How Jews Remember the Holocaust–from My Jewish Learning

A plaque my father and his brothers commissioned to remember their family members.

Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Memorial Day
This annual venue for remembering the victims falls on April 24.


The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is “Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah“– literally the “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan — a week after the seventh day of Passover, and a week before Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers). When the 27th of Nisan falls on a Friday or Sunday, Yom Hashoah is shifted a day to avoid conflicting with Shabbat . (The Hebrew calendar is fixed so that the 27th never falls on Shabbat itself.)

In 2017, Yom Hashoah falls on April 24.

The date was selected by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on April 12, 1951. The full name became formal in a law that was enacted by the Knesset on August 19, 1953. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.

In the early 1950s, education about the Holocaust emphasized the suffering inflicted on millions of European Jews by the Nazis. Surveys conducted in the late 1950s indicated that young Israelis did not sympathize with the victims of the Holocaust, since they believed that European Jews were “led like sheep for slaughter.” The Israeli educational curriculum began to shift the emphasis to documenting how Jews resisted their Nazi tormentors through “passive resistance”–retaining their human dignity in the most unbearable conditions–and by “active resistance,” fighting the Nazis in the ghettos and joining underground partisans who battled the Third Reich in its occupied countries.

The Siren
Since the early 1960s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion. The siren blows at sundown and once again at 11 a.m. on this date. All radio and television programs during this day are connected in one way or another with the Jewish destiny in World War II, including personal interviews with survivors. Even the musical programs are adapted to the atmosphere of Yom Hashoah. There is no public entertainment on Yom Hashoah, as theaters, cinemas, pubs, and other public venues are closed throughout Israel.

Some Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis have never endorsed this memorial day, nor have they formally rejected it. There is no change in the daily religious services in Orthodox synagogues on Yom Hashoah. The Orthodox Rabbinate of Israel attempted to promote the Tenth of Tevet — a traditional fast day commemorating the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem in ancient times — as the “General Kaddish Day” in which Jews should recite the memorial prayer and light candles in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. Several ultra-Orthodox rabbis have recommended adding piyyutim (religious poems) that were written by contemporary rabbis to the liturgy of Tisha B’Av and many communities follow this custom.

Jews in North America observe Yom Hashoah within the synagogue as well as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs. A few congregations find it more practical to hold commemorative ceremonies on the Sunday closest to Yom Hashoah. Many Yom Hashoah programs feature a talk by a Holocaust survivor, recitation of appropriate songs and readings, or viewing of a Holocaust-themed film. Some communities choose to emphasize the depth of loss that Jews experienced in the Holocaust by reading the names of Holocaust victims one after another — dramatizing the unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on or around Yom Hashoah.

There have been numerous attempts to compose special liturgy (text and music) for Yom Hashoah. In 1988 the Reform movement published Six Days of Destruction. This book, co-authored by Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Albert Friedlander, was meant to be viewed as a “sixth scroll,” a modern addition to the five scrolls that are read on specific holidays. Six narratives from Holocaust survivors are juxtaposed to the six days of creation found in Genesis.

One of the most recent achievements is Megillat Hashoah (The Holocaust Scroll) created by the Conservative movement as a joint project of rabbis and lay leaders in Canada, the U.S., and Israel. This Holocaust scroll contains personal recollections of Holocaust survivors and is written in biblical style. It was composed under the direction of Avigdor Shinan, a professor at Hebrew University.

While Yom Hashoah rituals are still in flux there is no question that this day holds great meaning for Jews worldwide. The overwhelming theme that runs through all observances is the importance of remembering — recalling the victims of this catastrophe, and insuring that such a tragedy never happen again.

The Shoah (Holocaust) posed an enormous challenge to Judaism and raised many questions: Can one be a believing Jew after the Holocaust? Where was God? How can one have faith in humanity? Facing this recent event in history, does it really matter if one practices Judaism?

Jewish theologians and laity have struggled with these questions for decades. The very fact that Jews still identify Jewishly, practice their religion — and have embraced the observance of Yom Hashoah answers some of the questions raised by the Holocaust.

How to buy the Kindle edition of The Girl On the Wall

It occurs to me that I haven’t told you how to buy the book in MONTHS. Of course, I haven’t blogged in months, either.

I blame the election hoopla. I’ve been hiding under my pillow, muttering “make it stop make it stop make it stop” for months.

So take your mind off the results–buy my book!

Rain Poem Mystery Solved–kinda

Shomernet–thank you Ayala Jonas, and Google helped me to find a full version of my mother’s poem!

Just tried another spelling  and found,


And here it is:


Solo 1: De rain been a-rainin’ for a week an’ mo’; It splarshin’ in de gutter, it sousin’ at de do’;

It mumble at de winder, it bumble on de eaves, It make long steppin’s in de honey-shuck leaves.

