Yom HaShoah

Yom HaShoah in Church

Passover this year was not a festival of freedom for Alisa Flatow of West Orange, New Jersey. The Brandies junior was rendered brain dead by a piece of shrapnel on April 9, when a Palestinian suicide bomber drove his van of explosives into a busload of Israelis near Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip.

-Ismar Schorsch
“To Love Our Neighbor is Not Enough,” pg 413, May 6, 1995
Commentary on Torah Portion Kedoshim
Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries

No one is ever to say, “I am too old to worry about the welfare of the next generation.”

-Schrorsch
“The Ethic of Stewardship,” pg 417, May 10, 1997

In short, holiness is a matter of deeds, not words.

-ibid
“What is Holiness?” pg 419, April 23, 1994

You may be wondering what all of these quotes have to do with Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Memorial Day. I’m sure Schorsch’s commentaries on Parashah Kedoshim were unassociated with any thought of Shoah, but with the commemoration beginning tonight (Sunday, April 27th) at sunset, Schorsch’s articles on holiness are refactored in my mind into a memorial for the dead and a cry to the living.

I’m writing this before attending church on Sunday morning. I can’t get away from the counterpoint of Christianity’s history relative to the Jewish people and however unmeaning, the Church’s contribution to Hitler’s ghastly atrocities.

I commented several weeks ago on my decision not to attend Easter…uh, Resurrection Day services at church because of how it affected my wife last year. It seems somewhat ironic that I should select Yom HaShoah as my opportunity to return to corporate Christian worship. I hope it’s not a mistake.

My recent reflections on Purim including its meaning for the Church and sadly finding the Spirit of Haman in the Church, point to the relevancy of certain Jewish observances to Christians, especially as a point of education and elucidation.

ShoahIf any body needs to be reminded of Shoah and how the screams of six-million murdered Jews continue to echo down the dark tunnel of history and into our present, it is the Church.

I don’t say this as a way of blaming current Christianity for the Holocaust or any of the other atrocities that have been committed against the Jewish people and Judaism over the past two-thousand years or so, but as a cautionary tale and a reminder that we don’t have to return to the sins of the past. As I’ve said before, Evangelicals are abandoning support of Israel and the Jewish people in droves. The stage is being set in Europe and America for a resurgence of anti-Semitism and Jew hatred.

How soon we forget.

Which is why we must not only remember but we must teach. We must remind ourselves of the horrors of the past and we must educate the next generation that the return of the Spirit of Amalek is only a heartbeat away.

So my church attendance today will also be a silent reminder, or maybe a not so silent reminder, to my fellow Christians of what this day means to them…to us.

I have a t-shirt. I can’t recall the name of the company that produced it. I bought it many years ago, at the approach of Yom HaShoah, along with the others in the congregation I used to attend. The company making it wanted to sell six million of them, one for each victim. I don’ t know if it worked out that way. I hope it did. I want to represent one of six million. I want to be a reminder of one Jewish soul who died needlessly because of evil men and Christian indifference.

This commemorative t-shirt cries out that Shoah must never happen again. I wear it every year at this time, which is usually during the weekdays at work, as a witness. Only one person has ever asked me what it meant. He seemed surprised when I told him.

RemembranceI normally go to church dressed in “business casual” clothing, but dress pants are hardly suitable attire with a black t-shirt, so I’m “dressing down” for church today. I’m also dressing up, so to speak, and by “up” I mean elevation, both informational and spiritual. My clothing will be a badge of warning and of purpose. We must all do something today and tomorrow (and always) to remind the world around us of what they’ve forgotten, and to tell the news in the world around us to those who have never been told before.

My friend Dan Hennessy is, among other things, a “Holocaust educator, author, and activist.” He has a motto for his teaching which I like.

Education is resistance. Join the resistance.

Rather makes you feel like a freedom fighter when you say it out loud. But that’s who we are when we speak of Shoah, when we tell others what Yom HaShoah means, not just as a piece of history, and not just as something meaningful to Jewish people, but as a vital reminder to the Church” that we, as disciples of the Jewish Messiah, have a responsibility and a duty to the Jewish people, to Israel, and to God, never to forget and never to let our children forget. We must never let the world forget about the day when the world went mad.

Dan’s research and teaching led him to write a book: Remembrance and Repentance: The Call to Remember and Memorialize the Holocaust. I’m fortunate enough to own a copy which I reviewed last year. At less than one hundred pages, it can be read in just an hour or two and serves as a perfect devotional for the remembrance of Shoah.

What do you do on Yom HaShoah?

