Light a Candle, Preserve a Memory!

by Stephen Neustein

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Burned within our Jewish collective identity is a grim image of loss, grief and sadness. Horrific. Incomprehensible. Senseless. Six million lives, stolen, tortured, and murdered. Gone forever. Missed – but never to be forgotten!

Light a Candle, Preserve a Memory!

It is often said that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. The lessons of the Shoah? Unforgettable.

My parents were married in 1948. Israel had miraculously survived and was a reality. I was raised in the security of a Jewish neighborhood. I went to a Jewish day school and Jewish camps and my family belonged to a local synagogue. I am related to and personally knew survivors and their children. There was no Yellow Candle program. There was no need for one. No one could imagine forgetting the vivid and frightful horrors of the Holocaust. It was unthinkable that the world could ever forget.

Today, I am not so sure. Survivors are fewer, Israel is stronger, and the world is still filled with hate. Civilized society is often merely a thin veneer. It is easily ripped apart and discarded. Human rights are trampled regularly throughout many parts of the world.

Light a Candle, Preserve a Memory!

Ironically, I am writing this on 9/11 when we are reminded of the harsh reality that intolerance and a willingness to destroy the very fabric of our society are always at our door, waiting for an opportunity to strike at our very hearts and souls. Hitler’s final solution – genocide – is still lurking in the shadows. Jewish tradition teaches that unless we seek it out and destroy it, in every generation the evil of Amalek will raise its ugly head again to threaten the Jewish people and all of civilized mankind. Amalek has not been destroyed.

Today, I fear that many lives are still being threatened. Peaceful people’s fragile lives and existence are still being extinguished while the world shrugs its collective shoulders and watches in silence.

Light a Candle, Preserve a Memory!

The Yellow Candle program was created in 1981 by FJMC clubs to keep alive the memory of the Six Million. It is modeled after a traditional Jewish memorial candle that burns for 24 hours during periods of mourning and on the yahrzeit anniversary of the death of a family member.

The candle’s yellow wax serves to remind us of the yellow arm band that Jews were forced to wear during the Nazi regime. The program logo is a yellow Magen David (Star of David) outlined with barbed wire, with the word “Jude” in the middle reminiscent of the armband or patch that Jews were forced to wear in the ghettos of Eastern Europe.

Light A Candle, Preserve A Memory!

FJMC estimates that through its Yellow Candle program over four million candles have been lit on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

It is a good start. But it is not enough!

This year the FJMC has set a new goal. Challenge the world to light 1,000,000 candles this Yom HaShoah.

It is a good next step. But, it will not be enough. Our ultimate goal is to light one candle for every victim of the Holocaust.

Light A Candle, Preserve A Memory!

It was not just the Jewish people who were the victims of Nazi Germany’s criminal cruelty, and we reach out to non-Jews also. And they are responding. Many non-Jewish religious and secular groups recognize the need to make sure the world never forgets. They too are lighting candles on Yom HaShoah.

Light a Candle, Preserve a Memory!

Be part of this worldwide effort. Tell your congregants. Tell your friends, neighbors and relatives. Teach your children. On Yom HaShoah, commit to lighting a candle.

Participate in and support Yom Ha-Shoah programs in your communities and synagogues. Let the world know that the victims of the Shoah are not and must not be forgotten.

Light a Candle, Preserve a Memory!

What can each of us do? Talk about it. Get involved personally. Be counted as someone who has not forgotten. Log onto the FJMC’s website – www.fjmc.org – and register that you will light a candle. The candles you order for yourself and your synagogue feature artwork by the renowned artist and survivor, Dubie Arie.

Light a candle, preserve a memory!

Stephen Neustein is an FJMC vice president and chairman of the FJMC Yellow Candle Program.