Should we have two prominent, permanent and public Holocaust learning centres less than a mile apart from each other in central London? Can you have too much Holocaust education?
That was the suggestion this week, after the Imperial War Museum – whose own revamped exhibit opens in 2020 – struck a match, lit its cigarette, looked the new National Memorial proposal and said: ‘This town doesn’t need the two of us.’
A survey of anti-Semitic attitudes in the UK, published last month by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, found that uncomfortable numbers still think “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”.
This is mirrored in the United States, where a quarter feel that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust”. You can’t over-talk the Holocaust because no one can do too much to avoid repeating it. Indeed, the day we stop remembering what happened is the day we’re condemned to.
Still, back to the point in question: do you need both the IWM’s new interactive Holocaust centre and the National Memorial’s underground learning centre a stone’s throw away from each other? Granted, if you were to design London from scratch, they probably wouldn’t be so close. But can they complement each other, rather than compete? Absolutely. It’s been known for almost two years that the Westminster project will include a learning centre alongside a memorial. So why has the IWM chosen to only speak out now? That it will be in such a prominent location – next to Parliament – is also crucial and a sign of the importance placed on Holocuast education across the political spectrum.
There are always new ways to help embed learning, so it is no bad thing to have two fine centres showing different aspects of a huge subject in a city whose streets are trod by the tens of millions. Bring them both on.
Moral fork in the road
Renowned American Orthodox scholar Rabbi Moshe Tendler warned that by arguing against organ donation, Jews “separate themselves from the rest of humanity in a negative way”. He continued: “A Jew can get an organ from a brain stem [dead] patient because he is considered dead, but can’t give an organ because he is considered alive.”
Tendler’s profound point came to mind again this week in the wake of the prime minster’s announcement that the Government will “shift the balance in favour of organ donation”, so people will need to opt out rather than opt in.
What constitutes death under halacha is, of course, one of the debates of our time, with the London Beth Din ruling brain death is not considered final under Jewish law.
With 50,000 people in the UK enduring a wait for a life-saving transplant in the last 10 years and some 6,000 – including 270 children – dying before transplant, new effective ways of encouraging donation are desperately needed. Our community, along with other faith groups, finds itself at a moral fork in the road.