Shabbat Shalom: Memory Provides Vital Connection
By: Michelle Ruby Schwartz
Director of Israel Teen Emissaries and Education
As I was thinking about what to share this week, I was reading and reading to try and find the words to best express the significance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I have been thinking about Holocaust Education in a different way this year knowing that IST is once again able to bring the trip to Poland. Not only does that challenge me as an educator working on the content of the trip, but as a mom of an IST 2023 participant wanting to ensure that we have conveyed the importance of knowing the history of our family and the Jewish community as a whole.
In 2005, the United Nations adopted a resolution to designate January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This date was selected as a commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz/Birkenau death camp.
In the Torah, the central repository of Jewish law and history, the commandment to remember (in Hebrew, zachor) is repeated over 200 times. Memory is a central premise of Judaism and a vital way of connecting the Jewish people of today to our ancestors. But memory is not just to remember events; it is also required of us to remember concepts, people, experiences, feelings, and lessons. It is this focus on memory that gives us continuity to our past, to the story of the Jewish people, and provides a direct connection to our community. And in a larger sense, it serves to connect us to all people –of all cultures, nations, religions, races, and ethnicities.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day to remember the 6 million Jewish people who were murdered by the Nazis, but it is so much more than that. It exists to remember the millions upon millions of LGBTQIA+, Roma, Poles, Russians, political dissidents, disabled, and others exterminated as well. It exists to remember and to sanctify the humanity of countries and communities and individuals who endangered themselves in order to hide their citizens and neighbors from inhuman cruelty, and assist them in their pursuit of safety. It exists to remember the indomitable spirit of those who rose up, who fought back, who declared that they would not sit idly by as atrocities were perpetrated. It exists to remember the bravery and valor of the Allied soldiers who liberated the camps and won the war on the battlefields of Europe and Africa. It exists to remember those who stand up and speak out today against intolerance and bigotry, against hatred and injustice. It exists to remember the central idea that all people – in spite of our differences – work together to locate and remember our central humanity, our resolve to overcome evil, and our connection to one another as we seek, united, to weave a rich tapestry representing the unique beauty of the entire community of Earth and, together, to repair the world.
Shabbat Shalom, Colorado.