The Power of Remembering

by Jody Spiegel - Director of The Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program


There is no word for history in the Hebrew language. (Historia, is from the Greek.) It’s probably because there’s no such thing as “history” in Judaism.

Zikaron (memory), however, features prominently and cuts straight to the core of Judaism’s perception of the past. Like Rabbi Saks says, “History” is his-story, not mine. The first two letters of “memory,” however, spell me. Without me there is no memory. Memory is a part of me, and history, apart from me.”

Put differently: History is made up of facts, and memory of experience. Judaism is less interested in dead facts than in breathing, living experiences.

It is for this reason that much of Jewish tradition and ritual draw on reenactment. We don’t commemorate, we remember. We don’t recount someone else’s story, we relive our own.

This is the case of almost every Jewish holiday. On Sukkot, for example, we move into huts for a week to recall the booths we lived in throughout our desert