Resources to commemorate the Shoah in Christian services

“Children in turmoil”

Resources to commemorate the Shoah in Christian services

                                              Sunday May 5, 2024                                             

During the Second World War, the Nazis murdered six million Jews and many others. Jews call this disaster the Shoah, “the annihilation” Members of the Christian Jewish Dialogue of Montreal (CJDM) have organized a Christian Commemoration of the Shoah since 1979 in Christian churches in the greater Montreal area. The CJDM also invites Christian communities to join their Jewish brothers and sisters in remembrance and prayer, by  commemorating the Shoah during their own religious services on Sunday May 5. This can be done by integrating some of the elements suggested in this document. Most of them can be used either for in person or for online worship.

I. Introduction

During World War II, the Nazis murdered six million Jews and many others in an unprecedented catastrophe, the Holocaust, a tragedy which the Jewish community refers to as the Shoah, the purposeful “annihilation” of the Jews by the Nazis. Many survivors of the Holocaust have settled in Canada after the war to begin a new life for themselves, their families, and their descendants.

Every year, members of the Jewish community remember their pain and share their experiences during the Day of the Shoah or Yom HaShoah, some 12 days after the beginning of the Jewish Passover. In 1999 this day was officially recognized by the Quebec National Assembly, which invited people to share in the remembrance and to join the Jewish community in its mourning and reflections on the lessons of the Holocaust. The Canadian Government did the same in 2003.

Jewish communities are commemorating Yom HaShoah today, May 5. We wish to join them and express our compassion for the immense suffering of victims and survivors of the Holocaust. We will do it with texts, prayers, and ritual elements suggested by the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Montreal.

We will do so with a special thought for the children who were caught up in this turmoil and for all the victims of the human tragedies that still affect our world. As we listen, reflect and pray, let us ask God to touch our minds and hearts and to sustain our commitment to promoting respect, justice, peace and love in our society.

II. Biblical readings

If it is allowed by the liturgical practice of the congregation, one the following readings may be used.

“I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 1:22 – 2:10*)

(Moses as a child escapes death thanks to the courage of his mother and sister and the compassion of Pharaoh's daughter)

122 (In those days …) Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, "Every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile, but let every girl live." 21 A certain man of the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw how beautiful he was, she hid him for three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she got a wicker basket for him and caulked it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child into it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. 4 And his sister stationed herself at a distance, to learn what would befall him.

5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the Nile, while her maidens walked along the Nile. She spied the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to fetch it. 6 When she opened it, she saw that it was a child, a boy crying. She took pity on it and said, "This must be a Hebrew child." 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get you a Hebrew nurse to suckle the child for you?" 8 And Pharaoh's daughter answered, "Yes." So the girl went and called the child's mother.

 9 And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will pay your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, who made him her son. She named him Moses, explaining, "I drew him out of the water."

“Get up, take the child and his mother” (Matthew 2:1.13-23*)

(Herod, fearing a rival, had all children under two slaughtered. But Joseph, warned in a dream, takes action to bring his family to safety, first in Egypt, then in Nazareth after Herod's death).

 21 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea (…) 13 (…) an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

 16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked (…), he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under (…). 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

 19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."

III. Commemorating the Shoah

Survivors’ stories

Children in the turmoil of the Shoah

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, around 1.6 million Jewish children were living in the territories that German forces and their allies were to occupy. By the end of the European conflict in May 1945, around 1.5 million of them had perished, victims of a systematic programme of genocide.

Only 6 to 11% survived, most because they were hidden. Some children were entrusted to the families of Christian friends or neighbours, or were taken in by religious institutions. Others were able to live with their families in hiding, sometimes with the complicity of an entire village. This is the case of Muguette Myers.

The story of Muguette Myers

Muguette Myers was born in 1931 in Paris (France). She lost her father when she was three years old. When the war broke out in 1939, Muguette left the city with her school. Her mother and brother fled to the small village of Champlost, 160 kilometers from Paris. Muguette joined them a few months later.

