The True Meaning of “Never Forget”

Yom HaShoah has a slogan: Never Forget.

It’s an odd slogan for a Jewish Holiday. Us Jews, we never forget anything. We have very long memories. We don’t need to say “Never Forget” to remember Yom Kippur every year, nor do we need a slogan to remind us to light Chanukah candles or to host a Pesach Seder. We are very good at remembering both the good times and the bad. Indeed, “Never Forget” seems superfluous.

But I think I can explain it.

“Never Forget” is not a slogan for those who are Jewish and won’t ever forget. The slogan is for everybody else.

We are reminding the rest of the world that they cannot forget the Holocaust. We are not reminding them so that they should mourn with us. We can’t expect that kind of empathy from the rest of the world. We are reminding the world about the Holocaust so that it should never happen again – to anyone else.

We have been through several Holocausts as a people. We can handle it. It’s painful and it’s dreadful, but you don’t stick around for 3500 years by folding after a Holocaust. We will never forget.

But the world is still a violent place. We have been doing better lately, but there is still genocide, there is still hate, there is still institutionalized oppression. The message of “Never Forget” is that the world can not forget what happens when hate goes unchecked. The world must remember that the good people of the world must stand in the way of the bad people of the world.

Never Forget means that we must do what it takes to eradicate fundamentalist hatred between groups. We must end oppression of weaker, smaller groups. We cannot let anyone be the victim of hate crimes. We are responsible to end all genocide. That is what it means to “Never Forget”.

Sharing the harrowing stories of the Holocaust, hearing heroic stories of survival, appreciating the compassion of those who saved us during the Holocaust are vital to the observance of Yom HaShoah. We all play a role in the dissemination of the message of Yom HaShoah. The short game is to experience Yom HaShoah and feel its emotion for ourselves and our families and our communities. The long game is to use our remembrances to further the broader universal goals to guarantee that the world “Never Forgets”, to find common ground with one another, and stand against hate.

It’s been more than 65 years. As a society, we can do a better job to end genocide and hate crimes. It is our responsibility to do a better job. Mass killings in Syria, Sudan, and Myanmar cry out for our attention. Hate crimes throughout the world remind us that there is still much work to do. Today is a day to do something. Yom HaShoah should be noticed by the world, but not simply as a day to remember the pain of the Holocaust. The world should remember with us. “Never Forget” how a world can watch as millions of innocent people are slaughtered. If we can successfully impart this message, we can change our future. We can nudge the international community a little closer to a day where the entire world can live in peace and harmony. It takes work and it takes energy to tell our story to the world. But if we can do it the right way we will guarantee that no one else will ever need a day to say “Never Forget”.

About the Author
Eliyahu Fink J.D. is the Rabbi at the Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice California; Rabbi Fink is also a graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. Connect with Eliyahu Fink on Twitter, Facebook, and on his home blog at