Jewish mourning practices are both private and public. Private mourning observances include rituals such as lighting a yahrzeit (memorial) candle or visiting the grave of a loved one on the anniversary of his or her death. Jewish mourning rituals also include public observances which broaden the memorial experiences to include a community for those who are grieving.
Most of us are familiar with the memorial service which takes place on Yom Kippur afternoon, but few are familiar with the fact that this kind communal observance takes place throughout the year as well. The memorial services which take place year round are called Yizkor services. They are observed in congregations around the world on the final days of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Yizkor means “may (God) remember,” and through this special service we strive to weave the memory of those who are no longer with us into the fabric of our lives and the rhythm of our years.
This coming Friday night we will be observing a third kind of Yizkor service. This service is for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day). Through special prayers and music, this observance helps us to memorialize those who perished in the Holocaust. Our observance this year will be led by Rabbi Steve Gross, Rabbi Laura Sheinkopf, David Wizig and the members of our 6th grade class who studied the Holocaust this year.
Through each of these Yizkor observances, we pray that the memories of those we loved and whose presence once blessed this world will continue to bless us throughout our days.