A second Holocaust for the Jewish people is not a distant, hypothetical idea, but a very real threat. Nearly half of Israelis (47%) fear it, according to a recent poll released on the eve of the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. If we continue on our routine, annual path of only remembering the bitter memory of the Holocaust without looking to our common future, a similar catastrophe will be unavoidable.
When asked what Holocaust Remembrance Day will look like in 30 years, young people in Israel predict a worrisome future. 21% of Israelis age 35 to 45 say they believe the commemoration of Yom HaShoah will erode over time until it disappears altogether, compared to 12% of Israelis age 65 and older. This is the explosive forecast for the preservation of the Shoah memory made in a new survey by the Pnima Movement, a multidisciplinary research group on social issues in Israel.
Memory and recollections naturally fade and blur, so the act of remembering the Holocaust also diminishes and disappears over the generations. Of course, we try to pass the memories from generation to generation with the help of new ceremonies and undertakings, but how well is a person able to bring those reminiscences to life? And the bigger question is whether he or she is even interested in doing so? If someone is, then the person must look for fresh ways to artificially renew the impressions, because of course that will not happen without great effort and innovation.
All this being said, preserving memories from the past is not the issue I am most concerned with, but with the situations we face in the present, with the people who live today, and with what we can do to prevent another Holocaust from befalling us.
I do not agree with the approach that once a year we visit a monument near home and observe a moment of silence in a state ceremony just to make us feel righteous. We must focus our concern throughout the year. Thoughts about the role of the Jewish people and the meaning of the horrible hatred that we have been subjected to should be ingrained and carried with us most of the time. I don’t mean that they should be carried in an oppressive way so people feel crushed by the thought, but yes, to live out of an awareness of who we are and what we have been through. We should be repaired by the past suffering, and not merely remember it.
In addition to the Holocaust, other historical events that have befallen the Jewish people and need practical repair—the destruction of the two Temples, the Bar Kokhba revolt, the pogroms and the expulsions—should also be included. From the big picture, we must understand that what Jews have done to each other in all these terrible wars due to unfounded hatred is no less horrific than what our greatest enemies have done to us.
And we must make haste with expanding our awareness and understanding of the purpose and process of past suffering. When the younger generation points out that the Holocaust Remembrance Day will be forgotten and become a normal day in the near future, it’s a clue that we must adopt a new educational line: instead of educating the young generation to weep over the past, we must give them hope and the right direction for a better future. We must educate the children in how to be united and to love each other, because only in this way will they not suffer.
It is our duty to make clear to younger generations and to ourselves, the simple law present and at work beneath the confusion of historical events: Whenever the Jews distanced themselves spiritually from one another, they were despised and loathed and treated badly. So if we would only get closer to each other, we would cause good to ourselves and, as a result, good for the world.
If we create good for the world, there will be no hatred of Jews in it. For that is our task: to be “a light unto the nations.” This means that we have the power to take our destiny upon ourselves by uniting with each other in brotherly love, as our sages have commanded us.
Holocaust survivors Shmuel Naar (right) and Zehava Geale looks on as Near lights a torch during Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day opening ceremony in memory of the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem April 7, 2021. Heidi Levine/Pool via REUTERS