Aaron Benson

The Brutal Truth of International Holocaust Day

International Holocaust Memorial Day is not a Jewish holiday. That is on Yom haShoah in the spring on the 27th of Nissan. It ties into the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and it is also part of series of special days in Israel connected to its Independence Day.

I intensely dislike IHMD. What if anything non-Jews get from it, I don’t know.  Jews, I suppose, can learn a valuable lesson, but a brutal one.

The UN was formed in 1945 in response to the Second World War. In 1945, it did not create a day to memorialize the 6 million Jews nor the millions more all killed by the Nazis.

They did not create such a holiday in 1955. Nor in 1965. Nor in 1975. Or 1985. Or 1995. Only in 2005, at Israel’s proposal, was the day instituted. For an institution bathed in the filth of antisemitism, one day in January is not a changing of ways or a recognition of responsibility, it is window dressing. It’s a Facebook like to an acquaintance’s birthday fundraiser or putting a leaf on your packaging to be environmentally conscious. It is demeaning. And insulting.

If such a day were to attempt to have any meaning, it would comprise of pointing a righteous finger accusingly at those world leaders at the time of the war, towards the pope, the US president, the king of England, every person in the West and say “You! Where were you?!!  How could you let this happen to your friends, neighbors, subjects, and citizens?” And then turn to the successors of those leaders and the descendants of all those people saying, “and how are you better!?! What will you do to show you’ve learned any lessons from this nadir of human history and human responsibility towards one’s fellow?”

Maybe the commemorations of the holiday should all be held in Denmark and Albania.  The world would turn it’s gaze to these small countries and it would be declared that only these two, with great bravery, stood up to the might of the world’s most powerful country at the time and declared, “No!”  And so, it would be asked today, can the superpowers of the world today follow the example of these two countries, many times smaller and less powerful?  Or would that be too much?

It’s not that I believe, not by a mile, that the countries and peoples of the world all conspire against the Jews.  Countless people and places do understand the horrors of the Holocaust and their implications for Jews and other oppressed people.  It is that the International Holocaust Memorial Day does nothing meaningful to further such beliefs among those who don’t already know it.

For us as Jews, it is a reminder, that it is still too easy for our People to be used as pawns, to be treated if not contemptuously then transactionally, and that, this day teaches us, as we have been taught since the writing of the Psalms, that we Jews must look to each and most of all to God, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in people, in whom there is no help… but happy is the one that has the God of Jacob for help, whose hope is in the Lord God.” (Psalm 146:3-5)

About the Author
Aaron Benson is a Conservative rabbi on Long Island, serving at the North Shore Jewish Center. He is the current president of the Suffolk County Board of Rabbis and a chaplain for the Suffolk County Police Department.
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