On the 11th and 12th of August we remember the tragedy that occurred in Zmievskya Balka. Each year we gather on these days to pay respect to the many thousands of Jews who were ruthlessly murdered by the Nazis in August of 1942. Those Jews weren’t soldiers, they weren’t fighters, they weren’t criminals; just peaceful citizens of Rostov who were murdered because they were Jewish.
Today we gathered here on comfortable buses with air conditioning, with plenty of drinking water, and nonetheless we complained of the terrible heat. Someone mentioned we didn’t choose a good time, and in the future we should make the ceremony early in the morning so it’s not too hot. 73 years ago it was also a heatwave, and no one asked whether or not it was comfortable, or if someone required some drinking water. Mothers with young children, the elderly and the ill, all were marched to their death in the fierce heat, at this same spot.
It is customary to commemorate the departed with a moment of silence, but what we really need are many minutes, hours and days of action – performing mitzvot and enriching our families with Jewish tradition. Back then, in a mere few days the rich Jewish community of Rostov – one of the biggest in Russia – was completely destroyed.
Today as we light six candles in commemoration of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, we should also resolve to light Shabbat candles each Friday night in their memory and honor. We must resolve to pass the torch of Yiddishkeit to the future generation, so they too can attend synagogue and brighten their homes with the light of Shabbat as our forefathers did. We must commit to live a Jewish life to honor the memory of those innocent victims, but just as importantly, we must do so for our future generations.