Apr

29

 Today, at 10 AM Israeli time (noon on the US West Coast), throughout Israel, the air raid sirens sounded. There was no air raid, though. On highways, drivers pulled over to the side of the road and got out of their cars; any passengers did too. In offices, work stopped at the sounding of the sirens. In schools, even on the playgrounds, play stopped (or at least as best as parents might make out of the situation). For two minutes, all activity throughout Israel stopped as silence overtook the country in memory of the Shoah—the Holocaust.

Whether the number of Jews killed was 6 million or 7 million we will never know. And the Jewish communities of Europe were not the only ones marked for genocide. Roma, gays, lesbians, among others. Nor was the Shoah the first such effort in the 20th century, as the Armenian Holocaust preceded it by two decades. There were 1 million or so Jewish children among those murdered by the Nazis.

In some ways, one might argue that the power of today's moment of silence is no longer one of sadness nor of simple memory, never mind the calls of "Never again!" I heard in my youth at Yom Hashoah ceremonies. The power is that a nation built in part to assure that Jews always have a homeland to go to is not merely surviving but is thriving. While thousands or tens of thousands throughout Europe and North America contend that Israel is an illegitimate state–some going so far as to label it a "cancer" on the Middle East, Israel is the emerging superpower in cybersecurity/cryptowarfare.

Friends at place such as Palantir tell me that the only place with companies comparable to those in the US in this area are in Israel. A few have said that working for an Israeli company would be the only step up from where they are today. While I find it hard to accept the proposition that the US is falling behind Israel in cypersecurity/cyberwarfare capabilities, Israel is clearly holding its own in the cyber world. At one time, Every Israeli would time every year on army reserve duty. Some have suggested that Start-Up Nation derives from that annual commitment and the quasi-talmudic state that accompanies it—questioning constantly, asking for justification, and so on. (Shai Agassi's demise and the collapse of A Better Place doesn't much undercut the thesis.)

 When I was growing up, the Shoah cast a shadow over many of the activities in the Jewish community. When my late brother was born in 1948, he was named for the first king of Israel, Saul. I was named after Saul's successor, and my parents once volunteered to me that had I had a younger brother, his name would have been Solomon. In my generation, it seemed that half the Jewish boys were named "David." I think they may have been thinking of the David in David and Goliath rather than as the king of Israel. No matter, the result—a Jewish nation secure in its position within its part of the world for the former, the ability to take down one's foe regardless of size for the latter—was essentially the same with regard to Jewish survival.

It used to be that survivors of the Shoah would attend and often speak at Yom Hashoah ceremonies. But their numbers are fading, and as the temporal distance from the Shoah increases, its importance within the community seems to fade to a degree, too. When I was Treasurer of the Jewish Federation in Central Maryland, our head of programming noted repeatedly—and correctly—that the American Jewish experience has to transcend the Shoah at some point. If you focus on it as the basis for community cohesion, she predicted, the community itself will dwindle as younger members leave, looking for something more uplifting, more fulfilling more affirming of life. She was right—and while I can't attribute the decline in the Jewish population in the US to a focus on the Shoah alone, it certainly hasn't helped.

Yom Hashoah is a solemn day, to be sure. A day of remembrance. Yet it is no accident that it is after the end of Passover with its themes of redemption, rebirth, and liberation; and after the onset of spring, with its theme of renewal and life, and the return of growth. It is also a day to remember "om Yisroel chai": The Jewish people live. And thrive.


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