Synagogues and families across the country will this week mark 80 years since Kristallnacht by leaving the lights on over Shabbat.
The United Synagogue drive, launched this week, remembers a night when Nazis torched or vandalised Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues, schools and cemeteries across Germany and Austria, killing almost 100 Jews, many as they slept.
This week the United Synagogue said its simple ‘Leave a Light On’ initiative, which is being supported by The Wiener Library and the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), was being led by shuls – and rightly so.
“More than 250 shuls were set alight and some 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed,” said United Synagogue chief executive Steven Wilson.
“Hundreds of Jewish buildings burned through the night as fire crews were expressly forbidden to dampen the flames. This Shabbat, shuls across the country will commemorate the pogrom by choosing to leave a light burning brightly.”
Launched with an eye-catching poster of a synagogue ablaze, Wilson said individuals and families were welcome to take part in their own homes, adding: “We must remember the event for what it was: a pogrom, an organised violent attack on the Jewish community.”
Gaby Glassman, chair of the Yom Hashoah committee of Pinner Synagogue and a trustee of AJR, paid tribute to the powerful symbolism of the initiative.
“On 9 November 1938, our community synagogues were illuminated,” she said. “On 9 November 2018 we choose to illuminate our synagogues to remember what happened 80 years ago.”
She added: “Nazi behaviour defied international standards but as international response was minimal, they learned they could act with impunity. Times were uncertain and public sentiment was febrile, as now. The message from Kristallnacht is: don’t stand by.”