This Friday has us observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We will join with others from around the world to remember and honor the six million whose lives are no more. We will pledge yet again to build a world predicated on understanding and compassion, one that allows for diversity along religious and ethnic and racial lines. We will remind our children that difference is not to be shunned or feared, but rather embraced and understood and celebrated.
The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center housed at KI is a treasure for our immediate and extended community. The museum reminds us: “The Holocaust was no accident. It occurred because people made deliberate choices employing all of the apparatus in a fascist state to engage in the mass murder of 6,000,000 Jews. The Nazis murdered millions of non-Jews too. This includes political dissidents, intellectuals, LGBTQA+, labor union leaders, Disabled Persons, Roma, and civilians in every country the German military conquered. Prejudice, bigotry, and racism are social poisons that erode the fabric of a democratic society. Silence, apathy, and indifference are the enemies of a pluralistic democracy.”
If you have not yet spent time in the museum, I urge you to do so. It is incredibly accessible and led by extraordinary staff and volunteers. Stop by. Bring a friend. Bring your family. As we lose more and more survivors of the Holocaust every day, the sacred work of preserving and honoring this darkest period of our past falls on us. If we do not know the story and tell the story, who will exactly? Or, as the Mishnah puts it: ‘If not now, when?”
Our Friday night service this week will serve as an extraordinary commemoration of the Shoah. We will join with guests, hear stirring music, listen to testimony, and together reflect on what it means to bring the lessons of Nazi Europe into our lives and the lives of our children. Cantor Levy has worked so hard to make this night a reality. I do hope you will join us.
As the grandson of survivors, the Holocaust has forever been a part of my consciousness. It informs my work as a rabbi. It has shaped me profoundly as a Jew and a person. Their lives enabled my own. Their stories are part of my own. Indeed, their great pain and sacrifice allowed for our chapter of Jewish life, yours and mine.
In an age when terms like ‘tolerance’ and ‘empathy’ are in peril, when hate gains traction before our very eyes, the messages of the Holocaust beg to be heard and internalized. Against the backdrop of tyrants and would-be dictators, Judaism brings us once and again to the need for community building, tikkun olam, on-going learning and right action.
As the Jews narrowly escaped a despotic Pharaoh in this week’s Torah portion, and so barely survived the machinations of Hitler not a century ago, we must say it loud and clear here in 2023: “Never Again.”