Making Memorial Day meaningful

Yahrtzeit_candle.jpgIn Israel, Memorial Day is known as Yom Hazikaron. It’s a far cry from our Memorial Day – instead of sales and barbecues, much of the country shuts down for twenty-four hours, and the entire country truly does shut down for a powerful minute of silence. It’s a chilling thing to witness, as drivers stop their cars on every road and highway, get out of their vehicles, and stand in attention. 

I doubt there is a parent in Israel wondering how to make Yom Hazikaron meaningful for her family. With mandatory military service, no one’s lives are untouched by the horrors of war. In our country, perhaps especially for the Jewish community, Memorial Day can be more abstract. While there are, of course, Jews who have served our country (my own father was drafted in World War Two, became a career officer and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery) I know very few Jewish families with loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, or who have strong personal connections to those who have died in service to our country.
Whatever your personal and political opinions about the work of our military, you might agree with me that holidays on our calendar, whether Jewish or secular, should be more than opportunities to eat large meals or buy large appliances. There’s an organization called Freedom’s Feast doing really interesting work to help Americans infuse meaning into our holiday observances. (I blogged about them on Thanksgiving.) Here’s a link to their Memorial Day “seder.” I’m taking a copy to the barbecue at my in-laws. Let me know what you think, if you try it out.
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Sandi Q

posted May 30, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I love what Israel does for Memorial Day

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Minnesota Mamaleh

posted May 30, 2010 at 9:53 pm

interesting post, amy. i’m ll about making celebrations as authentic as possible for our family so this really resonates. thanks for the suggestions and the way you describe yom hazikaron in israel is…absolutely perfect. thanks!

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Frume Sarah

posted June 1, 2010 at 2:31 am

What a great post. I would have loved to made this day significant in the way you suggest. I don’t think I could have pulled it off where we celebrated the day, but I could have done it as a run-up to this otherwise “fun” day.

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