Stacy Gallin

Our Time is Now: Turning Grief into Action

Israel protest against terror - 03/02 2017,

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. These are the five stages of grief put forth by Elisabeth Kübler Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. They are also what many Jews have been feeling since October 7th.

Denial. The Hamas terrorist attacks represented the deadliest 24 hours in Jewish history since the Holocaust. How could this happen? How could Israel, a country with the best military defense force in the world, be subject to this kind of assault? What went wrong?

Anger. The brutality of the crimes committed by Hamas remain sickening. Babies mutilated and burned. Children ripped from their parents’ arms and taken hostage. Women raped and murdered. Innocent civilians from all walks of life killed for no reason other than being Jewish. The deafening silence from so many around the world who refused to condemn Hamas and instead allowed and encouraged protests calling for the extermination of Israel and the Jewish people.

Bargaining. The desperate need to connect with someone – anyone – who understands. Scrolling through social media, listening to families of the hostages, wishing that there was something that we could do to help.

Depression. Watching in disbelief as elite universities hid behind the first amendment, refusing to protect their students from antisemitic hate speech, threats and violence, while feeling helpless and hopeless for the future of society.

Acceptance. We live in a post-October 7th world and things are different now than they were then. We need to accept this new reality and figure out how to move on from here.

Today is November 9, 2023; the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a night when Jews in Germany realized that things were different, and they needed to accept a new reality. There is a plaque at Auschwitz with a quote from George Santayana that reads, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is true that we must be careful not to overuse the Holocaust analogy for fear of depreciating the evil that took place during that time or diminishing the memory of the victims. However, as Santayana argues, we must remember.

We must remember the beliefs, words, ideologies and actions that led to the Holocaust.  We must remember the rabid antisemitism that was left unchecked by so many throughout the world.  We must remember the lack of moral clarity and ethical leadership on display, even in countries home to the most advanced thinkers of their time. We must remember what can happen when hierarchies of human life are arbitrarily created based on race, religion, gender or any other divisive characteristic. We must remember what takes place when propaganda and misinformation are spread. Most importantly, we must remember what the world looks like when evil is allowed to reign free because good people remain silent.

It looks a lot like November 9, 1938. It looks a lot like October 7, 2023. The difference is that we remember, and we refuse to accept this as our new reality.

We’ve been through the five stages of grief. We have had time to mourn and process our feelings. By no means can our grieving process be complete when there are still hostages being held and people unaccounted for; children without parents, parents without children; people missing their loved ones. But we are a strong people, perhaps out of desire, perhaps out of necessity, and we know we need to keep going into the next five stages: Resilience. Unification. Organization. Mobilization. Action.

Resilience. The Jewish people have a long history of being attacked for our beliefs. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that we hear the chants calling for our destruction.  We get knocked down, and then we get back up, stronger than we were before.

Unification. We are stronger because we pull together. Over the past few weeks, we have seen Jews from all over the world reaching out to each other to offer support, be it physical, financial, or emotional. This show of unity is what bonds us together. Our beliefs may be different, we may not pray exactly the same way, but at our core we are Jewish, we are proud, and we aren’t going to let anybody take that away from us.

Organization. Our enemies have employed a multi-pronged approach to try to destroy us. Hamas has very literally tried to wipe all traces of Judaism off the planet, while others have been more subtle about their antisemitism, couching it behind phrases like “moral equivalency” or “freedom of speech.” This has required an organized, well thought out counterattack to ensure that we protect the physical and emotional safety of Jewish people of all ages.

Mobilization. Gathering supplies for IDF soldiers. Creating support groups and legal entities to fight antisemitism on campus. Withdrawing funding from colleges and universities.  Organizing prayer services, candlelight vigils, rallies, and empty Shabbat tables to make sure the world does not forget the hostages still in captivity. We are using our energy and skillset to mobilize.

Action. We are at a unique point in history, one that differs from where we were 85 years ago.  We have the freedom and the power to act. Every one of us can do something. No matter what it is, each and every prayer, voice, and action all matter.

33 days later, 85 years later, it’s our time. When history looks back at this moment, what we do now is going to make a difference. Let’s be resilient, unified, and organized. Let’s mobilize and, above all, else, let’s take action to make sure that this time, when we say “Never Again,” we keep our promise.

About the Author
Dr. Stacy Gallin is the Founding Director of the Benjamin Ferencz Institute for Ethics, Human Rights and the Holocaust, formerly the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, located in New Jersey. She is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University and Co-Chair of the Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust of the International Chair in Bioethics, a WMA Cooperation Centre.
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