On Sunday May1, 2016 I took part in A Holocaust Commemoration at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Norwich, CT. The Event was organised by the Holocaust Commemoration Committee of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut. What follows is the text of my "Statement of Concern".
My friend, Alexandra Wright, is Senior Rabbi at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood, London. Her family moved to England during the 19th Century from Germany. She also had extensive family in Lithuania. She once described to me how she had stood looking over a Lithuanian wood knowing that many of her relatives were buried there; knowing too that not a single one had survived the holocaust.
In the years following World War Two, many British Jews were afraid that what had happened in Germany could happen in Britain also. They merged into British society and did little to attract attention to themselves as Jews: attending the synagogue on high and holy days and on the Sabbath, but not standing out at work or socially.
Alex’s decision to become a Rabbi , however, meant that her family could no longer dwell in the background. They would always be Rabbi Wright’s parents, brother, sister or nephew. Perhaps they are now less reticent as the holocaust becomes more a part of history, and less the personal memories of those who survived it.
I have known Alex for over 40 years. We have shared our experience of being religious leaders. I have attended her synagogue and she has been to my churches, and we have studied the scriptures together. We live and work in very different faith communities. We know God in different ways, but I have seen that the faith of each of us is as real as the other’s.
My prayer is that all people may see and respect difference; and realise that the holocaust has affected people in ways we do not always understand:
I remember a meeting of the Council of Christians and Jews. We were discussing the book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”. A Christian minister suddenly declared, that, as a child in the blitz, he had been in the same danger as Jews in Germany and nazi-occupied countries. He could not see that all of Britain’s anti-aircraft defences, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy and the English Channel had defended him. The SS could not walk into his home, and take him to a concentration camp and his death.
May God preserve us too from apathy:
In her book, “On Being Jewish”, Rabbi Julia Neuberger points out that Germany was one of the most civilised of European countries: the land that produced Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mendelssohn; that celebrated Leibnitz, Kant, Nietsche and Wittgenstein. If the holocaust could happen in Germany, she wrote, it could happen anywhere, to anyone.
May I conclude with a quotation from the 18th century Irish philosopher and politician, Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.