Reflections on Holocaust Memorial Day
This year the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘How can life go on?’ Today, with the current goings on that seems more relevant that it has done for a while. How can life go on when we seem to be reliving the horrors of the past? How can life go on when we are fighting for issues that our grandparents, mothers and fathers fought for so many years ago? The events that took place over the past year were a sure shock to the system. Something so out of my belief system and made the world we wake up in every morning a little more scary. We currently live in a world full of displacement and refugees, full of millions of women and allies marching for equality all over the world and perpetrators of genocides still not being prosecuted. Is it too easy for us to think ‘how can life go on?’ when there is all of this to still fight for?
I took some time and looked at the ideas behind this theme and why the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chose it. They talk about reconciliation, remembering, teaching us about living and rebuilding communities. Each gave different and important things to reflect on today – such as questioning why is it important to memorialise genocides and the Holocaust. However rebuilding community was something that really stood out to me. As modern day Jews we are the surviving community, we are the remains of our community who lost their lives during the Holocaust. Each day we grow stronger and rebuild such community. At RSY-Netzer the word Kehilla means so much. When we ask our chaverim what RSY-Netzer means to them so many answers are community – a place where they feel comfortable, feel able to voice their own opinions and a place void of prejudice. That is what we hope to create in RSY-Netzer and this is created from any age, any event and any level of involvement.
I feel that there are very limited answers to the question – How can life go on? But many more to the questions – How can life NOT go on? How can we not continue to fight for what we believe is right and fight to make sure we do have a say in stopping the past from repeating itself. Coming from the mind-set of a Reform Jewish Youth Movement we need to continue ‘life’ in order to impart our values of equality, justice and fairness in others’ lives. How can our lives NOT go on in order to remember the lives that were lost during such monstrosities? It is important to remember these lives through our own rather than succumbing to the overwhelming feeling of guilt – why was it them and not me?
RSY-Netzer has taught me – Tikkun Olam – something I try to impart in my everyday life. Tikkun Olam means to repair the world. By starting with ourselves, to family, community and world we take time to think about our impact and how we can make the world we live in a better place. Today on Holocaust Memorial Day I am not going to question how can life go on? But instead I am going to reflect on the impact I have on the world. The more marches and demonstrations I can go, to use my right to vote and to remember that I am doing it for the people that we are remembering today.
Lucy Prevezer, Movement Worker for RSY-Netzer
This past Wednesday I represented RSY-Netzer at a big fancy ceremony to mark the week of Holocaust Memorial Day. It was an event hosted by the British Foreign Office and The Israeli Embassy. As RSY-Netzer, we get invited to attend lots of these sorts of occasions and usually say no thank you; however, this was one that I felt strongly about attending. It was a very official event with speakers, musical interludes, and photo opportunities for the politicians who attended. To be very honest, it felt a little awkward too. The striking thing for me is how differently I feel on Holocaust Memorial Day as compared to Yom Hashoah. On Holocaust Memorial Day in January I always have this odd feeling that there is this big special day going on that is kind of about me and my people but not really mine. However, Yom Hashoah, the day to memorialise the Shoah in the Jewish calendar, really does feel like it belongs to me. All that being said, we thought it important to attend this big cross-communal British event. If hundreds of non-Jews are going to come together to commemorate the Holocaust then I thought the least we Jews could do was show up!
I don’t need to be told to think about the Shoah. My maternal grandparents were both refugees from Nazi Europe- lucky to escape from the ghettos and camps that so many of their family members found themselves in. The Shoah is so deeply ingrained in my psyche but sometimes I think this ever-present-ness leads to me emotionally ignore what really happened to the people effected. If that was ever a fear of mine I was abruptly shaken awake by the key note speaker at this event- Professor Yehuda Bauer. Bauer is a world-renowned Israeli Holocaust historian, educator, and activist. Although 90 years old he gave a long and impassioned speech about why the Holocaust seems to be a topic that still fuels such a large volume of debate, discussion, academia, architecture, and art. The line that hit home for me was: ‘the Shoah never really ended- it goes on each day in the soul of the Jewish people’. Phwaw! Although Bauer made a big impact, I couldn’t help but leave the event thinking about the words of a child survivor of the Shoah who spoke too. Dorit Oliver Wolf was a young child during the war and as a Hungarian Jew would have been murdered if it wasn’t for her mother and other friends helping her hide in Budapest and other towns. She spoke very beautifully and at the end of the event explained, ‘people always ask me why I am so jolly. I reply that if they too, like me, had been given the gift of life against all the odds, then they would be jolly too’. I was left speechless by her positivity and stumbled back onto the cold streets of Westminster with her words still ringing in my ears.
Joe Grabiner, Movement Worker for RSY-Netzer
Rabbi Debbie Young Sommers spoke beautifully at this years Holocuast Memorial Ceremony on Wednesday 25th January 2017. Here is the link to the streamed event. The whole thing is worth a watch but Rabbi Debbie is introduced at 30 minutes. http://cityhalltv.london.gov.uk/Event/fc0f086d-bbd2-4e0b-88f5-82b8af16a1e0?Area=