Prayer Offered for April 17, 2023

Beginning this evening and throughout the day tomorrow, on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day—we join to remember the memory of millions of individuals—the mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends, and the neighbors—whose lives were brutally taken during a period of fierce and violent inhumanity.

The Jewish tradition commands us to remember. Zachor, in Hebrew. The commandment to remember is repeated a little over 150 times in our Bible and that is what this day requires.

Zachor—We remember.

We remember what happens when hate takes hold of the human heart and turns it to stone.

Zachor—We remember the victims of the Holocaust so that robbed of their lives, they would not also be robbed of their deaths.

Zachor—We remember them not only as the persecuted but by the rich and vibrant lives that they led, the stories they shared, and the names we give to our children and our grandchildren.

Zachor—We remember and pay tribute to the survivors of this genocide, those who bore witness to what happened, and have courageously stepped forward to share with the world perhaps the darkest night of their lives. Some of them here with us this afternoon.

Zachor—We remember the testimonies of these survivors as a charge to confront persecution and oppression wherever it arises. We remember and act upon our moral obligation to counter the rising tide of anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hatred that threaten the values we hold dear—pluralism, diversity, democracy, and the freedoms of religion and expression.

Zachor—We remember and are grateful for the righteous of the nations who saved lives, often at risk of their own. May we be strengthened to behave as virtuously in the face of all forms of violence and oppression.

And in prayer—

We call on You, Divine Mystery of the universe, to open our hearts, minds, and souls as we remember the six million and the eleven million, the indifference, and the brutality. Help us honor all of their lives by working to secure peace, justice, and human rights for all people.

Help us to demonstrate the immense courage bequeathed to us by victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Today, on Yom HaShoah, we call on You to help us hear Your voice that says in every generation:

Do not murder.

Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.

Do not oppress the stranger.

And may the memory of our brothers and sisters be bound up in the bond of everlasting life and let us say:—AMEN.

Rabbi Batshir Torchio, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
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