A message from Lisa Libin, President Calgary Jewish Federation

Lisa Libin, President Calgary Jewish Federation

by Lisa Libin

(Calgary) – As we approached the month of Nissan, I found myself thinking a lot about what the upcoming “Yoms” – Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut  – would look like this year.

How does one commemorate significant holidays whose foundations are based on honouring those who have given their lives for the Jewish people and remembering victims of terror who have lost their lives because of hate, when over the past seven months we have witnessed unimaginable pogroms and the massive spike in hate crimes and antisemitism – the same evils that ultimately led to the Holocaust 80 years ago? And how will our collective wounds of the last few months impact our ability to meaningfully connect to atrocities and losses that preceded it so many decades ago?

As well, how do we celebrate the birthday of Israel during this time of acute adversity, when our friends and families there are living in a seven-month state of war and here at home we feel like everyone around us is calling for the abolishment of our homeland?

The reality is that any Jewish celebration or commemoration is different since October 7. Most recently many of us celebrated Passover with an empty chair at our seder tables for our hostages. And as we face the upcoming Yoms we need to recognize that these events will be different too – but also more important than ever.

For Yom HaShoah, we need to always remember that the Holocaust is categorically different from every other persecution or genocide in all of human history. It stands apart and deserves its own day for reflection, and this year serves as a staunch reminder of how, through propaganda and hate, the Holocaust was able to occur. Secondly, as long as we are blessed to have survivors among us, we owe it to them and to ourselves to show up, to honour them, to learn from them, and simply to be with them.

This year we commemorate Yom HaZikaron by honouring Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims, including those lost on October 7 and those we’ve lost fighting in Gaza this year. We need to not only commemorate the past, but also reflect on how our life continues even though some of our loved ones will not return.

And finally, for Yom HaAzmaut, it will be important for us to rejoice in overcoming adversity to build the state of Israel, even as we currently mourn our losses. For over 75 years, Jewish communities across the world have celebrated Israel’s triumphs and also its challenges – and this year is another challenge we need to both recognize while also celebrating the existence and critical importance of Israel, as well as the intimate connection we feel towards the country.

However you choose to recognize these “Yoms” I hope you will do it together with our community as we collectively mourn our losses but also come together with strength and resilience. Am Yisrael Chai.

Lisa Libin is President, Calgary Jewish Federation.


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