“Mir zaynen do!”(We are here!) The defiant concluding words of the Partisan Song constitute a ringing declaration by the Jewish people that despite the unspeakable crimes of those seeking their destruction, Am Yisrael Chai - the Nation of Israel still lives. They remind us that when remembering those whose lives were so cruelly and unjustly extinguished, we are also testifying that for all the harm they were able to inflict on us, our enemies failed in their aim of eradicating the Jewish people altogether. This is why the Partisan Song has become one of the chief anthems of Holocaust survivors and is today sung at Yom Hashoah ceremonies the world over. For the same reason, the title ‘March of the Living’ was chosen for the program bringing people to Poland on commemorative and educational visits to Holocaust-related sites.
When the UN General Assembly voted to introduce International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the date 27 January was chosen since it was on that day that the Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most infamous of the Nazi death camps. This year’s event is especially significant because it marks the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. Our National President Mary Kluk and Gauteng Chairman Mark Pozniak will be attending the commemorations in Poland as part of the World Jewish Congress delegation.
As in previous years, for International Holocaust Remembrance Day the World Jewish Congress is running a global #WeRemember campaign, in which people are asked to take a photograph of themselves holding a ‘We Remember’ sign and either post it with #WeRemember or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage everyone to join in this meaningful demonstration of Jewish solidarity and commemoration.
It is not only in terms of our physical survival that the words Am Yisrael Chai resonate so powerfully. In a very different context, they were uppermost in my mind when last week I joined some 1200 fellow community members in celebrating the Daf Yomi Siyum Hashas. This was the thirteenth such celebration to be held since the Daf Yomi programme, whereby Jews around the world together learn their way through the entire Talmud at the rate of one page per day, was instituted in 1923. From modest beginnings, the programme burgeoned to become a worldwide phenomenon – both a potent vehicle for and a striking reflection of the extraordinary revival of Torah learning that we are seeing everywhere, not least in our own country.
All this is being accomplished despite the wholesale destruction of the yeshivot and other great centres of Jewish learning for which Eastern Europe was particularly renowned, initially at the hands of the Nazis and afterwards under Communism. It shows that those who wish us harm, even more than failing to prevent the physical survival of the Jewish people, have been unable to break the Jewish spirit. There is perhaps no more dramatic a demonstration of how the Nazis and everyone else who has sought our destruction have failed than this.