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May 2, 2019

During assembly on Thursday, May 2, juniors Rafi Brent and Jon Sky spoke about recent anti-Semitic atrocities in the U.S. and about Holocaust Remembrance Day. Their prepared remarks follow, along with a link to the observance of HRD in Israel.

Good morning. On April 28, just as Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein prepared to say a prayer mourning the dead, loud cracks rang out in the Poway Chabad Synagogue. A gunman turned what was supposed to be a time of remembrance into a day of terror for the congregants. This horrific attack killed one person and left several others wounded, including the rabbi himself. Similar to the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue a few months ago, Poway was hate-fueled. Both of these attacks coincide with an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes. The gunman at Poway wrote a manifesto that shared ideologies with other white supremacists in recent acts of violence. His views echoed those who committed the Pittsburgh Tree of Life shooting, the New Zealand mosque bombings, and the Sri Lankan church bombings. In the past year, Jewish institutions have felt the need to invest in additional security including private guards, more police officers, cameras, and other measures. Rabbi Goldstein was even trained for these types of situations, but he said it just seemed impossible that it would ever come to his own congregation.

While many of you likely heard about the San Diego shooting in the news, fewer people know that today is also Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Every year, as sunset marks the beginning of Yom HaShoah, sirens sound for two minutes throughout the State of Israel, and everything stops. Cars stop in the middle of the road, pedestrians stand still, and the entire country mourns the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. This happens again on the following morning. The purpose of this tradition is simple but crucial: to remember.

While in Israel almost everyone either has an ancestor or knows someone whose ancestor was slaughtered by the Nazis, that’s not true in the US, making the resolve to “never forget” all the more important. It is astonishing that 20 percent of Millenials aren’t sure if they’ve heard of the Holocaust, and as the number of living Holocaust survivors dwindles, our generation must not give in to Holocaust deniers. Because this isn’t just another test topic from World Civ. The Holocaust stemmed from a millenial-long tradition of anti-Semitism that still runs strong today, as evidenced by the San Diego shooting, and the Pittsburgh shooting six months earlier.

If people don’t know the horrors wrought by this hatred in the past, they won’t be as willing to fight it. It is easy to pretend that anti-Semitism is mostly gone in the U.S. after all, Jews have assimilated extraordinarily well into American society, and as Jews aren’t easily identifiable by physical traits, many lump them into the privileged category of 'white people.' Yet the FBI’s most recently released set of hate crime statistics, from 2017, show that Jews were the second most commonly targeted group in the U.S., after African Americans. And between these two groups, the per-capita number of hate crimes against Jews was almost four times as large. Perhaps most disturbingly, the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes had risen 37% from the previous year.

Anti-Semitism is real. It’s not a thing of the past, and it’s killing people. Everyone needs to remember that.

We will now play a video of the sirens sounding in Israel. Please take these two minutes of silence to remember those who were killed by the Nazis, as well as all victims of hate everywhere.

Thank you.