Thursday is Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day.
 
We will proclaim: “Never Again!” Never again will we allow ourselves, our people to become the target of hatred. Never again will we allow anti-Semitism to undermine us. 

Never again will we allow a Jew to be killed because she was a Jew.
 
“Never Again!”
 
But it just happened in Southern California this weekend.
 
It happened in Pittsburgh six months ago.
 
And we know anti-Semitism is still very much a dangerous reality. Anti-Semitic attacks, specifically violent attacks, are on the rise.
 
Crimes of hate against Jews and members of other faiths and ethnicities are a horrific symptom of a dangerous plague that is tearing through our own country and through the global community. Christchurch, Tree of Life, Sri Lanka.
 
And yet, we continue to say, “Never Again.”
 
“Never Again,” as if it is a catchphrase or a slogan as opposed to a call to action.
 
This Thursday, we will mourn the six million innocent Jewish souls that were killed in the Holocaust. As we do so, we will continue to mourn the murder of Lori Kaye just as we mourned those killed in Pittsburgh.
 
“Never Again!”
 
But attacking religious institutions filled with innocent people, attacking sacred spaces because of what these spaces represent – this is happening – again and again and again.
 
It is an epidemic.
 
One that won’t be curbed simply by saying “Never Again.” Simply by mourning the dead. Simply by remembering the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah.
 
No, it is not enough to say, “Never Again!” We must figure out how to live these words and do everything in our power to make them our reality.
 
During the Holocaust, some 30,000 brave Jews, many of them teenagers, put their lives on the line to resist the monstrous hatred of the Nazis. They are known as the Jewish partisans and they used various techniques to stand up to Hitler and his forces. Their heroic efforts spared the lives of countless souls and remind us to this day that many of our people took a bold stand when faced with pure evil. The Jewish partisans remind us that the Jewish story during the Holocaust is not just about being the innocent victims of Hitler’s madness, not just about being crushed by hate, not just about being silenced or forced into hiding because of fear. The Jewish story – our story – includes the heroes and heroines who stood up, in harrowing conditions, and said enough is enough.
 
Many do not realize that the full name of the commemoration we observe this Thursday is Yom HaShoah V’HaGevurah meaning a day of memorializing the Holocaust and the heroes who rose up during this nightmare.
 
It was 76 years ago, during April and May of 1943, that Jewish partisans – resistance fighters – defied the Nazis and fought for freedom and dignity by leading what has become known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  Faced with deportation to Nazi death camps, many of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto fought back against the Nazis, hindering their sinister efforts. While, ultimately, the Nazis liquidated the ghetto, the actions of the Jewish partisans remain a powerful moment in Jewish history. A moment when a strong, proud and defiant people took a stand and tried with all their might to say, “Enough! Not on our watch!”
 
As we prepare to officially memorialize the Holocaust on Thursday, as we find ourselves once again mourning the loss of another innocent Jew, killed by an anti-Semite in her synagogue while she attempted to protect her rabbi, let us do so by observing Yom HaShoah V’HaGevurah – a day of remembering the six million we lost and honoring the brave souls who stood up to the evil and continue to inspire us today.  Let us focus on the heroes who put everything on the line in an attempt to keep “Never Again” from ever being necessary by acting in a way that said “Not on My Watch. Not on my watch will you attack my people.”
 
Yes, despite the efforts of the partisans, six million of us were still slaughtered. But not without a fight – a fight that did save lives. A fight that captures an incredibly important part of who we are A fight that, in our own way, we must continue. Not simply by saying “Never Again.” Not simply by remembering. But by finding the gevurah – the strength, the hero inside of us. By bringing out that strength in the next generation. By not just saying “Never Again,” but by living an empowered life, one in which we live the words, “Never Again on my watch.”

2 Comments

  1. Steve Blauer Reply

    Oh Andrew, this is a very powerful parsha, also, a very scary one. Do Jews have to arm themselves to try to keep the number of killed down when attacked by these monsters of hate? The Jewish partisans took the killing to the nazis, the Warsaw Ghetto may be one of the biggest focal points we turn to when trying to understand Israel’s current and, on going, situation.

    Even I have given consideration to arming myself, and I not only detest guns, I am terrified of them, I know what they can do. But, the merest thought of feeling like I have to do this thing in order to protect the people I love makes me sick. But, on the other hand crazy, hate-filled and armed fascists seem to only understand strong deterrents like being shot back on. And if we start, where do we stop?

    Jews are considered a meek people by these thoughtless fiends, and I liked that just fine, when they weren’t literally killing us, but what about now? Do we arm ourselves and look for kkk, or other supremacist meetings in order to wipe them out? Then attack the mosques and churches that spread the word of hate against the Jewish People? Because that is a reality also, and it isn’t just the “right wing” nut jobs, entire countries are, and have been focused on the termination of the Jewish People within their midst.

    Writing this makes me sad, wasn’t there supposed to be a well of the “milk of human kindness” out there somewhere? I used to think that with the proliferation of computers and the internet people would find out that the people they hate are pretty much just like them and then they would be able to put aside their intolerance of those others. Well, I was wrong; people decided to seek out others just like themselves and instead of strengthening the bonds between diverse peoples, it is shedding them.

    Andrew, you are what I would call a kind, loving, and tolerant man, and I am sorry if my thoughts and feelings in response to what you wrote made me write this missive. But, there are no answers I can see to “Never Again?” there are only more questions. I can think of no answer to the dilemma humanity faces today, except to put up a strong front, a barrier of stone, a wall if you will, in order to protect our own. These are sad, sad days.

    • Rabbi Andrew Jacobs Reply

      These are indeed sad days Steve. However, there is much we can do. And no, I do NOT think we need to take up arms. Indeed, our communal institutions must make certain that their buildings are secure. As individuals, we need to raise our voices, get involved, educate ourselves, teach others, take a stand and confront hate. If we hear something, see something, read something that is hateful we need to address it immediately. We need to insist that our people and all people of faith can worship safely in our country. This means we have to engage our politicians and law enforcement agencies. They need to be our partners. We need to get involved with organizations like the ADL and AJC who work nationally and globally to eradicate hate. They need our support. We need to seek out allies (there are many), work with other communities of faith and reach out to those who might not understand us. Living “Never Again” is hard work. It is uncomfortable work – but I believe we can do it.

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