We are known as the People of the Book, but really, we are the people of our stories.
It's our stories that have sustained us throughout the millennia, our stories that tie us from one generation to the next, our stories that have enabled us to flourish as a people, long after other ancient civilizations vanished.
By passing on our stories, from generation to generation — l'dor vador — we are binding ourselves and our children to the past, and providing the foundation for our future. By telling our stories, we are remembering who we are, where we have been and where we want to go. By telling our stories, we are teaching our children about the glory and the gore.
Now, just days after recounting the story of our liberation from Egypt, we are obligated to recall a much darker part of our history — our near annihilation at the hands of the Nazis.
Yom Hashoah, which falls this year on Sunday, recalls the most brutal chapter in our history. But as time marches on, it becomes increasingly essential that the stories not be lost, that the truth be told. As the number of actual survivors dwindle with each passing year, the eyewitness accounts of the atrocities that Hitler and his executioners committed throughout Europe during World War II become less accessible.
Many of the survivors among us — an estimated 3,000 in our region alone — continue to valiantly tell and retell their stories at community forums, schools and synagogues. They are generous enough to relive the horrors of their youth in order to bear witness for those who view World War II as ancient history.
But now more than ever, the torch has been passed.
The responsibility to remember and to educate now falls to the second and third generations, with an increasing number of passionate grandchildren telling their families' stories through film, literature and even YouTube, educating their peers, denying the deniers.
It falls to institutions like the national Shoah Foundation and the local Holocaust Oral History Archive of Gratz College to preserve the testimonies of those who experienced the horrors of Nazi Europe firsthand. And it falls to the filmmakers and authors, who continue to pump out a mind-boggling library of cultural resources, some admittedly better quality than others.
It is tempting at times to wonder if we've had enough already, whether Holocaust fatigue will undermine the persistent need to educate and inform. The answer for now — and perhaps for always — is no.
It is still incumbent on us this Yom Hashoah to light a candle, attend a memorial event, to embrace a survivor and educate a youth. As painful as it may be, the Shoah is a part of our history.
And so it is among the stories we tell; it is one of the stories that makes us who we are and who we aspire to be.