Remembering the Past, Reclaiming the Future

May 6, 2024

As the siren sounds here in Israel on Yom Hashoah morning, signaling the start of two minutes of solemn reflection for Holocaust Memorial Day, my thoughts turn inward—to stories told and memories preserved. My maternal grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, are the first people I think of on this solemn day. My grandmother found a precarious sanctuary hidden in a convent, while my grandfather spent those harrowing years on the run, relying on his wits and sometimes superhuman strength to elude the grasp of annihilation. Their stories are not just tales of survival, but powerful reminders of resilience against the darkest of human impulses—hatred.

This year, Holocaust Memorial Day carries an even deeper significance, following the horrific events of October 7th—the most devastating attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. As we observe this solemn day of remembrance, our hearts weigh heavy with the weight of recent tragedy and the ongoing war against our enemies.

Unfortunately, antisemitism, or Jew-hatred, is far from a relic of the past. As David Wise and Jackie Congedo of the Nancy and David Wise Holocaust and Humanity Center wrote, October 7th is “the latest episode in an ancient cycle of Jew hate, which has ebbed and flowed across societies all over the world and throughout time since the birth of the Jewish people—driven by the vile and ever-mutating virus of antisemitism.” 

Antisemitism is as old as the Jewish people. We recently celebrated the holiday of Passover, a festival commemorating our freedom from Egyptian slavery. As recounted in the book of Exodus, as soon as the family of Jacob became a nation in Egypt, the first documented case of antisemitism against the nation of Israel occurred: 

This ancient narrative is a stark reminder that hatred against Jews is deeply entrenched in history. Though it has taken on many forms, antisemitism has followed us throughout the ages.  

Since October 7th, antisemitism has surged globally to frightening levels. From the streets of Europe to American Ivy League campuses, antisemitic demonstrations and calls to wipe out Israel “from the river to sea” can be heard across the world. We must not remain silent or indifferent, as Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

“For I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for war… Then GOD will come forth and make war on those nations as a fighter makes war on a day of battle” (Zechariah 14:2-3).

This prophetic vision assures us that those who oppress the Jewish people will eventually face divine justice, and in that reckoning, there will be a turning of the tides. Furthermore, Zechariah’s promise of a future where the world recognizes the God of Isreal and clings to the Jewish people is profoundly moving:

These prophecies force us to consider the consequences of fighting against or standing with the Jewish people. They challenge every one of us to ask ourselves: What side of history will I choose to be on?

Yom Hashoah is not only a day to mourn the losses and remember our troubled history, but also urges us to reflect on the enduring spirit of the Jewish people and the unwavering belief in a future where all forms of hatred are finally overcome. As the stories of my grandparents and the words of the prophets remind me, this day reinforces the need for remembrance, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of a world marked by justice and peace. Let us choose a side that aligns with these values, ensuring that the horrors of the past never again repeat, and that the promise of redemption is something we actively work toward together.

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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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