Yad Vashem has changed two of its key prayers for Holocaust Remembrance Day — the Yizkor prayer and El Maleh Rahamim — to include Jewish victims from North Africa, a report said Tuesday.
The change came after Yael Robinson, a 12th grade student from Zichron Yaakov whose grandfather was a Holocaust survivor from Tripoli, Libya, took issue last year with the fact that the local remembrance ceremony did not mention victims outside of Europe, Haaretz reported.
Anti-Semitic legislation was imposed on the 415,000 Jews of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia following the establishment of the Vichy regime in France, according to Yad Vashem, and thousands of Libyan Jews were taken to concentration camps. Baghdad’s pro-German government didn’t prevent attacks on the Iraqi Jewish community.
Robinson wrote to the ceremony organizers, saying: “It was strange for me that the Yizkor read at the ceremony only mentioned Jews who died in Europe, and the El Maleh Rahamim prayer again mentions the Holocaust in Europe but doesn’t mention the Holocaust in North Africa even once,” noting that she meant no disrespect toward the victims in Europe.
A group called “A Movement for a Clean Memory” took on responsibility for the organization of Robinson’s local ceremony and received a copy of the letter. Upon closer examination of the issue, it was discovered that the prayers used were taken from the website of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
According to Haaretz, the Yad Vashem website already has the updated version of the prayers.
In the Yizkor prayer, a sentence that previously recalled those in the “European Diaspora” who perished in the Holocaust now reads just “Diaspora.”
Likewise, the word “European” was removed from the El Maleh Rahamim prayer when referring to the six million victims of the Holocaust.
“There is no one version of the Yizkor prayer and it’s known that at memorial ceremonies for various communities and organizations, they adapt it as is fitting,” Yad Vashem said in a statement to Haaretz.
“In general, at the different ceremonies conducted by Yad Vashem, this prayer is not used. In response to a query regarding one of the versions on the Yad Vashem website, which includes the words, ‘all the communities of Beit Israel in the European Diaspora,’ the text was changed to ‘all the communities of Beit Israel in the Diaspora,’ which is more accurate.”
Before Robinson’s grandfather died, he told her that as a child he saw his father arrested and thrown “like a sack of potatoes” into a truck that took him to the ghetto, from where he escaped and returned home a few weeks later.
“When they wanted to take his father, he tried to grab hold of him so he wouldn’t go, and the German, who had metal tips on the edge of his shoe, kicked him, and until his dying day he had the scars,” she said, according to Haaretz.