Yad Vashem extends prayers to North African Shoah victims

An Israeli high school student has persuaded Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, to extend prayers for the souls of Holocaust victims to those from North Africa. Haaretz reports: (with thanks: Ido, Ruth, Imre, Michelle) 

Libyan Jews returning from Bergen-Belsen in 1945

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center has amended the memorial prayers recited on Holocaust Memorial Day to include Jews who lived in Arab countries and not only refer to Jews of European origin, after the complaint of a high school student whose grandfather was a Libyan Holocaust survivor.

The amendments appear on the center’s website.

The Yizkor (“Remember”) prayer recited on Holocaust Memorial Day originally beseeched God to remember “all the souls of all the communities of Beit Israel in the European Diaspora” who died in the Holocaust. Now the word “European” has been removed.

 The version of the El Malei Rahamim (“Merciful God”) read on Holocaust Memorial Day also confined itself to European Jewry: “God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, give rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky, to the soul of all the souls of the six million Jews, victims of the Holocaust in Europe.”

In the new version, the words “in Europe” are gone.

The change was initiated by a Yael Robinson, a 12th grader from Zichron Yaakov, south of Haifa.

 In May the town held a public ceremony on the eve of the last Holocaust Memorial Day, like it usually does. Robinson, whose grandfather Kalfo Janah was a Holocaust survivor from Tripoli, Libya, attended. Some years ago Janah even lit the torch at the ceremony and shared his story. This year, Robinson felt hurt because the prayers ignored the suffering of her grandfather (who has since died) during the Holocaust.

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