“Do you believe another Holocaust can happen?”
When I heard this question as a 7th grader, I remember reacting with shock: “Of course not! The world would never let it happen again!”
Here we are in 2015. And somewhere in the swirling sands of the Arabian desert, innocent people are beheaded on YouTube by masked ISIS fanatics to terrify the world into submission. Schoolgirls in Nigeria are kidnapped, taken away from their families for nefarious purposes. Children in Iraq are herded onto vans and taken to an undisclosed location. Horrors proliferate, in Internet-created proximity, all around the world.
Here we are in 2015, a world in which a man walks into a kosher supermarket in Paris with guns to kill as many Jews as possible–he murders four people and holds others hostage for hours, while still others hide for hours shivering in a walk-in refrigerator. In a synagogue in Jerusalem, Jews at prayer are murdered with an ax, their blood spattering tallits and prayer books. A gunman opens fire outside a Copenhagen synagogue, killing a Jewish man and wounding two police officers.
At UCLA, students oppose a student judicial board appointee on the grounds that she was Jewish; a similar situation is currently under investigation at Stanford. At Berkeley, displaying an Israeli flag draws derision and hateful comments, while an ISIS flag meets with neither. A Jewish professor at Connecticut College is facing tremendous pressure and opposition for his pro-Israel views.
The world (including America) is full of sordid horrors, and, for the most part, no deep affection for Jews. It’s easy to see things as being bleak: According to a report by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, nearly half of Israelis believe another Holocaust is possible. At a time when at least one Iranian general has explicitly stated that destruction of Israel is a “non-negotiable” inevitability, it’s easy to see why.
At the seder just two weeks ago, we read two passages dealing with “every generation.” In every generation, we read in a passage that has given hope to generations of oppressed Jews, there have been those who sought to destroy us.
But also, the haggadah reads, in every generation, it is incumbent upon all of us to feel as though we, ourselves, came out of Egypt.
In remembering the horrific, unimaginable murder of our people in the Holocaust, we must remember that, then as now, in every generation, there have been those who want the Jews dead. And in every generation, we survive–and we survive BECAUSE we are taught to feel empathy and compassion, and because it is our responsibility, duty, and obligation to feel as though we ourselves came out of Egypt.
We thank God today that we, through some magic of circumstance, despite Hitler’s best efforts, are alive. Somehow, we came out of the fire to live to see this day. We came out of Egypt.
We survived. Now, it is time to think: What does that survival mean? We thank God that we are Jews and that we have the ability to raise Jewish children, to whom we can teach the obligations of empathy, compassion, and responsibility.
As we approach Yom Hashoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day–we realize our obligation to face the turbulence of our generation not with despair, but with hope. We must spend every day of our fortunate lives teaching our children to be good, to fight evil. Today and every day, we remember–maybe the world would let it happen again, but we will not.
I believe it is incumbent upon me, as a Jewish parent, to raise my children as Jews.