Some of the participants in the project, with German Zakharyayev
Some of the participants in the project, with German ZakharyayevEli Itkin

Hundreds of children and youth participated in a prayer session at the Western Wall, marking the start of the second cycle of the “Yizkor” program. This is the largest project of its kind in the world, in which children and youth learn Mishna in memory of those murdered in the Holocaust.

Over the course of ten months, thousands of Jewish children from all across the globe will learn 6,250,000 mishnayot (passages of Mishna) as part of this special learning project organized in the memory and merit of the souls of the millions of our dear brethren killed in the war. Among those killed were leaders in Torah and fear of G-d, who were killed by the Nazis and their helpers, and who with their deaths sanctified G-d’s Name. Along with these are a quarter million Jews who lost their lives in the war against the Nazis, fighting in the allied militaries and as part of partisan groups.

The public competition, and the choosing of the first-place winner, will take place on the 26th day of Iyar, 5783 (May 17, 2023). This day marks the liberation and rescue of the Holocaust survivors of Europe, after Nazi Germany surrendered. The competition will be attended by representatives from organizations for Mishna learning: from western and eastern Europe, the US, and other countries - thousands of students and parents - and led by the Sages of Israel.

The program, titled, “Lomdim Zochrim,” by the “Yizkor” organization, is organized with the blessing of our rabbis and leading Torah sages, and leaders in the fear of G-d and hasidut. It is being organized by philanthropist Mr. Gavriel German Rashbilovich Zakharyayev, President of the International Charity Foundation of Mountain Jews STMEGI. This is the second cycle, by the “Anachnu Vetze’etza’einu,” organization, which unites approximately 60,000 children and their parents. The session are conducted with father-son pairs, who meet each week to learn together for a period of approximately one hour in an interactive environment in approximately 1,000 branches in 70 locations. The program is unique in that it reaches a variety of sectors, including haredi, religious, and secular Jews, and since it brings children and their parents together – it helps the tradition pass from one generation to the next.

Rabbi Eliezer Yotkovsky, chair of “Anachnu Vetze’etza’einu,” said that the, “Lomdim Zochrim,” program is aimed at Talmud Torah and elementary school students between the ages of 8-13, and that as part of this program, there will be quarterly tests and prizes will be given for the purpose of encouragement and to reward excellence.

Rabbi Yotkovsky added that the organization has begun preparing a booklet and a disk. The organization will distribute among participants in all educational institutions a booklet with content including historic and educational information, and fascinating stories alongside educational challenges and brain games and challenges. Along with the booklet is an audio disk featuring words of blessing from Torah sages, interviews with unique figures, special success stories, and songs. The publication of booklets, albums, and disks of this kind has been done in the past by the organization in various educational fields, and was met by widespread public support, from tens of thousands of families.

The educational supervisor for “Anachnu Vetze’etza’einu,” Rabbi Mordechai Blau, said, “Unfortunately, the younger generation is not interested in memories, and sees in them another irrelevant historical detail. There is a lack of a feeling of connection between our existence today - as a nation, as a community, as a family – and the events of the past. For the younger generation, the existence of the Jewish nation and the thriving Torah world are obvious and taken for granted. Communities which memorialize the memory of the communities which were destroyed in Europe – they do it by means of memorial plaques, and that is it. They lack the understanding that they are part of the creation of an amazing miracle, which began on the day of the liberation and rescue, and which is still living and breathing today - with every page of Gemara (Talmud), every chapter of Mishna or Tehillim (Psalms), or story of a righteous person, or establishment of a family, and passing values and traditions on, [even] when they were nearly eliminated, G-d forbid, [we continue the miracle]. As it says, ‘Ask your father, and he will tell you; your elders, and they will inform you,’ (Deuteronomy 32:7).”

“It is true that among adults, the memory of the Holocaust is becoming stronger. The survivors have opened up in recent years, and are telling and recording more than in the past. There are courses, evenings of study, and trips to Europe. But, without a connection of the younger generation, all of the important activities are lacking, since, ‘If there are no kids, from where will there be bucks?’ In order to pass the torch on, and to light a fire of Jewish heroism and pride in light of the miracle of our nation’s existence, we must eternalize the memory of the rescue, as well as the recognition of the miracle of renewal. We must build this bridge, in order to continue the path to the future” – and there is nothing more educational and helpful than learning Mishna in memory of the holy ones, among them one million Jewish children, may G-d avenge their blood.

Mr. German Zakharyayev said that he sees the great merit in taking part in the learning of mishnayot, in accordance with the call of the sages of Israel: Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, obm; Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, obm; the Chief Rabbi of Israel; and fifty of the important rabbis and dayans (religious judges) in Europe, led by Rabbi Chanoch Hacohen Ehrentreu, obm, and head of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt. These leaders have issued a holy call to Jewish communities in the Holy Land and the Diaspora to mark the day that European Jews were rescued, and remember it in each and every generation by saying Tehillim, learning Mishna, and dedicating synagogues and Torah scrolls. This way, we add and complete what is missing due to the lack of a third of the Jewish people, who were decimated during the days of the Holocaust.

As already mentioned, during this holy call which was issued, the rabbis wrote that, “On the twenty-sixth day of Iyar (this year, May 17, 2023 – ed.), on the day on which the Jewish nation began to arise from the ashes of the ovens, we will mark the miracle of physical rescue and the secret of the spiritual revival. The descendants who keep Torah and its commandments are not a silent memorial, but a living perpetuation; the voice of their Torah is a trumpet blast of victory, an eternal monument in their memory and a guarantee of our existence. This is as we saw on the Passover holiday which ended the enslavement. It brought us out of slavery into freedom, from enslavement to redemption, and from mourning to a holiday, even though tens of thousands of Jews were killed there. And for those who survived the Holocaust, there was also such a day: a day of liberation from the death camps and coming out of hiding into freedom, and ‘evil will dissipate from the world.’ The Allies, with great help from G-d, judged and punished these wicked ones. Therefore there is definitely room to give thanks to the blessed G-d for the fact that the evil ones did not succeed in erasing us, as they had planned to do.”