All: We cyan’t work ‘taters, and we cyan’t thin corn;

Dar’s gwine to be a famine, jes’ as sure as you born;

Dar’s ‘bleeged to be a famine, no mo’, no less—

Solo 1: But de Lawd boss de weather an’ de Lawd know bes’

All: Mo’ rain, Mo’ res’… Mo’ rain, Mo’ res’…

Solo 1: Old Mr. Crow got de croup in his ches’ Old Mrs. Turkey Hen a-drownin’ on her nes’

Dey cyan’t be no harvest whar dy ain’t no hoein’

But de sweet water drummin’;

All: No use to fret, Set peaceful in de cabin while you got de chance to set;

Solo 1: De Lawd brung de rain, an’ de Lawd know bes’.

All: Set right on yo’ backbone and let de Lawd bless

Solo 1: Mo’ rain, Mo’ res’…

All: Mo’ rain, Mo’ res’…


The only reason I found this was that it was a piece performed by the “verse choir”– I don’t think they are a thing anymore–of the Columbia Missouri and David A. Hickan High school. Kewpies are alumni of this high school, and the teacher who is memorialized by publication of the speech book of the Verse Choir was named Helen D. Williams.

According to the website, the author of the piece was Nancy Byrd Turner. Further searching on the name Nancy Byrd Turner does not turn up this poem, so I guess it was not very popular, or there is another Nancy Byrd Turner out there.

Ah, modernity!


Memory and a Mysterious Poem for Mother’s Day

A Memory of my mother leads to a mysterious poem–help welcomed!photo2

This was my mother in her mid 20s, She was born November 1, 1923, and at her 70th birthday party, my aunt Pauline announced that my mother, Charlotte Kaufman, was the first girl child born in the Bronx on that day. Maybe the only girl child born in the Bronx on that day. The Bronx was much less crowded in the ’20s, when my mother was born. It was a blessed place to escape from the Lower East Side and the Garment district, full of parks, vacant lots, places to play. When my mother grew up she roamed the streets with her group of Zionist idealists from Hashomer Hatzair. It was the Depression. There was not a lot of money around. But listen to how these young people amused themselves:

They would take MAJOR walks, starting from the end of the subway lines in the Bronx and walking up to Tibbets Brook Park in Yonkers and back. Ten or twenty miles–before Nikes!

Of course, they would sing.

They would do dramatic choral readings.

Because it’s been unusually rainy here in Palo Alto–we had two rainy days in a row in May, when there is usually no rain all month–there was one poem in particular that my mother would recite that I wish I could find the source of. I’m sure I’m ruining it, and I’d like to get it right. I think it was called:

“Mo rain, mo res'”

and it went:

“The rain been a rainin for a week and more

It mumble at the window and it bumble at the door

Can’t plant taters and you can’t plant corn

Gonna be a famine just as sure as your born

Gonna be a famine, no mo’ no less

But the Lord make the rain and the Lord know best

Mo’ rain, mo res’,

Mo’ rain mo res’.


WHO WROTE IT?  I just spent an hour on Google, and can’t find it.

It isn’t Sandburg, or Whitman, or Langston Hughes, or Robert W. Service. 

I’m stumped.



A very flattering reader review

New Review

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Here’s a review  of The Girl on the Wall from the Executive Director of Youth Community Service, a very worthwhile nonprofit that works in the communities of Palo Alto, Redwood City, East Palo Alto, and Woodside. He read my book recently, and asked me to autograph it! The review says:

“Preeva Tramiel’s fascinating memoir, The Girl on the Wall, is a fast-paced, real-life family detective story. Readers of all ages and faith traditions will identify with the author’s journey of discovery to overcome guilt and disappointment to learn new truths about her identity and to learn what it means “to be right on schedule.” Her amazing father, in particular, comes vividly to life, as does the historical period of tragedy and great courage. Thanks to Preeva’s generosity, this very personal story now belongs to all of us.”

– Leif Erickson, executive director, Youth Community Service

Thanks, Leif! Here is how I dedicated his book:

“To Leif and YCS, Good deeds span the generations”

Youth Community Service

The Importance of After School Activities

When I was growing up in Yonkers, having a peer group activity gave me a welcome escape from my claustrophobic family, and allowed me to create myself in a better image than the one I had in my family. As much as the Holocaust and the guilt over not making up for it shadowed my life,  it didn’t matter when I was running a bake sale or writing a play or even hanging around with my friends from summer camp. When I was in junior high school, and even high school, the extracurriculars and peeer group from my summer camp, Habonim Camp Na’aleh, gave me maturity and freedom. Na’aleh‘s still around:


And of course, if you want to order my book, it’s available on Amazon in paperback, for $14.95–leave a review!

And $4.99 for Kindle–leave a review! Shot 2016-01-28 at 3.56.27 PM