I address those of you who currently stand on the wrong side of history. Allow me to introduce myself and tell you the story of my family, which is the history of my people. My name is Ari, and I am the grandson of 4 Holocaust survivors. My family has been to Auschwitz. They have been to Buchenwald. They have been to Bergen Belsen. They have been to Plaszow. These are just some of the places they have been. They have been forced into ghettos. They have been starved. They have been slave laborers. They have been beaten. They have been shot. They have been tortured. They have been imprisoned. They have dug their own graves. They have been left for dead. They have seen their neighbors and countrymen turn their backs on them except when they watched all of the above. They have lost everything literally; they have seen their entire families slaughtered; they have been alone.
They have also survived, thrived, triumphed, prevailed, succeeded, and built. They built themselves, they built families, they built communities; they have won Nobel prizes, they have innovated, and they have contributed to everything good the world has seen. You may wonder how they achieved all that they did. The answer is simple.
Despite where my family has been, despite what they saw, despite what they endured, I never saw my family hate. I never saw my family seek or even wish for vengeance. I never heard a chant of death. Make no mistake; I am sure that they did hate you; how could they not, but they had no time to waste on you. You had already taken enough. Instead, I saw joy, happiness, and love. I saw appreciation, humility, and charity. I saw courage, resilience, and strength. Above all, I saw faith. That is what they chose, and they mustered all of it to build a better future, and World.
After experiencing the worst of humanity, my family chose to be the best of humanity. My family was not alone. They are part of a great tradition of our people who have sadly been forced to do the same generation after generation. They are part of a people who once again, today in 2023, are forced to stare the worst of humanity in the face. Who today must once again ignore those who have turned their backs on them except to watch the atrocities perpetrated against them. And who today will once again prevail and triumph. Only this time they will do so with might. We will again succeed, and we will again thrive. And most importantly, we will again build. Our joy, happiness, and love will not be diminished. The uncontainable pain and tears for those who have been lost, and we have lost too much, will cultivate and irrigate the blossoms of our future. It always has and it always will.
Let me remind you that every time in the history of my family and my people that you have visited us with the worst of humanity, we have set new standards for the best of humanity. Never forget that the very same Israel that you detest and resent, the Israel that today is miraculous, prosperous, thriving, and flourishing, the Israel that is the lonely bloom in an otherwise infertile desert, figuratively and literally, was sown by the hands of my family and my people with the blood and ashes of the slaughter and destruction you left behind. This time will be no different. Your hate, death, savagery, and destruction only serve as seeds fostering the blossoming of our love, strength, resilience, and innovation. My family and my people will never forget those we have lost. Two of those righteous heroes, Yosef Geudalia and Ben Zussman, are my family, but in truth, my people are one family joined together by the greatest tradition of faith the world has seen. Yosef, Ben, and every righteous and sacred soul we have lost in the name of that great faith will forever remain etched in our hearts and minds, but their memory will not stay there. Their memory and sacrifice will inspire that which we could never have imagined. It always has and it is already happening.
As we embark on the celebration of Chanukah we embrace and honor the great tradition of our enduring spirit of strength and resilience. We commemorate our timeless commitment to overcome adversity, standing tall and proud, never forgetting those whose sacrifice fuels that spirit. We proudly declare to the world that our light of goodness remains steadfast, unyielding, and eternal and that in the face of darkness and hatred, the flame of our love, unity, and compassion will not only glow but will triumph and grow. We proclaim that our unwavering determination to illuminate the world with the values that have sustained us throughout generations remains stronger.
So, lest you forget, let me remind you: we have no time to waste on your chants, your hate, and your savagery. We are too busy with our love, resilience, strength, and faith. We will, once again, as we have time and time again, look back at you as you wallow shamefully in the decrepit pits of pathetic arrogance and immorality due to your lack of courage to choose good in the face of evil. Meanwhile, we will once again push the boundaries of the best of humanity beyond even our wildest imagination. As Ben’s mother so courageously declared while burying her beautiful, righteous, and sacred son: ‘We will prevail… We will prosper, and we will build! Let’s strengthen ourselves! Let’s believe! Demand good! Insist on good! We will prevail!