Slivers of Memory (Yom Ha-sho’ah V’-ha-gevurah)
Several decades ago, many ceremonies commemorating the Shoah attempted to tell the entirety of the story, with numbers that defied comprehension and broad-sweeping trends of history that submerged the experience of individuals in the story of a world run amok. In more recent years, I have observed that the experience and testimonies of individuals have become more prominent, perhaps serving as holographic slivers that represent the wider context. As survivors of the Holocaust are fewer in number each year, we turn to the writings, art, songs, and recordings born out of those years.
As we look back this year, let me share two powerful individual testimonies. The first is the almost prophetic song “Es Brent” by Mordechai Gebertig. Written after a pogrom in the 1930s, it is eerily prescient of what was to come. Gebertig was deported to the Krakow ghetto and murdered there in 1942. His words are his memorial.
The great poet Binam Heller survived the Holocaust and settled in Israel. He wrote a lyrical elegy to his murdered sister Khaye, set to a haunting melody by Chava Alberstein. The recollection of his sister’s life, appearance, and experience makes us mourn for a murdered generation that would have enriched our people and the world with so many blessings.
The traditional memorial prayer El Malei Rachamim has been adapted for memorialization of the Shoah, chanted here by Hazzan Shai Abramson, chief cantor of the Israel Defense Forces (Tsahal).