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Aryeh Deri: Ultra-Orthodox Jews must honor Israel’s Holocaust Day

Refusal of some to mark the chosen day of national mourning is an ‘unparalleled desecration of God’s name,’ head of Shas party says

Interior Affairs Minister and head of the Shas party Aryeh Deri speaks at El Hama'ayan Passover conference at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on April 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Affairs Minister and head of the Shas party Aryeh Deri speaks at El Hama'ayan Passover conference at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on April 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said on Monday that ultra-Orthodox Jews must honor Holocaust Remembrance Day, and not doing so is a “desecration of God’s name.”

Some members of the ultra-Orthodox community refuse to commemorate Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day because it was instituted by a secular Israeli government and is not rooted in the Jewish religious tradition.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Deri, head of Israel’s largest ultra-Orthodox political party, rejected this view and stressed the importance of remembering those who were killed by the Nazis and never forgetting the horrors of the Holocaust.

He said that on Sunday night, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, he taught a Bible class to religious seminary students in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, and began by dedicating the lesson to all those who died in the Holocaust, and especially those who have nobody to mourn for them.

“There are so many who have nobody to remember them or recite prayers for them,” he said, “and that is why they established Holocaust Remembrance Day — to pray for them and most importantly to remember them and never forget.

“We must continue to teach our children in every generation what the Nazis did to us so that we never forget it,” he said.

Holocaust survivors light six torches representing the six million victims of the Nazi genocide during the opening ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. April 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Holocaust survivors light six torches representing the six million victims of the Nazi genocide during the opening ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. April 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews do not accept Holocaust Remembrance Day because they claim that the government has no authority to establish religious events.

Others say that the memorial should not be in the Jewish month of Nisan, when public grief is supposed to be minimized, and should instead be moved to the 10th of Tevet, a fast day mourning historical tragedies that befell the Jewish people.

Some of those who do mark the day say that standing for a siren is not a Jewish custom, and prefer to recite psalms or other prayers.

Deri complained that he had been misquoted in an interview that he gave in 2013 where it was reported that he said “Holocaust Remembrance Day is not obligatory for us as ultra-Orthodox Jews.” He said that not only was the quote inaccurate, but his point was exactly the opposite. He was declaring a public protest against yeshiva students who hold barbecues or other events which are not in keeping with the day.

“Once a country or community decides to mark a day as Holocaust Remembrance Day you are obligated to honor it,” he said. “You are obligated to honor it, and failing to do so is an unparalleled desecration of God’s name.”

Deri tweeted an image of a memorial candle and a Jewish star, and wrote, “We will recite a prayer for the six million souls who were murdered by the Nazis. The continuation of generations and passing of Jewish heritage from one generation to the next is the victory of our people over the Nazis.”

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