Today is Yom Hashoah, the Jewish day of remembrance for the Holocaust. We remember that the Holocaust was a loss for the Jewish community at large, and not just those with European ancestry. I read an editorial published for today with the following quote:
In the States, commemorating Yom HaShoah feels much more remote. Yellow candles are distributed to congregants by mail, but few remember to light them.
On a Sunday that falls closest to the date, a memorial event is offered. It begins, and it ends. The majority of the Jewish community does not attend, and there is no communal pressure for them to do so. A small percentage of American Jewry chooses to include itself in communal events, but most tend to marginalize the day. Simply put: in America, we have to opt-in.
Not so in Israel. There is no ability to opt-out. We purposely surround ourselves with the stories, the sirens, and the sadness.Lisa Silverstein Tzur
Not only is that act of forgetting and opting out distinctly un-Jewish, but American Jews are losing that privilege to forget. Jews that enable neo-Nazis to enact horrific events against Jews, like the synagogue shootings, by either outright support, inaction, or something in between need to do better. Jews that enable similar empowerment of the violent right against any other minority similarly need to do better. Today we remember the lost lives of Jews in particular, but the call to “never forget” is to empower us to fight back against all injustice for all oppressed people. We just celebrated Passover, which is a holiday commemorating an explicitly Jewish exodus. But we use our collective memory as a call to action in the present to help all oppressed people.
Jews, do not forget. Do not turn away. Do not hide behind claims of hyperbole and selfishly individualistic calls for “every person for themselves” to defer responsibility. Not responsibility for the violence that is occurring, but responsibility to the betterment of the future.
“Never forget” is not a passive motto. It is a call to action. It’s not about lighting a candle, it’s about lighting a fire.