As has been the case for a number of years, the Jewish Community Council of WA provided a very dignified and well balanced commemoration to mark Yom Hashoah.Â Several hundred people attended, possibly around 100 to 150 less than last year, but it was noticable that there are a large number of youth who identify with the occasion and make an effort to attend.Â The program was one that enabled those present to reflect and contemplate, and was in a format that was not over the top or heavy on tokenistic content.Â
There was only one thing that I felt was missing and that was a presentation from one of the Perth youth who attended the March of the Living last year.Â This was done in the past to great effect.Â Each year this community extends the opportunity to send members of this community to visit the death camps of Europe, and it is vital that these youth be encouraged to share their experiences and sentiments with the community upon their return – if nothing else, for the purpose of engaging them in the leadership of the community in the area of Holocaust education.
The keynote address by Dr Eyal Gringart was well focussed on his topic, and thought provoking in a number of respects.Â Dr Gringart broke down the experiences of post Holocaust generations into three disctinct eras, drawing on predominently Israeli societal attitudes to show how the reactions and responses gradually change.Â Whilst he did not draw on the source or cite research that identified each of the three eras, it struck me that the post 1967 era, the one I relate to, is in fact one that transforms guilt into activism andÂ enquiry.Â I got aÂ bit tense over some of the political tones surrounding the questions that were mooted at the end of his address, only because he himself had defined his address as non-political.Â I would agree with Dr Gringart that the Israeli psycheÂ has the Shoah entrenched within it, andÂ the attitudes towards meeting an existential threat without complacency are strenghted as a result of the Shoah.Â However I would not agree that the religious line of enquiry that links into the defence of Israel is as diverse or as troubled by the Shoah as some of hisÂ comments alluded to.Â Â However the purpose of the address was to make people think about how the next generation should respond to the Holocaust, and full credit to Dr Gringart for accomplishing this in a very effective manner.
On the wayÂ out of Carmel SchoolÂ I was speaking to a few people and somebody passed the comment to me about numbers, and proceeded to nameÂ some religious people who were not present and in theirÂ view should have been.Â This struck a raw nerve with me.Â Firstly, the religious community were very well represented,Â secondly the religious community are not â€œrent-a-crowdâ€ and thirdly, why stereotype on the basisÂ of the strength of a personsÂ convictions towards observance anyway?Â I may have been a bit terse in responding, but I did ask the question â€œWhereÂ are all the non-religious community on Tisha Bâ€™Avâ€.Â I got a strange look back, and it wasnâ€™tÂ until I explained that many religious people mark all Jewish historical tragedy, calamityÂ and injusticeÂ on Tisha Bâ€™Av, the Shoah included, that they understood what I meant.Â In fact, if you read the Kinot of Tisha Bâ€™Av there are special prayers for the victims of the Holocaust, and there is a religious school of thought that suggests thatÂ Yom Hashoah should not be separated outÂ from the realm of Tisha Bâ€™Av itself.Â
The Shoah can be â€œdangerousâ€ to Jewish identity when it is used as the basis of Jewish identity itself.Â Â The immediate generation following the Shoah had their whole identity defined by the ashes of the Holocaust, andÂ the associated â€œvictim mentalityâ€.Â That is well understandable, but there is a generation gap that I really felt as a result of my conversation tonight.Â Todayâ€™s Jews have a different way of relating to their tradition,Â but the memory of the Holocaust is notÂ bereft from this.Â I do not feel that it is offensive to the Shoah to integrateÂ the religious significance of this era of Jewish history intoÂ myÂ tefillah of Tisha Bâ€™Av, and to focus on the historical significance of the ShoahÂ through the modernÂ definitions of Yom Hashoah.Â From a personal perspective I try not to mix the two.Â However, many elder people I watched tonight would notÂ wish to do this.Â For them, Yom Hashoah standsÂ alone as an observance, and it has no religious significance as it was, from firstÂ hand account, a moment in time that isÂ simply incomprehensible.Â
I respect that and would not wish itÂ for them to be any other way.Â However I also know that no matter how hard I try and identify first hand with the Shoah, I will never be able to do so (despite having hundreds of relatives who perished in the death camps).Â Â Tonight I focussed on the fact that there is a next generation, and there will be a next after that, andÂ there will always be future generations.Â Â TheÂ Shoah will have historic context forÂ each future generationÂ that may well yet again come to redefine how we commemorate the depravity of humanity at its lowestÂ possible ebb, and how we come to understand theÂ societal lack ofÂ decency that permits such atrocities to occur.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â