It’s Yom Hashoah again.
A day where the Jewish world pauses for a moment as we remember those who are no longer in this life with us – taken by an evil that does not weaken and does not die.
We remember our sisters and we remember our brothers. We remember our children and we remember our parents. We remember our uncles and we remember our aunts. We remember our grandparents and our cousins. We remember those who had lived an entire lifetime and we remember those who had not even begun to talk. We remember our friends and we remember our family. We remember all those we knew and all those we didn’t.
And we remember them, because we are a people – a people who may be as diverse as the earth’s landscapes, as different as the multitude of languages spoken, a people whose food is as varied as the colours of the universe.
Yet among that diversity is a commonality too. A single thread that runs through us, connecting us in ways that are familiar and comfortable. A single people whose mission from almost 4000 years ago is the same as today. A people with a path, a history, a culture, a land and a future that will always be within us.
When the dark forces of evil came for us in Europe, burning our books and burning our people, they did not stop to ask what kind of Jews we were. They did not stop to ask if we were liberal or conservative. If we were religious or secular. If we were proud of our heritage or embarrassed by it.
They cared only that we were Jews – nothing else mattered.
But this evil that claimed 6 million of my people during the Nazi era is not limited in scope by time or location or politics. It did not die in the last thrashing throes of the Nazi Empire.
It is everywhere, strong and vicious and deadly.
In Israel, it continued with the Arabs armies whose dream of another ‘glorious’ Arab chapter of death and destruction remained. And even when their armies were defeated, they continued with their terrorists – murdering and destroying. Today, they are rewarded with money and showered with honours by the palestinian authority, who continue to promote and encourage the murder of Jews.
In France, too many Jews are living in fear of deadly attacks. Yet the same France who pledge themselves to fight antisemitism, call on Israel to give the palestinans money from tax revenues, knowing full well that that money goes towards financial rewards to those who murder Jews.
In America, a country whose diversity has been its strength, Jews have lost a large degree of the sense of security they once had with the number of physical assaults on Jews doubling in 2018. Synagogues are attacked and Jews are murdered and in the mighty halls of Congress, anti-Semitic politicians continue to be hailed as heroes even as they preach hatred openly.
In South Africa, a government that doesn’t even disguise its antisemitism, continues to preach to Israel about morality, while ignoring the murder of thousands of their own citizens on their own farmlands. A country that was supposed to be a model for a future of coexistence and human rights, has proven to be a dismal failure whose moral bankruptcy will stain the country for decades to come.
On a day like today, a solemn day whose gravity weighs heavily upon us, I look around at the world we live in and I see the pain of my people. I see the hatred in the main stream media like the New York Times whose cartoons incite Jew hatred. I see the leaders of movements that are supposed to be about empowerment spout their poisonous words that drip with venom and bitterness.
And I wonder – am I living in the real world or some alternative dystopian nightmare from a movie.
Yet I also know that despite this nightmare that has come to life, I am also living in one of the brightest eras of Jewish history.
Because we have a country when once we didn’t. We have an army when once we were powerless. We can fight back when once we couldn’t. And we can stand tall, when once we could not stand at all.
We have a home – when once we were homeless.
The past is often filled with pain – too much pain – yet the future could not exist without it. And without our future, the past would have no meaning.
So today is not just about sadness and loss – it’s also about defiance and commitment. A commitment to those who have perished that they did not do so in vain. Their memories and their spirit live on in us – melded with our souls, infused with our being, and instilled in our hearts.