Why are we Remembering?

This week has been rather dominated for me by National Holocaust Memorial Day. Tomorrow at 5.45am I will be reflecting on what we can learn from the past on BBC2's Pause for Thought, live with Vanessa Feltz. It's my first slot so I'm a tad nervous, comforted by the fact that surely NO ONE is listening that early?

Last night we hosted a wonderful event at West London for our HMD event. We began with an extended evening service, with extra readings, the most moving of which for me was from Rwanda, read by a wonderful Rwandan woman who is part of our community. We then welcomed Fiyaz Mughal from Faith Matters who has co-authored and produced a booklet on Righteous Muslims who saved Jewish lives in the Holocaust. These stories don't detract from the horror that the majority of populations were capable of, but they are stories that are so rarely heard, particularly in the Jewish community, and that deserve recognition first of all for their own goodness, but also for the hope and inspiration they offer us.

Holocaust memorial Day was instituted ten years ago (Rabbi David Mitchell took me along to the first ever ceremony for my 21st Birthday!) and is an important opportunity for us to think about those horrors. But we mustn't forget that as Jews, our national day for mourning is Yom HaShoah, generally around May time. So HMD must fulfill some other purpose in our calender. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an incredible philosopher (and brother of the renowned Torah scholar Nechamah) said that the Holocaust is something that happened to the Jews, it isn't of the Jews. It was perpetrated by Europeans, and thus it is Europeans that need to consider it and learn from it. So I think he would have really approved of January 27th, the question is, how do we as Jews mark it, and stay sensitive to the fact that while we mourn what was lost, we cannot allow it to define our Judaism.

The answer for me is that HMD is a chance for us to reflect as humans on what can be learned from the horrors of the Second World War, but also to remember that despite saying 'never again' genocide, prejudice and baseless hatred continue to plague humanity. We must ask ourselves what little things we allow to pass, through fear, apathy, ignorance or distance, and ask ourselves how we might be remembered in generations to come - will our untold stories be proudly discovered, shamefully hidden, or unremarkable, because we just didn't know what to do, and so did nothing.


  1. I'm a bit confused by the time difference but I am already up at 5:45 Australia time so should be able to catch this when it is on 1:45 pm over here. Good luck, everything crossed for you. Abi


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