A Holocaust Remembrance App: Will You Download?

Photo: Courtesy of PocketSchul.
Three and a half decades ago, Congress unanimously voted that "a national day of remembrance of victims of the Holocaust be established in perpetuity and be held annually." Today, the U.S. observes Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. But, how can we define and direct the very act of remembrance?

Believe it or not, there's an app for that. Sacred Ground: A Holocaust Remembrance Ritual was released this week by PocketShul ("where spirit meets technology"). Users can download the free app for a "complete 10-minute immersive experience," including a survivor testimony, prayers sung by cantor Emanuel Perlman, and an essay on remembrance read by Richard Dreyfuss. 

Does it look ridiculous sitting next to Twitter on your phone? Yes. Is it odd to watch a slideshow of Holocaust victims with Instagram notifications popping up every few seconds? Absolutely. But, if anything, this app points out how simple and yet difficult it is to stop for a moment and think. Our lives are jammed with business and distraction. In a perfect world, we might naturally step away from our routines today — or any memorial day — and honor the victims of our own terrible history. But, in reality, we often need a reminder. 

"What can you say about the Holocaust? Nothing can bring back the dead. Nothing can undo the hurt and pain," says Dreyfuss in his essay, read aloud on the app. "Ritual acts and speech, properly designed, can change history and determine destiny."

Co-producer Bill Riley adds that "by reciting or listening to these sacred words, you will perform a ritual — think of it as lighting a candle — that manifests your intention, understanding, and commitment to the idea of 'Never Again.'"

"Never Again" is one of two phrases used to commemorate the Holocaust (and other genocides), the second being "Never Forget." They are two interlocking concepts, reminding us that Never Again means we must Never Forget. Clearly, it is a commitment that we as a people have not yet fulfilled. Genocide Watch reports at least 11 active genocidal operations currently underway, and many more at-risk populations. Though memorializing the dead is not enough, if each person took a moment to actively remember, that would be a great step toward meaningful action. 

Holocaust remembrance doesn't have to look one way. Some people pray and others mourn, but far too many of us simply let it slip our minds. Active remembrance is what we need, and it serves as a reminder, why not have an app? Even if it sits unopened on a million phones, the icon will be there as a small, square signal: Don't forget me.
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