Memory Alone Will Not Matter for the Future

November 2020  Keeping Connected

Dear Friends,

Elie Wiesel said, “I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.” I share this thought with you because November 9-10 is the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which was also known as the November Pogroms. On these days of violence, the German Nazis destroyed 1,000 synagogues and more than 7,000 Jewish owned businesses. During the violence more than 100 Jews were killed, mostly in Austria. Although the dates for Kristallnacht are recorded as the 9th-10th of November, the violence lasted much longer in many places.

Dr. Michael Berenbaum, the Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute (Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust) and a Professor of Jewish Studies at the American Jewish University, explains “that the violence was ordered by Adolph Hitler through his Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels; and executed by his SA (Sturmabteilung), commonly called Storm Troopers or Brown Shirts. Hitler promised that only he could and would restore peace. Hitler promised the return of law and order.”Dr. Berenbaum further explains that the violence was blamed on the Jews themselves and that the German propaganda insisted that only Aryans could be true citizens of Germany. The Jews were therefore stripped of their citizenship and their guns were seized from them. Dr. Berenbaum raises a very profound question: “How is it the victims were blamed, and the perpetrators were cheered?”

I share these thoughts with you this year, because I have come to be a firm believer that memory alone will not matter for the future. As Jews we use the term “Never Forget” as a moniker to ward off future threats to our existence. It is with profound sadness and a sense of urgency that I write, “Never Forget” now more than ever, cannot simply be an adage of memory alone. Given the rise of white power hate groups and militias in America, and their ability to use propaganda through social media, it is like our nation is facing a category 4 hurricane of hate.

I know that some would say I am overreacting and being over-emotional. I simply do not think that is the case. As a Jewish community who cares about our own security as well as the well-being of all minorities, memory alone will no longer cut it. We must educate ourselves about the insidious messages and groups that are flourishing throughout our country. We must heed the message of our national security groups that the greatest threat our nation is facing, is not from terrorists outside our country, but from homegrown hate and militia groups. Passivity is not a choice.

If you are interested in learning more about this issue, please let me know. I will forward to you a bibliography of articles that will help you to understand the seriousness of this problem. I also invite you to read the book Culture Warlords by Talia Lavin. I will be having a book discussion about her work infiltrating the dark web of many America’s hate groups. For those who are interested we will meet on
December 1st at 7:00 to talk about her work and conclusions and to discuss how what the impact might be for us in the future. Even if you have not had the chance to read the book, please feel free to join us for the conversation. If you are interested in learning more about the book, you can read some reviews:

From the New York Times

From The Business Insider

From the Jewish Telegraph

I look forward to continuing the conversation with you.

Warm regards,

Rabbi Shoshana M. Perry