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Yom Hashoah 2024

Observing Holocaust Remembrance Day

Dear Friends,

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah in Hebrew. This is  the day we remember more than six million European Jews who were  murdered by the Nazis and their willing collaborators during World War  II simply because they were Jewish. This year's commemoration is  particularly poignant as it is the first one since the events of October  7, when terrorists from Gaza invaded Israel, massacred over 1,200 men,  women, children and elderly, and took hundreds hostage to Gaza.

Speaking at the Yom HaShoah ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on  Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "The terrorist attack on October 7  was not a holocaust - not because of the lack of intention to destroy us, but because of the lack of the ability to destroy us."

Indeed, on October 7th, the terrorists were prevented from killing many  more than they did because the Jewish people now have the means to  defend themselves.

The annihilation of six million men, women and children during World War  II was the result of a comprehensive plan to identify and exterminate  all the Jews of Europe. A number of gruesome methods were used to murder  Jews wherever they were found, but the majority of the six million died  in an extensive system of concentration and extermination camps. The  most infamous camp was Auschwitz, which by 1945, had become the largest  killing center where more than 1.1 million Jews, including more than 200  thousand children, were murdered in gas chambers and cremated in ovens.

The campaign to annihilate the Jews of Europe - also known as the "final  solution to the Jewish question" - was designed under the leadership of  Adolph Hitler by high-ranking members of the Nazi party. However, the  Nazis did not intend to stop with the elimination of European Jews and  would have killed far more had they not been defeated by the Allied  Forces.

On November 28, 1941, Adolf Hitler met with the Grand Mufti of  Jerusalem, Haj amin al-Husseini, at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. In  that meeting, the German Fuhrer assured the Arab leader that as soon as  the Jews of Europe were destroyed, the Jews of the Arab world would be  as well. In fact, the Mufti - the leading Arab spokesman at the time -  already had plans in place to carry out a genocide of the Jews living in  their ancient homeland.

It is important to emphasize that this meeting took place in 1941 - seven years before the reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948. This means that -  in contradiction to popular anti-Israel narratives which justify all  violence against Israelis as "resistance" to the so-called "occupation" -  the intent to eliminate Jews demonstrated as recently as October 7th is  completely consistent with Arab plans to wipe them out long before the  birth of the modern Jewish State. 

The existential threats Israel faces today come at the hands of  Islamists who believe it is their religious duty to rid the world of  Jews. Therefore, it is not a surprise that ever since the October 7th  attack on Israel, we have been witnessing an exponential rise in  Jew-hatred worldwide, manifested in pro-Hamas marches that advocate for  the elimination of the Jewish State, verbal and physical attacks on  Jews, and encampments on college campuses in which pro-terror activists  call for the destruction of Israel and America. 

In light of these alarming current events, what is our responsibility as a partnership of Christians and Jews? 

First, we must commit to stand together in the face of blatant evil. We  must focus on what we have in common and work to build important and  necessary relationships in such a time as this.

Second, we must learn from past failures to stand up to such evil.  Historic Christian anti-Judaism fueled support for the Nazi agenda and  enabled too many Christians to do nothing in the face of great evil.  Erroneous beliefs that support antisemitism and anti-Zionism must be  exposed and Christian opposition to Jewish life must never happen again!

Third, all of us - Jews and Christians - need to take to heart the words  of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, renowned German theologian and pastor. He  separated from the German Protestant Church over its support for the  Nazis' "final solution to the Jewish question" to form the Confessing  Church, which unequivocally condemned Hitler's genocidal plan to rid the  world of Jews. Before he was executed for his resistance to the Nazi  agenda on April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer wrote:

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil...not to speak is to speak...not to act is to act."

This definitive statement is at least as relevant today as it was in  Bonhoeffer's time. Therefore, on this day in which we remember the more  than six million Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jewish,  let us respond to the clarion call to speak and act in the face of evil  made explicit by Bonhoeffer's stark observation. We must not keep  silent and we must not forget what happens when people do keep silent!

Indeed, in these times in which we live, we must strengthen our  commitment to oppose antisemitism and anti-Zionism wherever and however  they manifest. And in recognition of what happened to the Jewish people  when they had no means to defend themselves, we must support Israel's  right to exist and defend itself against those who intend to destroy the  only Jewish State.       


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