Yom HaShoah V’ha-g’vurah: The Jewish Spirit of Resistance

Posted on April 21, 2023 by Rabbi Arnie Gluck

American Jews refer to it as Yom HaShoah, but the official name given to Holocaust Memorial Day by the State of Israel is Yom HaShoah V’ha-g’vurah, Holocaust and Heroism Day. Set on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the intention was to emphasize Jewish resistance to the Nazis.

We were not merely hapless victims of the brutal campaign to annihilate our people. We did not go like lambs to the slaughter. We fought back with strength and courage.

The world must know of the crimes and atrocities committed by the Nazis. There must be no ignorance or denial of the depths of depravity to which human beings fell in those dark days, so there will be [and there must be] no doubt that such things can happen again.

We must also know about the ways in which our people and others resisted. We must remember and draw inspiration from them, for such manifestations of hate and evil are ever-present and must be exposed and opposed with vigilance and determination.

In our own day, we are witnessing an alarming increase in acts of hate and violence against minorities based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual and gender identity, nationality, and more. Individual freedoms are under attack, democracies are becoming illiberal, and authoritarianism is on the rise all over the world.

It begins with words, with prejudicial characterizations, lies, distortions, and conspiracy theories based on utter falsehoods that lead to acts of hate and violence. Left unchecked, these grow into persecution and, ultimately, destruction.

Evil flourishes when good people stand by and allow it to grow. Evil is defeated when good people stand up and fight back. During our Shabbat service this evening we will remember and honor the heroes who fought back against the Nazis; those who resisted with guns, those who were steadfast in their adherence to their faith, and those who risked their lives to save others. May their example inspire us to fight for human dignity and freedom for all people everywhere.

Shabbat shalom,