Emily Kirschenbaum

What Does ‘Never Again’ Mean in 2024?

The Israeli flag is always waving. (courtesy)
The Israeli flag is always waving. (courtesy)

As I’m writing this, I am waiting for the Yom HaShoah memorial siren to go off in Israel. In a few minutes we will drop everything and stand in silence for two minutes, just remembering all those we lost. 

I find myself steeling myself for it — reminding myself — this is not an actual threatening siren, this is a memorial siren. I’m sure I’m not the only one doing this. But I also can’t shake the feeling that maybe this is more than just a memorial siren.

April 2019. I stood on a street corner in Budapest as my dad described the scene in which my grandmother had been arrested from that very spot during the Holocaust. Her crime? Using a public telephone — Jews were not allowed to do this and the yellow star that she was forced to wear gave her away.

During that trip and a subsequent trip to Budapest (from which we returned to Israel just a couple of days before October 7th), I spent a lot of the time trying to imagine what my grandmother’s life had been like there. It was so easy to picture her walking along the streets there, going into stores, having her favorite cake at the Gerbaud bakery. 

It was so hard to reconcile this bustling, pretty and fun city with the horrors that had taken place there just a few decades ago. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother used to go back every year, primarily to visit and tend to the graves of her family members (but also to stock up on slivovitz). I think she had a love-hate relationship with Hungary. 

It goes without saying how angry she was about all that she lost there and what was taken away from her and so many others, but she was also always proud to be Hungarian. 

I have mixed feelings about comparing today’s reality to the time of the Holocaust. But, I truly can’t help but wonder if the conversations people in Jewish communities are having today are comparable to those that were being had in the 1930’s in Europe. 

Are we too complacent? Are we stupid to believe that our people are actually welcome and safe in places like New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Paris and more? Is what’s happening on college campuses across America just idiot woke students who have nothing better to do so they’ve taken up this cause even though they have no clue what river and what sea they are talking about? Or is it something much more sinister and just the beginning of a whole new level of anti-Semitism?

Does the fact that we have Israel – a homeland of our own – mean that the horrors of the Holocaust can never happen again? It sure doesn’t always seem like it these days. 

* * *

I just stopped in the middle of writing as the siren went off. I stood on my balcony watching the cars and the people freeze in mid-movement below. The only things I could still see moving were the Israeli flags fluttering in the breeze and the waves in the sea. 

The waves don’t stop for anything and neither does the Israeli flag. Thankful for our army, our soldiers, our allies, our people. 

Never again HAS to mean really, truly never again. Whether it’s a Jew on a college campus in America, at a bakery in Europe, or sitting on a balcony in Israel looking at the Mediterranean Sea, we have to just keep living and knowing that Am Yisrael Chai

About the Author
Emily Kirschenbaum planned to spend one year in Israel 16 years ago...She now resides happily in Ra'anana with her husband, 3 Israeli-American kids and the cutest dog in the world. In her professional life, she runs a content marketing business ( with an awesome partner!
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