The family returned to Paris in 1941 and managed to evade capture on numerous occasions thanks to the help of friends and strangers and, sometimes, by sheer luck. In July 1942, Muguette narrowly escaped the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of Parisian Jews by fleeing the day before it took place. The family went back to Champlost. Everyone in the village knew they were Jewish but no one denounced them. The mayor ripped up letters of denunciation while the priest advised them to take French sounding names to keep their identity hidden. He gave Muguette a new Catholic name, Marie, taught her catechism and made sure that she attended mass every Sunday.

Muguette, her mother and her brother stayed in the village until the Liberation, and then returned to Paris. In 1947, the family immigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal. Muguette married in 1951 and had two children. In 2015, she published her memoirs, called Where Courage lives.


Commemorative rite

(If permitted by the liturgical practice of the congregation, six commemorative candles, placed on a table, are lit one after the other before each intention. Otherwise, a visual or musical support evoking the memory of the Shoah may be used.)

Leader: Let us pray now for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and for the victims of all the other human tragedies still plaguing our world. Let us think especially of the children caught up in this turmoil, and commit ourselves to ensuring that such atrocities never happen again.

(If candles are lit, the following paragraph is added: Candle lighting is an integral part of Holocaust Memorial ceremonies. The candle as a symbol of the Shoah is powerful. On the one hand, fire symbolizes destruction and death. But the flame is also a symbol of hope and light and the future. As we light these candles and as we pray together, let us shine light on the darkness of the Holocaust.)

We invite you to join in with a responsive reading after each prayer.

(A candle is lit by different persons before each prayer) 

  1. Jewish victims 

Leader: We remember the Jewish victims, of which more than one million children,   murdered in the camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmo, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka and elsewhere during the Shoah. We are called on this day and always to love one another, and to preserve the memory of the six million lives lost. As we remember,

We are called to preserve their memory forever!

And let us say it together:

All: We are called to preserve their memory forever!   

  1. Survivors

Leader: With this second candle, we remember the Jewish survivors, these resilient men, women, and children scarred by this horrible event, but who have rebuilt their lives, here and elsewhere in the world. As we remember,

We are called to honour the gift of life!

All: We are called to honour the gift of life.

  1. Other victims of Nazism

Leader: We remember other victims of Nazism, including Christians who resisted because of their faith, Jehovah's Witnesses, persons with disabilities, Roma or Sinti, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. As we remember,

We are called to respect diversity!

All: We are called to respect diversity!  

  1. Victims of other genocides

Leader: We remember the victims of other genocides, past and present, persecuted because of their origin, culture or religion, and those who are displaced or exiled by wars and ethnic conflicts. As we remembeer,

We are called to be compassionate and caring!

All: We are called to be compassionate and caring.

  1. Righteous

Leader: We remember the Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews during the Shoah. We are grateful to the righteous among us today who campaign passionately for human rights around the world. As we remember,

We are called to be righteous!

All: We are called to be righteous!

  1. Liberators and peace makers

Leader: With the sixth and final candle, we remember the brave soldiers who liberated the concentration camps, those who served with the allied forces, and all those who have devoted their lives to peace and freedom. As we remember,

We are called to be peacemakers!

All: We are called to be peacemakers!

Closing prayer

Leader: Holy One of Blessing, please accept the prayer of our hearts. You call us to take care of one another, especially children and the vulnerable. Help us to refrain from silence, help us to speak out and lift our voices, to move into action, and to prevent such horrors from happening again. Guide our heads, hands, feet and hearts, as we work towards building justice and peace for all humanity. And let us say together : Amen!

All : Amen!

IV. Songs and prayers

A yidish Kind, by Chana Kheytin-Vinsteyn

"A Jewish Child" was written after the children’s massacre in the Siauliai ghetto in Lithuania. The song describes a mother who brings her child to stay with a family in a small village in Lithuania, and the torment of their separation.  Chana Kheytin-Vinsteyn (1925-2004), was deported to the Stutthof concentration camp. She survived the war and lived in New York. A recording is available on the website of Yad Vashem :

In a distant townlet small

Stands a house without a wall.

