Yizkor means "remembrance" and is marked with a special service held in the synagogue on significant holidays:
- Yom Kippur
- The last day of Passover
- The last day of Shavuot
- The day following Sukkot (Shmini Atzeret)
We stop on these major holidays to remember, because the holidays are expressions of the Jewish nation celebrating together. We realize that we are only here as Jews because of those who came before us, who made the decision to be Jews sometimes against all odds. The connection to generations past and loved ones gone is made at Yizkor.
In some synagogues, before the private Yizkor prayers, the congregation as a whole recites Yizkor for those who perished in the Holocaust, and for the soldiers who gave their lives for the State of Israel.
On the afternoon before these days, when ushering in the holiday, one should light a yahrtzeit candle at home in memory of the loved one. These candles burn continuously for approximately 24 hours, and are available at any supermarket or Jewish bookstore.
On the day of Yizkor, one should attend services in the morning. Midway through the service, those who have never been mourners will be asked to leave the sanctuary, while those who have sat shiva in the past will remain. Often someone will speak briefly, and then all recite prayers in personal tribute to their loved ones.
We pray that in return for our devotion and generosity, God should recognize the new source of merit for the soul whose memory is now influencing our conduct.
After the holiday is complete, be sure to give tzedakah, a charitable donation, in your loved one's memory.