The Jewish holiday Yom HaShoah remembers the thousands of Jews killed during the Holocaust.

Yom HaShoah is also known as the Holocaust Day or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Shoah is Hebrew for utter destruction or catastrophic. This is a day in commemoration of the 6 million Jews who were massacred in the Nazi regime and during World War II. It is also described as a memorial for the Jews who died in the Shoah, which is further defined as the Holocaust a Greek translation meaning “sacrifice by fire.”

It is a national memorial public holiday in Israel since 1953. It was signed into law by President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Prime Minister Israel David Ben-Gurion. It is usually held on the 27th of Nisan, which is between April and May. This is unless it coincides with Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, in which case it is moved ahead by a day.

This year, Yom HaShoah begins on Wednesday May 4 at sundown.

There is no official ritual institutionalized for this commemoration. People normally hold solemn ceremonies where they recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the departed, and light memorial candles. Jewish leaders from the U.S., Israel, including the Masorti Movement and Canada created a scroll with a liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah known as Megillat HaShoah. This also contains personal recollections from Holocaust survivors. This has since been converted into a kosher scroll for use by the community then into a Tikkun officially titled Tikkun Megillat HaShoah, a guide for scribes. Other efforts include the 2009 musical liturgy composed by Daniel Gross under the title I Believe – A Shoah Requiem which is dedicated to the observance of Yom HaShoah.

In Israel, flags are raised at half-mast at sundown. In addition, an official state ceremony is held in Jerusalem in the Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the official Holocaust Memorial. The prime minister and president give speeches and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers. Holocaust survivors light six torches in memory of the 6 million who perished.

During the period, all public entertainment spots are closed by law. Holocaust-related documentaries and talk shows air on Israeli Television channels while mellow songs play on the radio.

Promptly at 10 a.m., a raid siren sounds all over Israel and everyone is then expected to observe 2 minutes of silence in memory of the Holocaust victims. All activity stops, including even cars in traffic.

Jews in Diaspora commemorate the day in different ways, mostly in the Synagogues. Most importantly, thousands from around the world gather for a memorial service at Auschwitz popularly known as ‘The March of the Living’. The March is from Auschwitz to Birkenau, which was the largest Nazi concentration camp.

Yom HaShoah is definitely one of the most important holidays, commemorating one of the most significant and saddest periods in Jewish History.

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