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Yom HaShoah

Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; "Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day"), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel, it is a national memorial day. It was inaugurated in 1953, anchored by a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and the President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It is held on the 27th of Nisan (April/May), unless the 27th would be adjacent to the Jewish Sabbath, in which case the date is shifted by a day.[1]

Some other countries have different commemorative days for the same event—see Holocaust Memorial Day.


  • Origins 1
  • Commemoration 2
    • Israel 2.1
    • Abroad 2.2
    • Liturgy 2.3
  • Orthodox Judaism 3
  • Conservative Judaism 4
  • Gregorian dates 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Yom HaShoah was inaugurated in 1953, anchored in a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, and the President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.[2]

The original proposal was to hold Yom HaShoah on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943), but this was problematic because the 14th of Nisan is the day immediately before Pesach (Passover). The date was moved to the 27th of Nisan, which is eight days before Yom Ha'atzma'ut, or Israeli Independence Day.

While there are Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, others in the Orthodox community—especially Haredim, including Hasidim—remember the victims of the Holocaust on days of mourning declared by the rabbis before the Holocaust, such as Tisha b'Av in the summer,[3] and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter, because in the Jewish tradition the month of Nisan is considered a joyous month associated with Passover and messianic redemption. Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of Conservative Judaism's Jewish Theological Seminary of America held that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b'Av.[4]

Most Jewish communities hold a solemn ceremony on this day, but there is no institutionalized ritual accepted by all Jews. Lighting memorial candles and reciting the Kaddish—the prayer for the departed—are common. The Masorti (Conservative Judaism) movement in Israel has created Megillat HaShoah, a scroll and liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah, a joint project of Jewish leaders in Israel, the United States and Canada. The booklet was subsequently converted into a kosher scroll by sofer Marc Michaels for reading in the community and then into a tikkun—copyist guide for scribes—'Tikkun megillat hashoah'. In 1984, Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin wrote an article in the journal Conservative Judaism suggesting a program of observance for the holiday, including fasting.



Flags at half mast at sundown on Yom HaShoah
Sirens blare at 10 am as motorists exit their cars and stand in silence in front of the Prime Minister's House in Jerusalem and throughout Israel on Yom HaShoah

Yom HaShoah opens in Israel at sundown[5] in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Authority, in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers.[6]

On Yom HaShoah, ceremonies and services are held at schools, military bases and by other public and community organizations.

On the eve of Yom HaShoah and the day itself, places of public entertainment are closed by law. Israeli television airs Holocaust documentaries and Holocaust-related talk shows, and low-key songs are played on the radio. Flags on public buildings are flown at half mast. At 10:00 a.m., an air raid siren sounds throughout the country and Israelis are expected to observe two minutes of solemn reflection. Many people stop what they are doing, including motorists who stop their cars in the middle of the road, standing beside their vehicles in silence as the siren is sounded.[7]

Observance of the day is moved back to the Thursday before, if 27 Nisan falls on a Friday (as in 2008), or forward a day, if 27 Nisan falls on a Sunday (to avoid adjacency with the Jewish Sabbath). The fixed Jewish calendar ensures 27 Nisan does not fall on Saturday.[1]


The March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp

Jews in the Diaspora may observe this day within the synagogue, as well as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs. Many Yom HaShoah programs feature a talk by a Holocaust survivor or a direct descendant, recitation of appropriate psalms, songs and readings, or viewing of a Holocaust-themed film. Some communities choose to emphasize the depth of loss that Jews experienced in the Holocaust by reading the names of Holocaust victims one after another—dramatizing the unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on, or around, Yom HaShoah.

Also during this day, tens of thousands of Israeli high-school students, and thousands of Jews and non-Jews from around the world, hold a memorial service in Auschwitz, in what has become known as "The March of the Living," in defiance of the Holocaust Death Marches. This event is endorsed and subsidized by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Holocaust Claims Conference, and is considered an important part of the school curriculum – a culmination of several months of studies on World War II and the Holocaust.


