Today is Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day – the official day of commemoration for the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. All across Israel and in communities throughout the United States, people are pausing to remember and to honor those lost with special services and gatherings. In Israel, for example, residents observe an official moment of silence at 10am.
My own first Yom Hashoah celebration, which I experienced as a college freshman at the University of Oregon, included a rotation of Hillel students reading aloud the names of victims on the campus quad. They read continuously all day and well into the evening – and I came back to listen several times in between classes, and really any time I could. Hearing the names recited in that way was a powerful, visceral reminder of the magnitude of our loss.
Today’s Yom Hashoah commemoration comes with an added layer of significance. Last night, President Barack Obama announced that, after nearly a decade of pursuit, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, was killed by US forces. The response across America and the world has ranged from elation (crowds gathered in Times Square, Ground Zero and the White House, among other places, to celebrate the news), to quiet contemplation. But one thing is surely on everyone’s mind – the innocent victims killed during the 9/11 attacks.
In times like these, taking the time out to stop, reflect and remember is of vital importance. It is crucial that we not grow numb or forget our outrage over the innocent lives lost to hate – whether 1 year ago, 10 or 100. And yet, while days like Yom Hashoah and 9/11 play an important role and remind us to pray for peace, we must also act for peace. Below are three ways you can honor the memories of those lost and work for sustained peace in the future.
- Donate or get involved with the Genocide Intervention Network, an organization that works to end modern-day genocide throughout the world.
- Donate your time to ivolunteer, an organization that matches up young volunteers with Holocaust survivors.
- Plan an event or day of service for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which is coming up this September.