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Holocaust Memorial Day and More Recent Events

January 27, 2015

Dear Woodford Member,

This day, seventy years ago, the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army. The single most notorious site of the Shoah showed the full horror of the attempted genocide. This date is now marked as Holocaust Memorial Day by the British government and people, alongside many other nations. This year, when the task of ‘Keeping The Memory Alive” is the focus of HMD, recent events, especially those in Paris, have shown us all how important this is.

I am writing because, sabbatical or not, there are worries and concerns that I imagine you might well have. My purpose is to provide some spiritual guidance and comfort, and to engage you in the task of sustaining a hopeful and open society in our area of the United Kingdom.

There are some prophets of doom speaking about the futility of continuing to live as Jews in Europe, in general, and here in the United Kingdom in particular. I do not consider those voices calling for aliyah en masse to be responsible or justified. That the Home Secretary spoke at the Board of Deputies on Sunday 18th January, and the leaders of all three main political parties are all strongly against anti-Semitism and racism ought to be a major source of comfort to us all.

It was Revd. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” At a time such as this, we need to strengthen our resolve to uphold the single most important precept of our tradition, as taught by Hillel two thousand years ago, which is “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.”

While one response to experiencing hate is to become fearful and nurture our own hatred, we can be better than that. We can nurture our love for all human brings, every one made in God’s image, and reach out to them with open arms. Here in Woodford, we should not diminish our lives by living in fear of what might happen, because it might also never happen. Instead, we can individually and collectively perform acts of loving kindness (gemilut chasadim) to bring a little light to the world.

In May, we will welcome a group from the main Liberal synagogue in Paris, and show our support for them in person. Each day this winter, we can continue to provide examples of light and hope by being our best selves, and by supporting each other. “Keeping the memory alive” only begins with recall. It is what we do when we remember that decides if the memory is for good and blessing.

My faith in you, the members of Woodford, is that you will continue to bring light, good and blessing into this world.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Richard Jacobi

Tuesday 27th January 2015

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