Just under a month ago, more than 70 rabbis had their heads shaved.

Several decades ago, millions of Jews had their heads shaved.

As we mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, as one of the rabbis that shaved my head a month ago, the connection is poignant. Our act of shaving was not directly connected to the Shoah, the Holocaust, and yet…the connection is there.

As we remember the loss of millions of lives, millions of Jews, millions of others…as we remember the degradation, the humiliation, the dehumanization of so many others, we cannot help but realize that we are their descendants.

And that, by shaving our heads, we connect with them in a different way on this Yom HaShoah. Because we know that the heads of so many of those who went through the Shoah had their heads shaved by force.

That for so many this was an act that was particularly painful.  And that for us, the act of shaving was so different. And yet, for me, I feel more connected having gone through it.

And I remember and reflect differently this year, with the fine hairs that are starting to grow back.  Seeing the images of men, and especially women, with shorn heads in the concentration camps in a different way.  And also, knowing that based on the difference we have been able to make–the number of individuals upon whom we have had an impact in some way or who have helped us in some way–I have hope that The Holocaust, or anything like it, will never happen again.

Our act of shaving is a mirror of the shavings that happened in The Shoah.

We did it to save lives, not to destroy them.  We did it for empowerment, not humiliation.  We did it by choice, not by force.  And, most of all, we did it because we have learned that when we see injustice in the world, we must answer with the creation of justice.

Our act of shaving mirrors the shavings that were forced upon our ancestors.  Our act of shaving reclaims the act as one which reverses that which was done to us–becomes one which is done by us.

Once, the heads of Jews were shave and rabbis’ beards were shaved off by people who hated them for what they were.

Several decades later, Jews heads were shaved and rabbis beards were shaved off because they wanted it that way.

Because it was an act of choice.  Because it was an act of empowerment.  Because it was an act of bringing more life into this world.  Because it was an act of justice.

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2 responses »

  1. Hezbos says:

    I, for one, being the son of holocaust survivors, think shaving heads is nothing but a foolish way to bring the issue to bear. It accomplishes nothing tangible. It’s a childish way to remember. Nothing changes; The interaction between shaved people becomes a social affair. Why not visit the concentration camps, invite survivors to speak, bring children a lecturer, visit holocaust museums, etc.?

    • rabbiisa says:

      Thank you for your comment. To be clear, I didn’t shave my head to remember. I shaved my head to raise money for childhood cancer research: https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/660938/2014. I did it along with more than 70 other rabbis; we’ve raised nearly $640,000 so far. I would say that has accomplished something tangible with our goals.

      That said, while the reasons aren’t directly related, I found myself moved on Yom Hashoah, as I remembered, having had my head shaved only weeks before. In our community, we honored local survivors and heard the stories of children of survivors. The Jewish community came together to honor them. We, as a community, do a lot to honor the legacy of their stories. As an an individual I work to hear and to tell their stories, as well. I’m on the board of the local Holocaust Museum.

      Shaving my head was not an act I did in connection to the Shoah. But having done it, and then commemorating the day, I couldn’t help but connect the 2 in my mind and in my heart.

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