Our topic in May: The Holocaust / Yom HaShoah

On Friday, May 6, the Humanistic Jewish Havurah hosts Ida Margolis, President of GenShoah SWFL, who will speak after our Shabbat dinner. GenShoah is open not only to children of Holocaust survivors (the Second Generation), but to all those who are interested in GenShoah’s mission: Preservation of the history and memories of the Holocaust, promotion of Holocaust education and human rights, connection of members of the Second Generation with one another, and support of the Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida.

Our potluck Shabbat begins with appetizers at 5:00 p.m. at the Pelican Marsh Community Center, 1504 Pelican Marsh Blvd., Naples. A $10 per person charge enables us to cover the costs for this event. To attend, contact Dena Sklaroff at 239.591.0101 to determine what to bring for the dinner.

Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan (a date chosen by the Israeli government), is an important commemoration for Humanistic Jews.

This day commemorates the systematic murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II and the destruction of their culture, the most devastating assault ever experienced by the Jewish people. There have been many genocides in human history, but none as methodical and ruthless as the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

Humanistic Jews dedicate their observance of Yom HaShoah to the murdered six million, lighting candles in their memory, and honoring the courage of all who suffered and resisted. Some secularists prefer to commemorate the Holocaust on April 19, the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, one of the most dramatic examples of Jewish resistance. A band of several thousand Jews, unwilling to passively accept deportation and extermination, fought back for weeks in the face of certain death. Their martyrdom was an act of heroic defiance.

Not only does the Holocaust raise the issues of human evil and human responsibility, it also dramatized the question of divine justice. This Holocaust was not inevitable. It was the result of Hitler’s madness. Half of Ashkenazic Judaism was destroyed. The Yiddish-speaking ethnic Jewish nation in Poland and Eastern Europe disappeared. The tragedy was the greatest tragedy of Jewish history, a loss so great that the numbers of the victims defy comprehension. How could a good God allow six million innocent victims to die if he had the power to intervene?

The Holocaust is painful testimony to the difficulties that the theistic/rabbinic view of Jewish history presents. The concept that the Jewish people is a “Chosen People” giving witness to the existence and power of a just and loving God, is difficult to sustain in the face of the Holocaust.

On the contrary, the Holocaust serves as witness to the absence of a just and loving providence governing the affairs of humanity. There are physical laws of nature. But they are indifferent to the welfare of men and women. In the end, the only power available to resist human cruelty is human power. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was not a manifestation of divine intervention. It was a sign of human determination to defend human dignity, even in the face of a merciless “destiny.”

Therefore, the Holocaust can be viewed as the ultimate testimony to the absence of a divine plan. Belief in a just God controlling a well-ordered world is impossible in the face of such implacable horror and brutality. The most appropriate response to the Holocaust is to intensify the quest for human dignity, which can provide meaning and order in a chaotic, uncaring universe.