Holocaust Remembrance Day begins at sundown. It’s a day to remember and reflect upon the fact that 6 million Jews were persecuted, tortured, and killed some 70 years ago.
Most of us will go through our day totally unaware that it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most of us won’t notice the footnote on our calendar. Even if we do, most of us won’t take the time to care. Because, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t really affect us, does it? We’re not Jewish. Heck, some of us don’t even have Jewish friends or neighbors. Sure, anti-Semitism is a horrible thing, but it’s something that affects people in Europe or the Middle East. Not here at home. And yes, the Holocaust is just about the worst atrocity ever committed in human history but… it was more than 70 years ago. And there are committees and clubs and museums set up to commemorate these occasions, so let them do the remembering, and let us get on with our lives. “Never forget.” Okay, we won’t, but right now we have laundry to do and TV to watch so… could we please move on?
That’s the attitude of many people on these types of days – these so-called “holidays” or “specialty” days. Even worse, on a day such as this, we don’t get the day off and there are no special sales at the mall and it’s not really an adequate excuse to fire up the grill so… what’s the point in acknowledging it? Plus, it’s not nearly as fun as National Pi Day (which, in all honesty, seems to get more attention on Twitter than this day does) and it’s kind of depressing so… just leave us alone about it.
Well, I would, except… I can’t.
I can’t forget.
I can’t forget the amount of college students in my freshman history course who legitimately didn’t know what the Holocaust was.
I can’t forget the gaggle of athletes at the student union, arguing over who started World War II, finally settling on the idea that it was, in fact, the Jews.
I can’t forget my boss’s comment while haggling on the price of a product that he would have to “Jew him down” – in reference to getting the manufacturer to drop his prices.
I can’t forget the comment from Middle Schoolers about how another teacher had a “Jew Nose”, and the subsequent horror by that same teacher that she might look like a Jew.
I’m appalled even as I type this. I don’t know when or how this type of bigotry became socially acceptable. Most people don’t realize what they’re saying or suggesting. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, some form of anti-Semitism is perfectly and socially acceptable. Why?
We become enraged when black men are targeted by white cops. We’re appalled when a gay couple can’t purchase a cake for their wedding. We’re disgusted when Muslim women are harassed for wearing hijabs in public. But Jews? Instances of anti-Semitism rarely make the news and when they do, it’s widely ignored by the public. Instances of anti-Semitism are simple misunderstandings at best, nuisances on the nightly news at worst. Why is this perception okay?
It’s not, and that’s why this day matters. It’s necessary to reflect upon the attitudes and complacency that allowed the Holocaust to occur in the first place. It’s necessary to remember what happened to those 6 million Jews and to teach our children about what happened, so we can ensure that nothing like this never happens again – in the Jewish community or any other community. Never forget. That’s why this day matters.
“Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children, and to your children’s children.” — Deuteronomy 4:9