At the end of the week, Israel and countries around the world marked the Day of Liberation and Rescue of the Jews of Europe from the Nazis on 26 Iyar, marking the seventy-fourth anniversary of the rescue of survivors and the memory of the martyrs of the Holocaust.
Tens of thousands of people took part in dozens of prayer and thanksgiving rallies held at synagogues, in commemoration sites, and in schools around the world.
The meetings were held in Rome, Italy; Frankfurt and Leipzig, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Warsaw, Poland; Paris and Marseille, France; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Guangzhou, China; Budapest, Hungary; Amsterdam, London, Moscow, Pinsk, Minsk and Mir in Belarus; Sydney, Australia; Odessa, Ukraine; Georgetown, U.S., and in Sydney, Australia.
In Israel, prayers were held at the Western Wall, in the Cave of the Patriarchs, and in Rachel's Tomb, at the Netivot Chochma Wolfson Yeshiva in Jerusalem and in synagogues in Netanya, Hadera, Holon, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva, Ganei Tikva, Modi'in, Haifa, Migdal HaEmek, and Afula.
As usual, Liberation and Rescue Day events were held with a prayer and thanksgiving ceremony in the Western Wall plaza led by the Great Beit Din Chief Dayan, Chief Rabbi David Lau.
Hundreds of students from the Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kavkaz participated in the rally at Machon Meir under the leadership of Rabbi Eliyahu Berzansky. They were joined by rabbis and yeshiva students from all over the country. Assembly participants accepted the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in prayer and confession to the Creator, "Who has redeemed us from the hand of a tyrant."
Rabbi Lau said at the assembly, "Out of the great darkness of the destruction and loss of millions of our brethren, the L-rd saved us and G-d left the last of the remnant and a city was rebuilt by a people of war refugees, and Torah is disseminated in quality and quantity unparalleled in all history throughout the world and in Israel."
"We pray that it should be as we were told, that we will be able to celebrate the Shavuot holiday at the top of the Mount with the coming of Moshiach Tzedekinu and in the building of our Temple," concluded the rabbi.
The assembly, produced by Rabbi Mordechai Rabinowitz, was closed with the Yizkor prayer by Cantor David Weinbach and in a dancing circle of participants in the Western Wall plaza.
Hundreds gathered in the Great Synagogue in Moscow for a prayer and thanksgiving assembly. The guest of honor from Israel was Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar.
"On the one hand, we lost one-third of our people to the Nazi murderers, and on the other hand we must remember the miracle of the rescue and thank and praise His blessed name for leaving a remnant. This is also an opportunity to thank the President of Russia for the good deeds and warm heart towards the Jewish People, the Jewish community in Russia, and the Land of Israel, and recently, for the special assistance in bringing the remains of the Jewish soldier Zecharia Baumel to a Jewish grave, "said Rabbi Amar.
A Reishis Chochma student read a chapter of mishnayot, stirring all those present. Hundreds of participants, including representatives of the Russian President's office, survivors, warriors, veterans, and members of the community said Psalms and Cantor Yaakov Bar delivered the Kel Maleh Rachamim prayer. Conference of Rabbis of Europe President and Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said "it's imperative to thank G-d and remember these days, to pray more vigorously for the remnant that's left - and that Europe will not forget."
A prayer assembly attended by hundreds of city residents took place in the hall of the Great Beit Midrash of the Chabad Chassidim, the Marina Rasha in Moscow.The ceremony was attended by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, the rabbi of the center of Netanya, who moved the participants with personal stories from his father and praised his rescue by a Russian officer.
Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazer spoke warmly of the Day of Liberation and Rescue and praised the work of the initiator of the idea, Governor Gabriel German Zakhreib.
In the Great Synagogue in Rome, a prayer and thanksgiving assembly was held with the participation of hundreds of community members. The event was attended by representatives of the Italian government, the City of Rome, and ambassadors of the United States, France, Poland, Israel, and Canada, and Rabbi Shmuel Di Seinei, Vice President of the Conference of Rabbis of Europe, spoke about the significance of thanking G-d for the liberation and salvation of the people and the memory of the martyrs.
In the hall of Yeshivat Or Torah in the Rav Shalom Synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, a particularly moving prayer assembly was held for the first time, attended by hundreds of residents and students. Tunisia Chief Rabbi Chaim Beitan spoke to the participants, telling the story of the community during the Second World War and how the community was saved from the clutches of the Nazis.
At the Great Synagogue in Frankfurt, the Jewish community held a prayer and remembrance assembly headed by city rabbis - Rabbi Avichai Appel and Rabbi Chaim Sasson. The prayer, Psalms, and Yizkor prayer were performed by Cantor Yoni Roz. Rabbi Mordechai Shudrich in Nożyk Synagogue in Warsaw held an event attended by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Uriel Zaritsky, who heads the Warsaw Kollel.
In the Great Synagogue in Minsk, a prayer assembly was held on the night of 26 Iyar, and Rabbi Mordechai Reichenstadt, the rabbi of Belarus, traveled with 50 Holocaust survivors, especially to Mir, to perform a prayer and memorial service at the memorial site for the martyrs of Mir and the surrounding area.
Rabbi Moshe Fima, the head of the institutions at the Beit-Aharon school in St Petersburg, held a prayer and study ceremony for the students at the Beit Midrash in Odessa. Odessa Rabbi Shlomo Baksht spoke movingly before the Ark.
In the Ransi Synagogue in Paris, hundreds of city residents gathered for a prayer and thanksgiving event headed by the vice president of the European Rabbinical Conference, the special assistant of the rabbi of France and the rabbi of the French gendarmerie, Rabbi Moshe Levin.
In the central synagogue of Breitenfeldt in Amsterdam, headed by Rabbi Eliyahu Bialogolsky, there was a prayer and memorial service attended by hundreds of members of the community. At the community center in Leipzig, Beit Ariovitz a prayer assembly was held, headed by Rabbi Mordechai Eliezer Bala.
In the Great Synagogue in Vienna, the Jewish community held a prayer and memorial ceremony under the leadership of Rabbi Aryeh Folger, Rabbi of the city, who addressed the participants and lead reading chapters of Psalms. Three Holocaust survivors and students studied Mishnah chapters and lit candles. The assembly ended with the singing of Ani Ma'amin, in Azriel David Feesteg's melody prayer he composed on his way on the death train.
In the Great Synagogue in Marseilles, the Jewish community held a prayer and memorial ceremony under the leadership of the city's rabbi, Reuven Ohana, who addressed the participants and led chapters of Psalms.
The initiative to mark the Day of Liberation and Rescue is led by Governor Gabriel German Zakhreib, Vice President of the Russian Jewish Congress and President of the Smaghi Charity Fund.
"This important idea is embedded every year in the hearts of the Jewish communities. I'll continue to do everything in my power to imprint our obligation to thank and praise His name and to remember His servants with prayer and charity and writing new Torah scrolls and studying mishnayot as the way imparted to us from generation to generation."
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message to the heads of the community and veterans of the war against the Nazis, praising the initiative and remembering the martyrs, among them soldiers of the Red Army who committed "heroic deeds" in the fateful campaign and their "tremendous contribution to the liberation of the Jews from the death camps."