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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.

After World War II, there were millions of Holocaust martyrs, several hundred of whom were mishpacha of our own Adath Israel members, that had no known burial location. It is very possible that indeed, they never were buried, but rather, were cremated by the cursed Germans and their allies. Therefore, years ago, a memorial was built in their memory with the martyrs’ names engraved in marble by their surviving family members at the Eternal Home Cemetery in Colma. Ever since, there has been an annual memorial service on the Sunday in between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The service fittingly was called “kever avot” - ancestors’ grave. Hundreds of people used to attend this event in order to commemorate the memory of these martyrs. However, as time has passed on, so have many of the participants, or they have moved away. This being the case, there hasn’t even been a minyan at the service for the past few years.

I don’t know how many of us have a direct connection to Jews who were martyred in the holocaust (grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.). Even if we do – do we do anything to honor their memory and sacrifice? Of course one could ask- why do anything? At a certain point, what was was and life goes on. Why take time out of my life to remember people I never knew? The answer to this, I think, is that the Torah advocates “z’chore y’mote olam” – “remember the days of old.” Judaism puts a premium on knowing history, especially one's personal Jewish history.

The more an individual feels a connection to their past, the more grounded they are going into the future. We need to appreciate that the only reason that there are Jews in the 21st century is due to the enormous sacrifice of our forbearers to preserve Judaism. Without their tremendous ability to endure pain, suffering, discrimination, and humiliation, we wouldn’t be here.

The immediate family of the people who are memorialized in Colma came to San Francisco to start a new life after having literally gone through hell. They were the people who significantly helped to lay the foundation of what we have today.

Therefore, I invite you to join me from 11:00am – 12pm on Sunday, September 20th to honor the memory of the martyrs and their descendants to whom we owe so much.