Celebrating Life, Sanctifying Death, and Creating Identity Through Two Forms of Holocaust Commemoration

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This article focuses on two contemporary forms of individual Holocaust commemoration: “Small Purims,” a festive meal and celebration of deliverance usually held on a Holocaust survivor’s liberation date, and “Marker Memorialization,” commemorating Holocaust victims in the deceased’s family on their gravestone. I first mentioned these commemorative forms in passing in my 1995 article about Holocaust commemoration. In this article I revisit them close to three decades later, examining how they reflect the development of a central and dynamic strand of Jewish and Israeli identity connected to the Holocaust. Three generations after the end of the Second World War, this Holocaust-centered strand is no longer primarily institutional or statist but rather performative-personal and domestic, while remaining connected to a broader community. Describing and analyzing these commemorative forms as “invented traditions,” I discuss the Holocaust narrative that each form supports and analyze the nature of Holocaust-related Jewish identity that these new traditions strengthen. Finally, I discuss what we can learn from them about the relationship between the personal/family/survivor community acts of memorializing and the larger context of post-Holocaust Jewish identity and Jewish collective memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-164
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Jewish Identities
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2023

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