The Power of Jewish Memory

By Nancy B. Greer

President & CEO
At the Passover Seders where many of us gathered several nights ago, we retold the story of our people’s escape from Egypt and our journey toward freedom. It’s a story that is millennia old, yet it remains fresh and relevant because our resharing of the story at every Passover recenters it in our collective memory.

Remembrance is an intentional and communal act of finding meaning and infusing it in Jewish life. Remembrance is a key to Jewish resilience. We set aside days of observance on our calendar to remember lessons that the past can teach us for today and to celebrate watershed moments that point toward a more hopeful, vibrant future.

Over the next two weeks, three such days of remembrance will call on us to gather for retelling stories, exploring their meanings, and strengthening the bonds of memory that connect us as a people.

Yom HaShoah, April 27-28. We remember the 6 million Jews and millions of non-Jewish people who were murdered in the Holocaust. We light memorial candles, listen and learn from survivors’ stories, and restate our vow to never forget and to never weaken our resolve to fight the hatreds that can metastasize into atrocities.

Yom Hazikaron, May 3-4. We remember the thousands of men and women who gave their lives defending Israel and the victims of terror attacks. Many Yom Hazikaron observances in Israel include a reading of a poem in Hebrew called The Silver Platter. The title is a reference to a quote from Israel’s first President, Chaim Weizmann, who said, “A state is not handed to a people on a silver platter,” a sobering reminder of the sacrifice that creating and sustaining our Jewish homeland has entailed.

Yom Ha’atzmaut, May 4-5. We remember with joy the founding of Israel in 1948 and the restoration of a secure homeland for the Jewish people. Yom Ha’atzmaut is a day to create new, happy memories and tell new stories about our connections to all Jews, in Israel and around the world. We invite you to celebrate with us on May 5, at 7 pm, when your Federation, Hillel UW, and the Stroum Jewish Community Center present musician Gili Yalo in concert at the J and live streaming.

Days of remembrance are family gatherings where stories told and retold strengthen our bonds as mishpacha and light our way forward into our future … together.