"Remembrance" is a long-established Jewish value. For thousands of years we have meticulously observed the yartzheits of loved ones who have passed on, in order to remember them. And our observance of almost every major Jewish holiday has some kind of historical remembrance component to it. We affirm our identity by acknowledging our past: what happened to the ones before us intensely shapes who we are today.
But it seems to me that there is an additional urgency to our observance of Yom HaShoah this year (to be observed this coming Sunday night and Monday).
Anxiety about anti-Semitism has been a prominent part of our own domestic news cycle during the last year. This has been substantiated by a just-released poll from the Anti Defamation League, which finds that:
For the first time ADL found a majority of Americans (52 percent) saying that they are concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews [...]. More than eight in 10 Americans (84 percent) believe it is important for the government to play a role in combating anti-Semitism, up from 70 percent in 2014.
The point of these concerning findings is that there is a growing perception about the 'possibility' of significant anti-Semitism taking place here, an acknowledgement that many of us might have been hesitant to make even a few years ago.
Yom HaShoah, then, becomes more than a day devoted to the remembrance of those horrors which took place in the past. Yom HaShoah takes on new relevance as an opportunity for us to come together and affirm: Never Again. We will not let hate and senseless discrimination rise again in our world in this moment. We will not stand for hate that is directed toward the Jewish People. And we will not stand for hate that is directed toward others.
Please join us this Sunday evening April 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Scarsdale Synagogue. With our friends and neighbors from Shaarei Tikvah, we will once again stand together: to remember our past, even as we re-dedicate ourselves toward building a world that is safe for everyone and filled with an abiding sense of peace.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Scarsdale Synagogue's own Monica Gordon will be sharing her family's testimony during our service on Sunday night. If you can't join us you can view the online video testimonies of other survivors collected by Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation.
Take a moment to reflect on the Holocaust by way of the art that was created during it. View some highlights from a new exhibition in Berlin that just opened.
Consider these words from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism. They were written in commemoration of last year's observance of Yom HaShoah. His comments explore the intersecting Holocaust histories of the discrimination against the Jewish people and the discrimination against those who identified as LGBTQ. They are a reminder to us that "Never Again" means "Never Again for Everyone."