Seventy years after the liberation of the Nazi death camps, anti-Semitism is alive and well in the heart of Europe.
Yom Hashoah hits hard every year, but this year in particular, the day set aside to remember the Holocaust weighs particularly heavy.
As we mark 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, Dachau and other infamous death camps, we are confronted with the all-too-vivid reminder that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the heart of Europe, where our fellow Jews burned just a few generations ago.
In the past year alone — from the fallout from last summer’s war with Hamas to the murders in Paris, Copenhagen and beyond — we have witnessed fiery displays of blatant anti-Semitic violence that can’t help but invoke memories of Hitler’s henchmen taking to the streets to destroy Jewish property and Jewish life.
Yom Hashoah, which this year falls on April 16, provides an important opportunity to remember and to honor the 6 million who were murdered simply because they were Jews.
But it is also a time to heed the lessons of the survivors among us who, though ever fewer in numbers, daily demonstrate strength and resilience. So many have moved on with their lives, never forgetting the horror but not letting it overtake their existence.
We must do what is necessary to fight anti-Semitism. We must stand up to it individually and collectively. We must pressure governments around the world to act tough against the elements that perpetuate it. We must educate our youth with the lessons of the Holocaust.
And we must insist that this is not just a Jewish problem, but rather a societal problem that threatens the values of democracy and freedom and civility that we hold dear.
But like the brave survivors in our midst, we also must not let anti-Semitism paralyze us. As scary as events around the world are, this is not 1939. Parallels might exist but there are also many differences, including the existence of the state of Israel, whose 67th birthday we celebrate next week. Israel changes everything, knowing that there is a place of refuge for every Jew who needs it.
So yes, let’s come out and show our respects at the community-wide Annual Memorial Ceremony for the Six Million Jewish Martyrs on Sunday, April 19, at 1 p.m., at 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Or participate in one of the other numerous commemorations taking place at area synagogues or other venues.
Then let’s vow to reinvigorate our efforts to contain, shame and restrain those who seek to harm us. But let’s also recommit to building a vibrant Jewish life for our families and our communities, like so many survivors have. That might just be our best defense of all. l\