In his keynote address at the opening of a special elearning session organized by Limmud FSU to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel's former chief rabbi and chair of Yad Vashem, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, himself a Holocaust survivor, reflected on the centrality of memory within Judaism. "From Moses as an educator onwards," said Lau, "we are taught to remember."
The event honored Baruch Shub, a partisan leader in Lithuania, who escaped from the Vilna ghetto, later fought in the Red Army, and was among the Soviet forces that liberated the city, before moving to pre-state Israel, where he fought in the War of Independence. Shub, who died last month, was for decades a forceful advocate for Holocaust education. "He was committed to ensuring that the world remembers and does not forget," said Lau.
Limmud FSU generally mounts peer-led, volunteer-based gatherings of Jewish learning that specifically reach out to Russian-speaking Jews around the world from Moscow to the US West Coast, and from Europe to Israel. Yet in a project initiated by Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, co-founder Sandy Cahn, and produced by Limmud FSU acting executive director Natasha Chechik, since the corona lockdown made physical conferences impossible, Limmud FSU has been providing digital e-learning opportunities on Jewish, general – and coronavirus – topics. Sessions have also been arranged by volunteer organizing committees of the festivals. These online gatherings are an opportunity for Russian-speaking Jews to learn – and be – together, virtually. This particular session was entitled "Zionist Responses to the Holocaust."
Reflecting on his late father, Yossi Shub recalled that he and his brother were "born into a real Israeli home," even though both his parents were Holocaust survivors. He praised "the ability of my parents to adapt only a few years after escaping hell, and provide a sense of optimism to their children. Yet I grew up learning to ask about everything – but not about that, and it was only later, after I visited Ponar [the site of the mass murder of the Jews of Vilna in 1941], in 1990, together with my father and brother, that I started to read the notes" that became his father's memoirs. "I vowed there not to forget our family history."
It was a sentiment of the children of Holocaust survivors powerfully echoed by Dorit Golender, Israel's former ambassador to Moscow and vice president for community relations at the Genesis Philanthropy Group, who made aliya to Israel from Lithuania in 1967. "The question of my parents' experiences during the Holocaust was not discussed at home, or in my husband's home when he was a child, though much of his family was killed in Ukraine, but we vowed to tell our children and grandchildren how our parents managed to survive that hell, and continued to suffer the pain and the memory."