Holocaust Remembrance in San Jose

This afternoon, the San Jose City Council issued a proclamation recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Week in San Jose, January 27- February 3, 2007. The proclamation, sponsored by Councilmember Forrest Williams, was presented to Adam Cintz, a 96 year-old survivor of the Holocaust. Mr. Cintz spoke about his recent experience of speaking to students at Independence High School about the Holocaust and read from one of the hundreds of thank-you notes sent to him by the students.

I had the privilege a few years ago to teach the Holocaust Studies classes sponsored by the NCCJ (now the SVCCJ- Silicon Valley Conference for Community and Justice), and to meet many of the survivors who live in our own valley. I have long believed that the Holocaust presents the single greatest challenge to religious life in the modern period, and that it is vital that we never forget the events that took place during those years. As someone committed to developing respect, peace, and creative relationships among diverse religious perspectives, I look to the Holocaust as a reminder of what we can become if we accept religious prejudice or allow individuals or groups to be marginalized in our society.The Holocaust remains as the greatest challenge to our sense of humanity as we move into the 21st century.

On a personal note, it was at the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the NCCJ in San Jose in the 1970”s that my interfaith journey began in earnest. At that conference I first met Lil Silberstein, director of NCCJ, and she invited me to join one of the intefaith clergy dialogue groups they sponsored. Those early groups were primarily Jewish-Christian dialogues, but over the years the relationships have expanded, the diversity of religious traditions in our valley have multiplied, and the opportunities for interfaith relationships have grown. Still, the Holocaust stands as a marker of what the world looks like if we do not encounter each other with respect.The United Nations created the international Holocaust Remembrance day last year, to be observed on January 27th, the anniversary of the liberation of the camps at Auschwitz, and this is the second year that the San Jose City Council has acknowledged it. I commend the City Council and Forrest Williams for making it clear what kind of community we want here in the Valley of Heart”s Delight.

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