On Tuesday, May 3rd, I attended the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony at the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. This commemoration of the Holocaust has been a regular event for many years.Yom HaShoah (The Day of the Holocaust) is observed on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943. Because it is set according to the lunar Jewish Calendar, it falls on different days in the Western Calendar each year. This year, Yom HaShoah fell on May 5th, and marked 60 years since advancing American, British and Russian troops liberated the concentration camps.
This year”s observance included recollections not only from survivors of the camps, but from a woman who fought with the partisans in Eastern Europe and two men who were with the liberating armies- one a Japanese-American member of the legendary Regiment 442 which helped to liberate Dachau.The Holocaust is a significant event in our not-so-distant history, and I am glad that the Supervisors take time for this observance each year. The one sad note for me is that, aside from a few Muslim women in the room (identifiable because of their hijabs), most of the attendees appeared to be Jewish. Somehow, many of us still seem to think that the Holocaust was a Jewish event, without significance for the rest of us.
The Holocaust represents but one example of the dark side of what we in interfaith work seek. For every time that people of different religious traditions come together to build understanding and closer relationships, there are many more in which one group turns against another, often citing religion as either the source or the justification for persecution, terror and murder.
One of the speakers this year was a Bosnian Muslim, Elvir Camdzic of the Bosnian-Herzogovinian Center of San Francisco. He reminded us that if we only remember the Holocaust and do not respond to ethnic and religious attacks in our own time, “Never Again!” is a wish, not an intention.It is important to remember the Holocaust, not just as a Jewish event, but as a human event. And it is important that our remembrance compel us to do what we can wherever we are to challenge and confront hatred, violence, and religious persecution. Whether in the Third Reich, Pol Pot”s Cambodia, Rwanda or these days in Darfur, ethnic and religious hatred and genocide demand our attention and our response.