Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is celebrated on the 27th of Nisan (typically in April/May) unless that date should occur on Shabbat, in which case it is moved forward or back a day.
Yom HaShoah takes place just after Pesach, a day of mourning atypical for the otherwise cheerful month of Nisan. The day was officially established by Israeli law as a national holiday in 1959 and includes a 2-minute moment of silence during which air-raid sirens sound. Flags on public buildings are flown at half-mast.
Many pray for those who passed in the Holocaust, with a special emphasis on those who may have no one left to mourn for them. It is also important to remember those Righteous Gentiles who saved Jewish lives, often at great peril to their own, and to honor their deeds and courage.
On this day of mourning, we can take special care to learn about and mourn the stories of women in the Holocaust: women who were persecuted, women who sheltered the persecuted, and women who supported the armed forces that eventually ended the tragedy. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (located in Washington, D.C.) has a page in their online encyclopedia on women in the Holocaust. The Jewish Women's Archives encyclopedia also has a page that focuses on ways in which women's experiences differed from men's.
Yom HaShoah Program Ideas
Organize a special commemorative service, enhancing it with speakers (Holocaust survivors and/or their family members), art, poetry, or a movie. Use prayers from the Covenant book series, which were written by and for Jewish women.
Take a trip to a Holocaust museum. The Women of Temple B'nai Israel of Clearwater, FL won an Or Ami award for their Interfaith Trip to the St. Petersberg Holocaust Museum with the Women of First Presbyterian Church.
Hold a Holocaust Remembrance Education Program like the Congregation House of Israel Sisterhood of Hot Springs, AR, for which they won an Or Ami award. They partnered with the local library and other community groups to bring a resource fair and exhibit for teachers, presentations by a Holocaust survivor for middle- and high-school students, an essay contest, and a Holocaust Remembrance Day Observance.
The Jewish Women’s Archive has a collection of profiles of Jewish women who made a difference in the Holocaust. Choose a few of these women, celebrate their lives and the difference they made, and discuss how they can serve as role models to the next generations of Jewish women.
As a group, study art made by Holocaust survivors and their families. Consider visual art, poetry, movies, books: whatever grabs your interest. How do these expressions—often of great pain—differ? Do they affect you in different ways, even though they are inspired by the same tragedy?
Discuss in your communities: As the generation that experienced the Holocaust firsthand ages and dies, what can we do to make sure that the Holocaust is not forgotten in future generations?