Religious commemoration of the Holocaust and its victims dates back to the Holocaust itself. Honoring the memory and lives of the victims began in the camps as fellow prisoners realized that to forget was to let the Nazis win. Remembering the victims was one small act of rebellion that was also an act of hope, of survival. Because of those who survived, those who remembered, and those who left their mark on the world, we are able to mourn their suffering and celebrate their lives.

Faculty, staff, students, and community members have all participated in religious commemoration at Northeastern University. Memorial services were often hosted by NU Hillel, the Holocaust Awareness Committee, and the NU School of Law as part of the Holocaust Awareness Week. These services were intentionally inter-faith programs to recognize the diversity of those who remember -- survivors, their children, and the community as a whole. The Jewish funeral prayer El Malei Rachamim was often chanted at the opening of the Holocaust commemoration sponsored by the President's office.

Memorial services include songs, prayers, readings, and other symbolic actions. While these services mourn the losses of millions of people, they also convey a message of hope. As the lyrics of a 1943 poem paying tribute to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising express: Never say this present journey is your last tho skies that once were blue today are overcast because the long awaited time will soon arrive when our marching steps will thunder we survive when our marching steps will thunder we survive. [1]

Often held on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nisan), these services allowed an intimate moment to mourn, to commemorate, and to remember.  "From Death to Hope" became the title of the memorial services hosted by the Holocaust Awareness Committee to emphasize the idea that from the ashes of tragedy, a stronger community can emerge.

[1] Hirsch Glick, who was imprisoned in the Vilna Ghetto, wrote the lyrics in 1943 upon hearing the news of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Glick used the melody of a 1937 song. The ballad became a symbol of defiance, sung by Jewish partisans to fortify their spirits and celebrate their victories. Glick was captured while trying to escape from the Vilna Ghetto and was later executed in a concentration camps.