In the last few decades all the prayerbooks of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have developed similar liturgies to be used on Yom HaShoah. The siddurim of these groups add passages that are meant to be added to standard weekday service, as well as stand-alone sections. These liturgies generally include:

  • Lighting of a candle (often each member of the congregation lights one)
  • Modern poems, including "I believe in the sun even when it is not shining..."
  • El Malei Rahamim (God, full of mercy, dwelling on high)
  • Mourner's Kaddish.

In the Conservative Sim Shalom and the Israeli Masorti Va'ani Tefilati siddurim there is a special addition into the framework of the Shomeya Tefillah ("Hear our prayer")[8] or Birkat HaTzadikim (Prayer for the Righteous),[9] Nachem, said in each Amidah of Yom HaShoah.

Some Modern Orthodox prayerbooks suggest prayers or psalms to be said on Yom HaShoah.

In 1988 the American Reform movement published Six Days of Destruction (Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Albert Friedlander). Narratives from Holocaust survivors are juxtaposed with the six days of creation found in Genesis.

More recently Conservative rabbis and lay leaders in the US, Israel and Canada collaborated to write Megillat Hashoah, (The Holocaust Scroll). It contains personal recollections of Holocaust survivors. A responsa was written by Rabbi David Golinkin expressing the view that not only is it legitimate for the modern Jewish community to write a new scroll of mourning, it was also incumbent to do so.[10]

In response to the lack of liturgy dedicated to Yom HaShoah, Daniel Gross composed, in 2009, I Believe - A Shoah Requiem, a complete musical liturgy dedicated to the observance of Yom HaShoah. An a cappella oratorio scored for cantor, soprano solo, adult chorus and children's chorus, I Believe features several traditional prayer texts such as the Mourner's Kaddish (Kaddish Yatom) and the El Malei memorial prayer, and also includes the poetry of Paul Celan and Primo Levi. On April 7, 2013, I Believe had its world premiere[11] presentation at Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Michigan. An excerpt from this oratorio,[12] was performed earlier at the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin during the 2012 Cantors Assembly Mission to Germany. Daniel Gross is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, The Juilliard School and The University of Pennsylvania and is the cantor of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Orthodox Judaism

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, in 1949, under the guidance of Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel and Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, decided that the Tenth of Tevet should be the national remembrance days for victims of the Holocaust. The Tenth of Tevet fast commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II. For this day, it recommended traditional Jewish ways of remembering the dead, such as the study of the traditional Mishnah section about ritual baths, saying Psalms, lighting a yahrzeit candle and saying Kaddish for those Holocaust victims whose date of death remains unknown. On other occasions, the Chief Rabbinate also referred to Tisha b'Av as being a date of remembrance for Holocaust victims.[13]

The Knesset decision taken on April 21, 1951 to designate the 27th of Nisan as Yom HaShoah ignored the Rabbinate's decision from two years earlier, and the Chief Rabbinate, in turn, decided to ignore the Knesset's chosen date, one reason being the fact that Jewish law forbids fasting and certain laws of mourning during the month of Nisan, which is considered to be a month of happiness. Another view, held by influential Haredi Rabbi Avraham Yeshayeh Karelitz (known as the 'Chazon Ish'), held that nowadays we do not have the power to institute new days of mourning or commemoration for future generations.

While there are nevertheless Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, others in the Orthodox community – especially Haredim, including Hasidim – remember the victims of the Holocaust on traditional days of mourning which were already in place before the Holocaust, such as Tisha B'Av in the summer, and the Tenth of Tevet, in the winter. Several well-known Haredi rabbis, including Rabbi Michael Dov Ber Weissmandl, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam of Bobov, Rabbi Shimon Schwab, and several others, wrote kinnot about the Shoah, to be said on Tisha b'Av.

While most Modern Orthodox Religious Zionist Jews do stand still for two minutes during the siren, in Haredi areas, no attention is given to Yom HaShoah. Most stores do not close, schools continue and most people do not stop walking when the siren sounds. The non-participation of Haredim in Yom HaShoah is one of the points which regularly causes friction between Haredim and non-Haredim in Israel, as non-Haredim consider the Haredi position of ignoring the siren and Yom HaShoah altogether to be disrespectful.

Thus, a situation has come into existence where religious forms of commemoration take place primarily on the Tenth of Tevet and on Tisha b'Av, while secular forms of commemoration take place primarily on Yom HaShoah, and either part of the population ignores the other's day of commemoration.

