The Shema is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to One God. It is said upon arising in the morning and upon going to sleep at night. It is said when praising God and when beseeching Him. It is the first prayer that a Jewish child is taught to say. It is the last words a Jew says prior to death.
There is a story that has always resonated in regard to this prayer:
In 1945, Rabbi Eliezer Silver was sent to Europe to help reclaim Jewish children who had been hidden during the Holocaust with non-Jewish families, and were now spread around different orphanages. How, after so long, would the Rabbi be able to discover these Jewish children, especially when many were told to hide their Judaism? Well, he would go to these orphanages and gather the children. Loudly and wholeheartedly, he would sing: Shemaaa Yisrael, Adonaiii Eloheinu, Adonaiii eeechaad.
Then he would look at the children in search for those with tears in their eyes – those children, whose distant memory of being Jewish was of their mothers putting them to bed each night, covering their eyes and reciting the Shema.
יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד
ברוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד