Today is the day on the Jewish calendar when we mark Holocaust Commemoration Day.
I need to confess, although some of you have heard me say this. We say the we should NEVER FORGET and yet I wonder how many of us watch the news about genocide in Africa and change the channel. There are many accounts that suggest that people knew more or less about what was happening to the Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. And yet…the question that haunts me is whether or not everything was done that could have been done to save Jewish people. When the genocide was occurring in Rwanda, I remember speaking about the O.J. Simpson trial, but never speaking about the genocide. Years later I taught a course at Adat Reyim in 2008 and one at George Mason University in 2011 on the religious response to genocide. The final project for the course at Adat Reyim was for the high school students to do a fundraiser to help victims of genocide. Due to the kindness and connections of a congregant, we were able to send money to Rwanda to help those living in a small village and make a donation to Save Darfur. However this occurred 14 years later…
I feel terribly guilty that as one who has been on so many March of the Living trips and says NEVER FORGET, that I haven’t done more to help victims of genocide. Last night, Yael Ingel, our Israeli educator, shlicha, spoke at an adult education session at Adat Reyim about the power of memory. I hope that as we remember the victims of the Holocaust today, we will remember that there continues to be genocide and do whatever we can to make sure that senseless killing doesn’t continue to occur. Whether contacting political officials, teaching our children about these horrible things, or contacting the Sudanese embassy, each of us needs to commit to do something so that we prove we have not forgotten.
Rabbi Yoachim Prinz, a rabbi in Berlin who served a congregation in New Jersey and shared the podium with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he gave his “I have a dream speech,” once said the greatest sin of the Holocaust was the sin of silence. We have just celebrated Passover where we remember that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt so that each of us can think about the plight of those who are mistreated and oppressed in our world. I hope we will remember by DOING SOMETHING and not be silent!
Rabbi Bruce Aft
GMU Hillel Rabbinic Advisor