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Disclaimer: I am a Christian gentile and respect those of the Jewish faith.

I am wondering how the Jewish community honors those who are considered to be martyred for their Jewish faith?

Do you have any local or traditional ways of honoring your martyrs, either in public or in private (as in the family)?

What I mean by martyr is someone having died in defense of their Jewish faith, doctrine or heritage. For the sake of this question would it be possible not to include those martyred during World War II. I am more interested in individual martyrdoms or a small group of individuals, say 2 or 3 people (may be increased for a family, etc.).

  • Why not? They should be honored. – ezra Sep 6 '16 at 3:08
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Generally martyrs are not honored in jewish prayer services and places of worships as is done in some other parts of the world. Generally no statues or paintings of them are depicted. That being said: there are times in the jewish calendar when the service brings to mind the suffering of the jewish people and our hope for redemption and the rebuilding of Jeruzalem. This means that on the 9th of Av special dirges (kinnot) are recited in which some of them feature the horrific death of 'the ten martyrs', and as done in some communities on Jom Kippur (e.g., Ten Martyrs).

The focus is not specifically on honoring the martyrs, but as a focus for self-reflection among others. As far as I know, there is no clear custom of honoring specific martyrs.

In addition there is a communal kaddish that is said in most communities at certain times of the year in which martyrs (i.e., those that died 'al kiddush hashem': in sanctification of G'ds name) are commemorated.

There are probably many reasons for why in Judaism there is no specific tradition to honor martyrs, although I would not think it strange if this costum to focus on deifying martyrs is a custom that evolved from the ancestor-worship practices by the romans. Another interesting take on it is written on chabad.org; and approaches it from the perspective that martyrdom is not a virtue to persue; the emphasis in Judaism is to practice it in life:

In Judaism, martyrdom is called Kiddush Hashem—"the sanctification of G‑d's name," and a martyr is called kadosh—"holy." And yet, a Jew is not permitted to seek martyrdom, but rather to seek life and sustain life. True, the Talmud says of those who died al Kiddush Hashem that their place in the world to come is beyond the reach of any created being. But then, the same Talmud also teaches that, "One hour of return and good deeds in this world is more beautiful than all the life of the world to come."

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    Your answer is very clear and understandable and I can appreciate the fear of deifying martyrs. Thanks! – Ken Graham Sep 5 '16 at 14:34
  • You don't say Y'kum Purkun every shabbos? Yizkor on Yom Tov? – user6591 Sep 5 '16 at 15:59
  • @user6591 Do you mean Av Harachamim? Is that focused on honoring the martyrs? He said "there are times in the jewish calendar when the service brings to mind the suffering of the jewish people" – Double AA Sep 7 '16 at 0:24
  • @Double yes just threw that whole page in together. My bad. Holy communities that gave their life for kiddush Hashem sounds like martyrs, not just suffering. And times in the calendar does not seem to imply a weekly occurrence. – user6591 Sep 7 '16 at 0:28
  • Although there are probably several examples of general statements on martyrdom, it remains dissimilar to what non-jewish communities would consider the honoring of martyrs. I think the closest judaism comes to specifically honoring martyrs is the liturgy on the ten martyrs. But it still does'nt come close to the level of deification of martyrs seen in some specific non-jewish religions. If i'm missing something I can try to update the answer – RonP Sep 7 '16 at 10:26
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On Yom Kippur (literally the day of atonement), Ashkenazi Jews read the poem, Eleh Ezkerah (these I shall remember), commemorating the 10 most famous martyrs in Jewish history. Sephardic Jews read it on Tisha B'av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar: Midrash Eleh Ezkerah (Wikipedia).

On Tisha B'av, we also read Kinnos, or sad poems, which discuss the destruction of the first and second Temple, the Crusades, the Holocaust, etc. Many of these Kinnos have stories about martyrs.

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