This article is inspired by and dedicated in the honor of my father, Michael Miller and Yossi Katz, a brave Jew and author of A Voice Called: Stories of Jewish Heroism. These two dear individuals supplied the material for this article.
Tonight, Wednesday night/Thursday is Yom Shoah. Out of the many dates that could have been chosen, the founders of our Jewish State headed by Ben Gurion and Ben Tzvi saw fit to specifically commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which took place during this period 79 years ago. They were moved and inspired by the heroism of Mordechai Anielewicz and his comrades, and decided to highlight their bravery. Fittingly, Yom Hashoah V’hagevura coincides with the second week of the Omer in which we focus on the attribute of “Gevura” bravery.
The truth of it is that every last Jew of the Six Million showed tremendous bravery as they were being gassed, burned, slaughtered, and murdered to death. Singing “Ani Maamin” on the death marches, saying Shema Yisrael before the gas portals opened, and uplifting broken Jews spirits are acts of bravery just like torching a Nazi jeep in the Ghetto. Ultimately, dying as a Jew “al kiddush Hashem” because you are Jewish is maybe the greatest act of bravery that one could do in a life-time.
The Summer of 1995 between 9th and 10th grade I returned to Isreal on a family trip for the first time in more than 10 years. The second day of our trip, my father woke us up in the French Hill apartment that we were staying in and told us we are headed out on a tiyul.
In the car, my father began to tell the story of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and how Mordechai Anielewicz and the brave Jews of Warsaw defended and drove away the Nazis from their Ghetto numerous times. Ultimately, the Germans overcame the the heroic Jewish uprisers and destroyed the Ghetto.
My father’s story continued five years later in 1948. He told us of a second group of brave Jews in Israel. These Jews, some of whom were survivors, settled and founded Yad Mordechai. They named their coastal kibbutz after their leader and hero Mordechai Anielewicz. The brave men and woman of Yad Mordechai battled and held up the Egyptian forces as they were making their way up to the North, toward Tel-Aviv, to conquer the new Jewish State. Their heroism, when hopes were dim, allowed the main Israeli forces in the Tel Aviv area the time they needed to prepare for the Egyptians. Ultimately, the new Jewish army was able defeat the Egyptians and push them back.
By the end of the two part story, emotions had caught up with my father. He then revealed to us that we were on the way to Yad Mordechai to visit the Holocaust museum that is located on the kibbutz.
The story and the trip changed my life forever, contributed greatly to the fact that the entire Miller family is living in Isreal and is involved in Jewish education.
We live in a time, thank God, where we don’t have to kill Nazis who are exterminating us. And the Jewish State is no longer fighting for its survival to the same extent. Nonetheless, more than ever before, because we don’t have a gun to our heads, we need brave Jews who are going to step up and fight evil forces within and without, which unrelentingly seek to destroy our people. We need brave Jews like Michael Miller and Yossi Katz who model and demonstrate for us what Jewish strength and pride truly is.
May we find comfort on Yom Hashoa and bravery in the week of Gevura.