Holy Land Pilgrimage

I Will Give Them a Name

January 20, 2022

Recently, our pilgrimage group visited Yad Vashem, the Center for Holocaust Remembrance located in the western district of Jerusalem. We were able to roam the museum and its accompanying monuments on our own for over 2 hours, allowing us to encounter and soberly reflect on the history it addressed. Yad Vashem takes its name from Isaiah 56:5 which reads: “I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a monument (yad) and a name (vashem), better than sons and daughters; an eternal name, which shall not be cut off, will I give them”. In the museum is recorded the name and biographical information of every Jew who perished in the Holocaust, some 6,000,000 men, women, and children.

Walking through Yad Vashem was particularly impactful for me. Just a few years ago, I was privileged to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on a separate pilgrimage. To physically be on the spot where such monumental evil was committed only 80 years ago is a hard experience, to be sure, but it strengthened my resolve to fight whatever evil I find in my own life, big or small. The tolerance of the majority to the crimes of Nazi Germany against the Jews kept the gas chambers and furnaces of Auschwitz in operation. Our own toleration of evil (against the poor, the marginalized, the unborn, etc.) directly contributes to the suffering of the innocent, every time. We should never be silent when we encounter injustice and oppression.

Yad Vashem, even though commemorating such a horrific event, does not wallow in suffering and loss. Rather, the entire site suggests a hopefulness for the future, based on a solid trust in the promises God has made to His holy people. As long as the virtue of hope is kept burning within our hearts, evil does not have the last word. It only has the power that all of us consent to give it. Yad Vashem looks to the future, allowing the past to form the actions we all make in the present. I encourage you to pause for a moment and pray for the repose of the souls of all the victims of the Holocaust as well as for their persecutors.

Matthew Gembrowski
Diocese of Saginaw

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