Through a tiny window pane

To see the world the children strain,

Little boys, minds bright and sound,

Little girls with blond braids wound,

And amid this precious pack

Also peer two eyes so black.

Eyes so black and full of charm,

Nose so small, so pert and warm,

Lips - just right to love and kiss,

Deep black curls hard to resist.

T’was his mother brought him here,

Wrapped in night and full of fear.

Kissed him hard with love and pain,

Quietly tried to explain:

— Here, my child, your place will be.

Listen, child, you must hear me.

I have brought you here to hide,

Threatened is your life outside.

With these children you will play,

Still and quiet you will stay,

Yiddish words can’t come from you,

You no longer are a Jew.

But the child pleads hard, cries too:

– Mother, let me stay with you,

Please don’t leave me here alone.

His crying is a breathless moan.

With her kiss she tries to heal,

Comfort she does not instil,

Child screams no in panic tone,

I’ll not stay here all alone.

In her arms she gathers him.

Softly, sweetly hums a hymn;

Sings — oh, little son, don’t weep.

Till she lulls him into sleep.

Then her own tears freely flow,

And she leaves the house to go

Into night with fear and dread.

As she walks- looks straight ahead.

It is cold, the wind blows wild,

A voice is heard; it cries — my child,

You are left in strangers’ care,

I had no choice, just your welfare,

Mother walks, and speaks out loud,

Cold and late it’s dark with clouds,

Wind blows in her face so wild,

God protect my only child!

The house is odd – with people full.

Little boy is mute and still.

Speech nor needs nor will has he,

His smile is seldom there to see.

For him there is no day or night,

No sleep though dark -no play though light.

Vasilco - a name that’s strange.

On his shirt — his heart estranged.

Mother wanders here and there,

Like child neither speaks nor cares;

No one knows her tragic state,

And she waits, and waits, and waits.

Like Jochebed and her child,

Moses’ cradle sailed the Nile,

All alone through wind and wild,

Left without her only child.

El Maleh Rachamim

El Maleh Rachamim (God filled with mercy) is a funeral prayer used primarily by the Ashkenazi Jewish community. This prayer is recited at the funeral service, at the grave of the departed, on remembrance days, and on other occasions during which the memory of the dead is recalled.

Listen to El Maleh Rachamim:

God, filled with mercy, dwelling on high, grant perfect rest under the wings of Your Divine Presence, among the holy and the pure who shine as the light of the firmament, to the souls of our beloveds whom we recall with blessing on this day.

Master of compassion, gather them forever in the shelter of Your wings; may their souls be bound up in the bonds of life.

The Eternal is their inheritance; may they rest in peace. And let us say Amen.

The Kaddish

The “Mourners’ Kaddish” is an Aramaic prayer recited as part of the mourning rituals in Judaism. The word Kaddish means “sanctification.” The Kaddish makes no mention of death; we say Kaddish to show that despite our losses, we can still praise God. It is an expression of acceptance of Divine judgment and righteousness at a time when a person may easily become bitter and reject God. Another explanation is that by sanctifying God's name in public, the mourners increase the merit of the deceased person. Kaddish is a way in which we continue to show respect and concern for our loved ones even after they have died.

Listen to the Kaddish:

Magnified and sanctified is God’s great Name in this world, created as God willed. May God’s majesty be established in our lifetime and the life of all Israel, and of all humankind, speedily and soon, and let us say: Amen.

May God’s great Name be blessed forever, in all worlds, unto eternity. Blessed, praised, and glorified, extolled and honoured, adorned, exalted and acclaimed, be the Name of the Holy One, the blessed, beyond all prayer and song, praise and consolation that may be uttered in this world; and let us say: Amen. 

May there be abundant divine peace, bringing good life for us, and for all Israel, and for all humankind and let us say: Amen.

May the Source of Peace in celestial heights grant peace to us, to all Israel, and to all humankind, and let us say: Amen.

