Today is Yom Hashoah, the annual day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust. While it is still morning it has already been the most meaningful Yom Hashoah experience for me.I actually had a feeling that Yom Hashoah 2013 wouldn’t be like past experiences. On Thursday, February 7 of this year the Shoah hit me like never before. I was freezing cold as I stood over the ravine at Babi Yar in Ukraine with two dozen of my rabbinic colleagues. Our shoes sunk into the snow as we stared out into the forest where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation between September 29–30, 1941.
|The memorial at Babi Yar
This was not my first visit to Babi Yar. I had visited there eight years earlier, but this time was different. I have visited concentration camps and seen gas chambers, but this was different. Our brief memorial program consisted of lighting candles, throwing flowers into the ravine, reading poems, singing songs and reciting prayers in tribute to the memory of those who perished on that site. But it was the music that did it for me.
So too was the case for me yesterday in the late afternoon. It was the music. My friend Hazzan Daniel Gross, the cantor at Adat Shalom Synagogue, is a gifted opera singer, composer and musicologist. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Dan recognized there was a need for a Yom Hashoah liturgy so as part of his senior presentation in the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary he wrote one.