Conservative Judaism

A lit Yom HaShoah Yellow Candle

In 1981, members of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs FJMC, a branch of the mainstream Conservative/Masorti movement, created a special memorial project specifically for Yom HaShoah. A dedicated yahrzeit candle was conceived, with yellow wax and a barbed-wire Star of David logo reminiscent of the armbands Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. This object has come to be known as the Yellow Candle (TM). Approximately 200,000 candles are distributed around the world each year, along with relevant prayers and meditations.

In 1984, Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin wrote an article in Conservative Judaism journal suggesting a program of observance for the holiday, including fasting. In his article he noted that while private fasts are indeed prohibited during the month of Nisan (a major Orthodox objection to the placement of the day), communal fasts for tragedies befalling Jewish communities had indeed been declared throughout the pre-Modern period.

Another prominent Conservative Jewish figure shared the Orthodox sentiment about not adopting Yom HaShoah. Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of Conservative Judaism's Jewish Theological Seminary of America held that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b'Av.

The Masorti (Conservative Judaism) movement in Israel has created Megillat HaShoah, a scroll and liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah. This publication was a joint project of Jewish leaders in Israel, the United States and Canada.

In 2011, the FJMC introduced a related Yellow Candle concept for use on Kristallnacht (The Night of Shattered Glass) and other important Shoah commemoration dates. Called the Ner Katan, FJMC's new version consists of six Yellow Candles provided for communal observances and ceremonies.

Gregorian dates

In 2010, 27 Nisan fell on Sunday, April 11, starting on the evening of Saturday April 10. Due to a conflict with Sabbath observance, under these circumstances, Yom Hashoah is shifted forward one day to 28 Nisan. So in 2010, Yom Hashoah was observed on Monday, April 12.[14] Similarly, for 2011, the 27th of Nisan fell on Sunday, May 1. Thus the observance was moved up a day to Monday, May 2.[15]

Upcoming dates of observance:

  • 2015 Thursday, April 16
  • 2016 Thursday, May 5
  • 2017 Monday, April 24
  • 2018 Thursday, April 12
  • 2019 Thursday, May 2
  • 2020 Tuesday, April 21
  • 2021 Thursday, April 8
  • 2022 Thursday, April 28

See also


  1. ^ a b "Remembrance Day Calendar".  
  2. ^ Gilad, Elon (April 27, 2014). "The history of Holocaust Remembrance Day".  
  3. ^ Feinstein, Moshe (1996). Igros Moshe, Volume 8, Yoreh Deah, Siman 57. New York. p. 289. 
  4. ^ "Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Ha-Shoah)". Jewish Virtual Library. 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2011. 
  5. ^ In the Jewish calendar the day begins in the evening and ends in the following evening.
  6. ^ "Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, April 18-19, 2012". Yad Vashem. Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner, ed. (2002). Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays (in Hebrew and English). New York: Rabbinical Assembly. p. 40.  
  9. ^ Ze'ev Kinan, ed. (2009). Va'ani Tefillati: Siddur Yisraeli (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv, Israel: Miskal-Yedioth Ahronoth/Chemed. pp. e.g., 45.  
  10. ^ "Megillat HaShoah: The Holocaust Scroll". 
  11. ^ Gary Graff. Interfaith Shoah Requiem at Orchestra Hall
  12. ^ Kaddish Yatom on YouTube
  13. ^ Wagner, Matthew (April 28, 2008). "An anchor for national mourning". The Jerusalem Post. 
  14. ^ Jewish holidays 2000-2050#5770 (2009–2010)
  15. ^ Yom HaShoah Dates

External links

  • Yom Hashoah on the Yad Vashem website
  • Yom HaShoah from the Israeli Knesset (English)
  • Yom HaShoah from the Israeli Knesset (Hebrew)
  • The Forum for Yom HaShoah (UK)
  • Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Ha-Shoah) at the Jewish Virtual Library
  • 27th of Nisan as standard dates on HebCal
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Days of Remembrance
  • Moshe Yaalon, Holocaust Remembrance Day April 2007.
  • Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust
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