Every Holocaust Memorial Day is different. Every year we have fewer survivors to link us to horror we cannot forget. Every year we feel the lessons of the past are more pressing than the last.
This year is no different. The world is changing. Internationalism is giving way to nationalism, and dangerous games played by those stoking the fears of their kin, so-called ‘strongmen’ invoking blood and boundaries, blaming an ethnic, racial or national ‘other’ for their country’s every ill.
We know it well – we’ve long been the ‘other’. But across the world, new generations forget lessons of the old. Witness the Brexit debate and its focus on economics, when the main reason for uniting Europe – understood by Churchill – was as an antidote to war.
Holocaust Memorial Day – which importantly incorporates lessons from other genocides – is needed both to remember those killed and to remind ourselves of what mankind is capable of if we forget. Indeed, genocide may already have been committed on our watch – of the Rohingya in Myanmar, of the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq. What did we do to stop it, to save them?
When we say ‘never again’ we do not mean ‘never again for Jews’. As a people we take seriously our obligation to heal the world. In today’s age that means bridging divisions and protecting the vulnerable: the blamed, the hated, the targeted and persecuted, the dehumanised, and finally, those to be disposed of.
At Bushey on Sunday, as we laid to rest six unknown Jews killed at Auschwitz for those very reasons, after that very same process of ‘othering,’ each representing a million dead, and as we approach Sunday’s HMD events, we remember how that fight never ends. But a fight it is – for tolerance, against hate – and fight we will. Soldiers against hatred, we salute you.
Our youth revolution
There is a quiet revolution underway in Jewish youth development. For years, there’s been no shortage of opportunities or those willing to help, but it always felt patchy and disjointed.
Then, in 2014, with support from the Wohl Foundation, a new programme was created to bring together all those influencing and impacting a Jewish child’s development – teachers, parents, youth leaders, rabbis, mentors, charities, national award bodies – and a platform for their coordination was created.
Now, after this week’s Big Lottery boost, JLGB is set to roll it out, getting more children and young adults involved and engaged. We all know that when Jews get out there and volunteer we learn and grow.
When that social action is coordinated in the way promised, its effect promises to be revolutionary. Watch this space.