The best part about scary stories isn’t the suspense, gore, and unimaginable monsters coming to life, but the endings. The part where good wins over evil and the monsters are defeated only to be heard of again through storytelling. Growing up I used to view slavery and the holocaust like a scary story. I knew they were real but like all bad things, they came to an end. The monsters were defeated and ceased to exist. In my mind, there was no more racism or antisemitism and everyone lived in peaceful harmony and equal opportunity no matter their skin color or religion.
But here in the real world, it feels like there’s been a surge of antisemitism around the world. The villains are now Neo-Nazis and they are recalling a time that we must never let happen again. The Holocaust, which ended the lives of almost 6 million Jews and other innocents, is a dark stain in history that we will never forget. In accordance with the Hebrew calendar, we remeHolocaustholocaust and all those who survived such terror.
Here are a few things you can do for Yom Hashoah (Remembrance Day), to not only make an impact today but to keep remembering and fighting against hate and persecution.
1. Take part in the Mourner’s Kaddish
The Mourner’s Kaddish is a series of Jewish prayers that honor the dead and is extremely important in regards to the holocaust. It’s been translated into English from Aramaic and anyone can recite it or visit a synagogue to join in the prayers. This act is not only respectful of victims and survivors but shows religious tolerance that Jews often aren’t afforded in comparison to Christianity.
2. Experience history through museums
This is as good a day as any to visit a Holocaust museum to hear the stories of what victims endured. If you are unable to visit a museum today, still make sure you take a moment and reflect. Also, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has online interactive activities that you can read through and take part in. They include things like understanding propaganda and the dangers that come with silence and compliance, which translate well into issues we see today.
3. Engage with unproblematic media
If you’re not a museum person, there are many movies and books out there that will teach you so much.
My favorite books include:
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak that highlights the book burning that occurred in Germany during WWII through the eyes of the dead.
- The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti is based on the true story of Helmut Hubener the youngest person sentenced to death by the Nazis. He shared anti-Nazi material after discovering the lies told by Germany while listening to forbidden radio broadcasts.
- Schindler’s List where a Nazi is forced to face the reality of WWII and begins to rebel and save Jewish lives.
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas tells the story of forbidden friendship between a German boy and a boy in a concentration camp and exemplifies the innocence often forgotten in war.
- Fiddler on the Roof follows the life of a poor Jewish man and his life as antisemitism threatens everything he holds dear.
4. Tikkun Olam
Also known as “fix the world,” and seen as a loose translation to social justice. In Judaism, it’s seen as God’s direction to help those in need. Religious persecution and genocides are still currently happening around the world and it’s important to be aware of them.
The Darfur genocide occurring in Sudan against the non-Arab population is horrific and violent. There’s also the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, where Muslims are being persecuted for their religion and constantly fleeing for safety to neighboring Bangladesh.
It may seem hopeless and out of your hands but awareness and spreading the word always makes a difference.
5. Remember why we call certain people “neo-Nazis”
In further conjunction with Tikkun Olam, remember to not exclude anti-semitism in the current conversation. We’ve been so quick to name the alt-right neo-Nazis and call them out on racism, anti-Muslim rhetoric, stupidity and bigotry and while those reasons are accurate and warranted, anti-semitism has frequently been left out the conversation. These people hate Jews and don swastikas on their arms. We have to protect the Jewish as fiercely as we protect our other allies.
The important takeaway is to remember and to learn to see the signs and take a stand before millions die.
We cannot allow history to repeat itself.