(also known as Yom Hashoah)
2019 theme: torn from home
“Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s easy, on a day like this, to reflect at something of a distance. The photos are grainy now, dusty artifacts from another era. It was a different world then, we can tell ourselves—another place, another time.
Fully grappling with the reality of the Holocaust, though, isn’t so simple. Because before the camps and the brownshirts, before the consolidation of political power, before millions of lives were extinguished, there were simply people, not altogether different from any of us, who chose to see their neighbors as different, as other, as something less.
It’s a sadly familiar choice, one that we’ve seen generation after generation. And today, in our world of encroaching division and calcifying bubbles, we’ve seen once again the swiftness with which that choice—that failure to recognize ourselves in one another—can accelerate into violence.
So it’s up to us to make a different choice—to choose empathy over apathy; to sow seeds of hope rather than hate; to embrace our shared humanity, no matter how we worship, what we look like, who we love, or where our families came from.
That’s how we can not only pause to remember a tragedy once a year, but act on the lessons we’ve learned from it every day”.
(Source: Barack Obama, May 2019)
A Prayer for Yom Hashoah / Holocaust Remembrance Day
By Rabbi David Katz
Ribbono shel Olam – Master of the Universe:
On this most solemn of occasions, we open our hearts, minds, and souls to you.
As we remember the six million, the eleven million, the indifference, and the evil;
As we honor the heroes, the martyrs, the survivors, and the victims;
We ask you to soothe our souls, to amplify our memories, to strengthen our resolve, and to hear our prayers.
We ask for your presence in our midst; for healing, light, and love to soothe and ease our pain, as we commemorate the horrors that were committed not long ago. Please, oh Holy One, be gentle with our souls.
We ask that you help us to forever remember the stories we hear. As tales of the atrocities are shared, as we re-encounter the unthinkable, we ask that these memories be strengthened and never fade, in the hope that those who remember the mistakes of the past will not repeat them. Please, oh Holy One, amplify our ability to remember.
We ask that you strengthen our will, that you help us to ensure that the world does not again see such monstrosities. We say “never again” and we dedicate ourselves to this principle, to the idea that justice does not allow persecution, that genocide shall not be repeated, and that vigilance is the responsibility of freedom, at all costs. Please, oh Holy One, make manifest our resolve that these horrors remain but memories.
We ask that you answer our prayers. We pray that the call of evil falls on deaf ears, that those who fight for freedom and justice always prevail, that those who need protection do not become victims. We pray that the lessons we learn from this darkest hour allow all humankind to better itself, and to truly and nobly embody the idea that we are each made in Your image. We pray for the souls of the millions and millions of victims of this brutality; we pray that we honor their lives and their memories by observing this day, and by doing everything in our power and beyond to make sure that no such shadow again darkens our world.
Above all, we pray for shalom—for wholeness and peace—to be in our midst, now and forever. Please, oh Holy One, answer our prayers and bring us a world devoid of hatred, filled instead with peace.
Ken yehi ratzon – may this be God’s will. And may we all say together, Amen.
(Source: Ritualwell. This prayer was originally shared at the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station’s 2014 Holocaust Remembrance Service)
Liturgical resource from the UK
whose many gifts include memory and empathy:
we hold in remembrance before you those many of the Jewish people
who were murdered, harmed, or displaced in the horror of Nazi persecution, and whose communities were destroyed.
In your mercy, help us to learn to accept our differences without fear
and cleanse our hearts of all hatred.
So may every human community flourish and every home be secure,
to the advancement of your loving purposes
and the glory of your name. Amen.
(Source: Council of Christians and Jews, UK)
A prayer of commitment
for those of us who haven’t experienced it,
we cannot really imagine what it is like to go through such an atrocity
as the Holocaust or other genocides,
but may Jesus’ manifesto,
to proclaim release to the captives and let the oppressed go free,
be our manifesto.
Help us to be alert to the insidious creep of the type of propaganda that led to Jewish people and other victims of genocide being seen as sub-human, dispensable.
Help us overcome any fear and apathy
and grant us the courage to speak and act in the face of evil.
Help us to imagine the world as you would have it be
and to strive for it no matter how impossible that might appear.
Help us truly to be the body of Christ, living in tune with your will for the whole of humanity. In his name we pray. Amen.
(Source: Deacon Angie Allport, Methodist Deacon in the West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit, Council of Christians and Jews, UK)
Lord God and Father,
We remember before you all those
who bear the inner and outer scars of the Holocaust
and of subsequent acts of genocide.
Let them not be overwhelmed by the horrors that engulfed them.
Be close to them.
Help them to see that you suffer with those who suffer,
and that no wickedness can ever extinguish your infinite love.
Restrain those who are filled with hatred
and use violence to pursue their ends.
Change their hearts.
May remembrance make us alert to the reality of evil and its deceptive allure.
Help us to recognise our own capacity for evil
and allow your Spirit to purge it from our beings.
Help us also to stand up against evil and oppression,
even if that means we have to suffer ourselves.
Enable us to defend those who are not strong enough to defend themselves,
and to be ready to bring the light of your truth into the dark areas of human experience.
Deepen our respect for everything you have made,
and help us to share in securing
the maximum good of every person who is alive in your world.
We ask this in the Name of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for our sins, carries our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and is risen for our freedom. Amen
(Source: Philip Hall, HMD)
As we go from this house of prayer into a world of challenge and change
We remember the pain of the past.
As we obey God’s commandments and follow Christ’s way,
We recognise life’s need for love.
As we seek the truth and glimpse God in all people and all places,
We go, to make the world a home for everyone. Amen.
(Source: Rob Thompson, Council of Christians and Jews, UK)