the survivors and the veterans.  I look forward to meeting the vets and the survivors and listening to their stories.

There are still so many Holocaust deniers in the world. They write vicious lies that this horror never happened. That the Jews made it up. Even the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spews this lie whenever he can. 

So I am honored to speak  (thank you Assembly members Ira Ruskin (Los Altos) and Marty Block (San Diego)) and honored to learn the survivors’ and veterans’ stories so they can become mine and I can share them with others. 

Tomorrow I will publish my remarks about today in Sacramento.

May the memory of the righteous live for a blessing.

Walking for Congo

Today we at Kol Ami are joining with other congregations and individuals across Los Angeles to Walk in the annual Jewish World Watch Walk to End Geoncide.  This is the fourth annual walk.  We will gather in Woodland Hills at Warner Center Park 5800 Topanga Canyon (north of the 101) the walk is just under 3 miles.  Not so taxing a walk but our Social Action Committee along with our Religious School will join together in this effort. Registration begins this morning at 8 am and the walk begins at 9. But even if you can’t come out that early come by 10 am or 11 am. Because there is a wonderful social activism fair where you can get involved and learn more about what is happening in both Darfur and the Congo.

Why bother to worry about what is happening so far away?  There aren’t a lot of Jews in Darfur or the Congo.  As Jews our concerns do just extend to Jews but to all of God’s children.  We do not idly stand by the blood of our neighbor. And most especially we remember most vividly how the Jewish people have been targeted for death and genocide time and time again in history. Most recently during World War II and the Nazi’s final solution which was termed the Holocaust. 

Here are some basic facts why we must take up this cause:

  • The Darfur genocide is now in its 7th year, during which 400,000 innocent Darfuris have been systematically murdered with no end in sight.
  • With 5.5 million killed and millions more facing brutal atrocities and displacement, the conflict in Congo requires our immediate attention.
  • We are facing a world in which there are over 30 conflicts now at high risk of genocide
  • So I hope if you are reading this early come and join us this morning. Their are people who need our help. Their are people who need our country’s help and the world to pay attention. They need the U.N. to step in. Our voices can make that happen.