V. Final blessing. The Priestly Blessing (Num. 6:24-26)

In this priestly blessing, we ask for the peace of God, which includes not only the absence of war, but also good health, security, inner harmony, wellness, prosperity, and long life. It brings about both physical and social health.

Listen to the priestly blessing:


May God bless you and keep you. May God’s light shine upon you, and may God be gracious to you. May you feel God’s presence within you, and may you find peace.

All: Amen!

VI. Video Resources

A video of a slightly different version of the Commemorative prayer is available

A video of the 2022 Christian Commemoration of the Shoah is available at:

Sponsors: The Christian Jewish Dialogue of Montreal is sponsored by The Orthodox Clergy Association of Quebec, CIJA-Quebec, The Canadian Ukrainian Congress, The Anglican Church of Canada, The Catholic Church in Montreal, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, ThePresbyterian Church in Canada, The United Church of Canada – Conseil régional Nakonha:ka Regional Council, The Unitarian Church of Montreal. We express special thanks to the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and to theMontreal Holocaust Museum.

Planning Committee: Pierre Anctil, Eszter Andor, Jean Duhaime, David-Roger Gagnon, Ellen Greenspan, Fatima Glowa, Frank Lofeodo, Alessandra Luciani, Alain Mongeau.

For information: Pierre ANCTIL, 514-261-5265

Give us your feedback: tell us about your experience or leave comments on:

Christian Jewish Dialogue of Montreal.

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“Children in turmoil” 45th Christian Commemoration of the Shoah

Montreal, April 15, 2024. The Christian Jewish Dialogue of Montreal (CJDM) will hold its 45th annual Christian Commemoration of the Shoah on Sunday, April 28, 2024 at 4:00 p.m. The theme this year is “Children in turmoil”.

This event will take place at the Unitarian Church of Montreal (5035 De Maisonneuve Bd West, Montreal H4A 1Y5  Vendôme). The commemoration will be in person and mostly in French.

This special service will bring together Jews, Christians, and others to commemorate the six million Jews and one million other victims of the Holocaust, also known as the Shoah (“the annihilation” in Hebrew), during World War II.

Co-presided by Rev. Diane Rollert and Rabbi Ellen Greenspan, the commemoration will include a testimony by Holocaust survivor Muguette Myers. There will be a candle-lighting ceremony in rembrance of all the victims of the Holocaust, especially children. The musical part will be performed by Rona Nadler, cantor soloist at Temple Emanu-el-Beth Sholom.

To take part in the commemoration, registration is required by Thursday, April 25 at the latest, by completing the following form:

Other Christian communities in Quebec and elsewhere are invited to commemorate the Shoah during their own religious services on May 5th. The CJDM has prepared resources which can be integrated into both in person or online worship. The resources are available on the website of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism:

Yom Hashoah (“the Day of the Shoah”) was established in 1951. In Montreal, the first Christian Commemoration of the Shoah took place at Christ Church Cathedral in 1979. Since then, different Christian churches have engaged with members of the Jewish community in a shared act of remembrance on the Sunday closest to Yom Hashoah. In 1999, the National Assembly officially recognized the observance of Yom Hashoah and invited Quebec citizens to share in the memories and mourning of the Jewish community and to ponder the lessons learned from the Shoah.

Founded in 1971, the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Montreal is composed of representatives of various sponsoring organizations, who come together on a regular basis in order to build and strengthen mutual understanding and support between Christian and Jewish communities.


Information :

Contact : Pierre ANCTIL, 514-261-5265

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The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism will always be committed to safeguarding our donors’ and benefactors’ privacy and personal information. We look forward to continuing our commitment as we operate in line with Law 25 in Quebec, which strengthens the privacy rights of all individuals. For more information on Law 25, please enter the link here.

The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism will always be committed to safeguarding our donors’ and benefactors’ privacy and personal information. We look forward to continuing our commitment as we operate in line with Law 25 in Quebec, which strengthens the privacy rights of all individuals. For more information on Law 25, please enter the link here.