In the aftermath of the Holocaust—Shoah—little has been done rabbinically. Much has been written, including by rabbis, but in all honesty, Rabbinic Judaism has continued as if no catastrophe has occurred in the very recent past, affecting many still alive, their descendants and all the rest of us.
This is the sad fact. If one enters the synagogue, looks into the Siddur—traditional Jewish prayer book, and seeks a change, even a mention of the Holocaust and the devastating loss of 6 million Jews, one would in most instances come away bewildered.
In very recent years, some Siddurim and Mahazorim have included a prayer—tefillah—known as a E-l Maleh Rahamim—to be recited during the Yizkor prayers—Hazkarat Neshamot—on Yom Kippur and at the end of the Shalosh Regalim—Three Festivals of Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot (Shemini Atzeret) for Ashkenazic Jews. The recently published The Koren Siddur by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, includes one such prayer on pages 802-3.
Some pioneering work was done by Rabbi Jules Harlow of the Rabbinical Assembly, with the issuing of what became known as the Harlow Mahzor for the High Holy Days. The entire Martyrology service was revamped to include many tragedies that befell Jews throughout the millennia, to include prayers for the victims of the Shoah, all woven into the Eleh Ezkirah recitations.
Sadly, Harlow’s efforts were met with some resistance, due to unfamiliarity with the lengthy prayers and readings. Many quickly skipped through his powerful writings and quotations.
Another powerful work known as The Shoah Scroll—Megillat Hashoah—“The Scroll of the Holocaust” has in recent years appeared and can be incorporated in Holocaust observances.
Tisha B’Av—Fast of the Ninth of Av has been used by many congregations as a time to incorporate in the recitation of Kinot—Prayers of Lamentation, lamentations designed in similar fashion to those of the Middle Ages which include the Shoah.
It is hard to say how effective these efforts are, due to relatively small attendance and the very large number of prayers already part of such services.
For the most part, congregations often leave Holocaust remembrances, especially on Yom HaShoah, to Holocaust organizations in their local communities. Naturally, this is uneven due to the unavailability in some communities of such organizations and groups, and due to a lack of support within some segments of the Jewish community, often not relating well to more secular leadership within the organized Jewish community.
Much more needs to be done and I am sure will be done in the years ahead.