You can learn more than I could possibly insert into this brief missive. You can read the story of a Holocaust survivor and put a living, human face on the Holocaust. You can watch video reminders of the past so you may strengthen your resolve that the past does not also have to be the future for the Jews. You can realize that Shoah is continually lived out in Jewish experience today and in the history of modern Israel.

The Holocaust did not end in 1945 when the Allies liberated the Jewish survivors from the Nazi killing centers and concentration camps. Still shadowing the world’s moral, political, and religious life are the consequences of what happened, and did not happen, in the period of 1933 to May 1945 in predominantly Christian Europe.

-Daniel Hennessy
“Educational Activism,” pg 82
Remembrance and Repentance: The Call to Remember and Memorialize the Holocaust

I quoted Ismar Schorsch above in saying that we are not “too old to worry about the welfare of the next generation” and “holiness is a matter of deeds, not words.”

Yesterday’s Torah Portion Kedoshim includes the following:

Hashem spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your God.

Leviticus 19:1-2 (Stone Edition Chumash)

These words, or something similar, are not foreign to Christians:

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48 (NASB)

Remembering Shoah and teaching others to remember is an act of Holiness and perfection. It is honoring God, for God asks each of us to love kindness and to do justice (Micah 6:8).

candle shoahToday, I will stand in the sanctuary among other Gentile Christians as a witness. Pastor Randy, who lived in Israel for fifteen years, is on vacation this week so he won’t be leading services. Pastor Bill will be giving a sermon on David and Goliath (I Samuel 17) and my Sunday school class will be teaching on Ephesians 2. Nothing wrong with any of those lessons.

But given what is on my heart as I write this, I can think of something better to teach in church today. I pray that there’s someone who will listen.

This year, Yom HaShoah begins on Sunday, April 27th at sundown and ends on Monday, April 28th at sundown. If you can teach someone about Shoah then teach. If you know little or nothing of Shoah, then learn.

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4 thoughts on “Yom HaShoah in Church”

  1. Just got back from church. I had my Yom HaShoah t-shirt on throughout services, but only one guy mentioned it and only after we were in Sunday school class. I also had my copy of Dan Hennessy’s book with me and displayed both prominently.

    During the prayer requests part of class, I uncharacteristically asked for prayer for my Dad who’s recovering from pneumonia and e coli at home after a week long stay at the hospital, and I asked for prayer for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, explaining that tonight begins Yom HaShoah. One of the women said she’d watched a PBS TV program on Holocaust Remembrance Day last night and the class seemed suitably impressed.

    Then we started our study on Ephesians two, one new man, how the “ceremonial law” had been “nailed to the cross with Jesus” and had Hebrews 10 thrown in for good measure. Without starting a full-scale riot, I responded to some of the teacher’s points invoking my knowledge of the New Covenant. Beyond a certain point, I think the teacher had to just brush off my points and move on. Other wise, the class would have been five hours long. Two or three fellows stuck around after class to ask me questions, especially about the Third Temple Messiah will build and how there will be sacrifices offered.

    One guy even admitted that he didn’t understand how one part of the Bible (seemingly) said the sacrificial system was over and another part says there will be sacrifices offered in the Messianic Kingdom.

    Am I the only one who finds such a conversation at least ironic if not painful when Yom HaShoah is only hours away?

  2. I have had my girls and I watch the movie, “The Hiding Place.” May we be as brave as those Righteous Gentiles.

  3. Reblogged this on Morning Meditations and commented:

    I wrote this blog post over two years ago when I was still attending a church. In fact, it was the last year I attended church. Yom HaShoah isn’t the reason I quit, but re-reading this reminded me that even a “Pro-Israel” and “Pro-Jewish people” church can still have a lot to learn.

    This year, Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day begins tonight at sundown and extends for the next 24 hours. Don’t forget. Don’t let your children forget. According to this article, “in 2013, a survey of more than 53,000 respondents in 101 countries found that only 54 percent of the world’s adults had even heard of the Holocaust — and of those, one-third believe it is either a myth or has been greatly exaggerated.”

    The world is already forgetting or at least disbelieving. That’s why we have to keep the memory alive. We’re moving dangerously close to repeating the sins of the past.

  4. In many ways, “remembering” (not restricted to remembering Jewish history or Jews) is anathema to church people. There’s such a bias against remembering, that awareness of fact in the now is shunned. You aren’t supposed to notice the attitude or effort you see in front of you or even being leveled at you or done to you or you and others.

    All understanding or learning and maturity involves memory. Memory has to do with experience and the past. “That’s the *past*” is part of an arsenal used to continue callousness and wanton abandon.

    I’ve noticed in daily life that a person who doesn’t want to remember, or is offended by memory, likely will also lie (in harmful ways).

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