Milwaukee to virtually mark Holocaust, plus Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day

Volunteers and staff organizers have decided the coronavirus outbreak will not stop them 

The Milwaukee Jewish community is moving ahead with a digital commemoration of Yamim days – Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). 

Presentations of speakers, ceremonies and music can be seen on Facebook beginning on Sunday, April 19 for Yom HaShoah, Monday, April 27 for Yom HaZikaron and Wednesday, April 29 for Yom HaAtzmaut. Viewers can access the events through the Milwaukee Jewish Federation website or Facebook page. 

Matt Kleinman and other Jewish leaders are used to being on stage as live speakers welcoming hundreds of Milwaukee Jews at these events. That all changed with Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order and social distancing practices. Physical plans become virtual plans. 

“Virtual is what we’ll do,” said Kleinman, co-chair of the Yom HaZikaron celebration. “Thankfully people have been working this out for a couple of weeks now so there shouldn’t be any issues with it.” 

Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron will be local virtual ceremonies and Yom HaAtzmaut will be a global presentation put on by the Jewish Federations of North America.  

“It’s sad we won’t get to see people in person, but it also widens the tent for people to take part,” said Rabbi Hannah Wallick, who oversees the Israel Center, a department of the Federation that is responsible for the Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations.  

“I hope people will take the time to watch the events online,” Wallick said. It’s really important for people’s mental health that they can still come together as they have done and really show the strength of the community.” 

The Yom HaShoah commemoration will be put on by the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, a program of the Federation.  

Uria Roth, the Milwaukee community shaliach (emissary from Israel) is a key part of the planning for Yamim. “At first I thought we can’t do anything online. It won’t be the same and I didn’t know if it’s going to be worth it, but I saw the enthusiasm and the commitment of people who want to step in and take part in it. 

Additionally, on May 3 at noon, the Federation will host an online performance of Israeli musician Shai Tsabari who was to have appeared April 28 at the Miramar Theatre. Roth will interview Tsabari and then he will perform a half a dozen  songs. He is known for taking verses from the Talmud and the Torah and turning them into rock songs.  

Milwaukee is a unique Jewish community in that it has traditionally developed a lot of local programming during Yamim, said Gail Adams, co-chair of the Yom HaZikaron event. “Many other communities just plug into a ceremony going on in Israel and participate that way. It’s a tradition here that we are proud of and really want to continue.” 

Roth believes the online events “will bring a sense of community back. Although we are distancing from each other, this will be an opportunity to do something altogether. More than ever, this community needs Yamim.”