Reflections on Yom HaShoa at the Capitol

It’s a mix of awe and awesome. The setting of the US Capitol emancipation hall; and eclectic range of statues from Frederick Douglas to the gold draped Hawaiian King Kamehameha, who is credited with uniting the islands in the late 18th century.

The centerpiece, the statue of freedom, rises 30 feet above the floor and in front of it has been placed a six branched Menorah. The violinist begins to play the theme from “Schindler’s List” as survivors and liberators enter the hall single file. It is like living through the end of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece.

All around me, people are weeping and as I peer at the faces of these resolute souls, I can’t help but meditate on the terrible events that have led to this moment.

Awe, watching this whole ceremony unfold and Awesome to behold our country’s dedication to holding such an event in the heart of it’s government, featuring the US Army Band and soldiers bearing the flags of liberating regiments.

Ben Ferencz, the fiery 98 year old Nuremberg prosecutor, recounts his visits to the camps and weeps openly he describes people crawling on the ground, looking through the trash for a morsel of food. He exhorts us to abandon our wars and see each other’s humanity.

It’s all pretty extraordinary, and I don’t know that I will ever have the opportunity to serve as the Hazzan at such an event again.

But let’s take a moment to recognize that this solemn event is housed in emancipation hall, in the world’s greatest democracy. The love of freedom is something so very Jewish and American as well.

As I watched those soldiers marching into the hall, bearing reminders of our liberation, I thought ” what a miracle that there is such human decency and fraternal love”, that our country would continue to bear those flags in OUR honor.

The decency and message of this yearly ritual cannot be overstated. To all those who wish to harm us or discredit us as important and valued citizens of this country, our government continues to affirm the vital part we play in the destiny of our country.

My deepest thanks to those who organize and support this yearly effort and give their time and efforts on our behalf. In this United States, may we continue to go from strength to strength.

Shabbat Shalom

Hazzan Fradkin

Enjoy a video of the ceremony below.

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin

Hazzan Asa Fradkin is the hazzan at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, MD. He is a native of Baltimore.