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Holocaust Remembrance Day

On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I stop in my tracks. My grandmother was detained by Nazi invaders, my father was born in a Central Asian outpost on the run, and my great aunt and uncle bore Auschwitz tattoos on their forearms. Whole branches of my family tree were chopped and burned. Today is, at least in part, about my own family.

In both my Judiciary and rabbinic roles, I claim a perhaps special responsibility (which shouldn’t be special at all) to underscore that what preceded the Holocaust was a perversion of “law” and “democracy.” The virulent antisemitism that fueled genocide was, by Nazi lights, entirely legal – a product of actual laws passed by an actual legislature and backed by actual courts. The names of things matter far less than their true essence.

“Never Again” means anything real only for everyone equally – for hate sows the seeds of its own proliferation. Hate borne of anyone else’s identity, appearance, ability, belief, background, family, love, nationality or relationship only normalizes hate. Antisemitism might be the world’s oldest and most irrational hate, but genocide is an ongoing cancer on humanity (Rwanda, Yugoslavia, the Atlantic slave trade, First Nations, etc.). We are privileged to live in a democracy, yet prejudice, suppression and violence are close – as record reports of violent antisemitism now prove.

May the Holocaust’s victims of genocide – six million Jews, and five million among LGBTQ, Roma, differently abled and political dissident victims – galvanize us all to live justly and righteously. Let us all boldly call out bigotry, and courageously journey into uncomfortable places to confront prejudice even among our own. May the memory of the dead be for exactly that blessing.

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