Time to reflect and stand united as a community

As Yom HaShoah approaches in a few days, I reflect on where I was and where we were as a community just one year ago. Supporting a group of students on the March of the Living seemed as if it were the pinnacle of staring antisemitism in the face. We were studying the past and reaffirming Never Again. One year later, our community has experienced an unimaginable resurgence of hate, both in the reality of the October 7 massacre and ongoing hostage captivity and in the world’s reaction to it and it does not seem like things are getting better.  

In following the news, it’s impossible to miss the rapidly developing and devolving situations on campus and city streets. Again, who could have imagined the frequency, intensity, and speed with which the Jewish community has found itself, once again (as in repetitively throughout history), at the centre of so much vitriol? Somehow it is utterly jarring and yet so deeply familiar. As a Holocaust educator, I can’t help but sense that I have a new window into one of the most common questions that students ask. How did Nazi ideology take hold across the population? While we can talk about propaganda, societal context, and more, it is always an unanswerable question at its core. I still don’t have an answer, but I can’t shake the feeling I am witnessing another unfolding of a shocking willingness to believe terrible things about Jews while discounting our lived experience.   

While we cannot control what is happening around us, we can gather to reaffirm our commitment to remembering, honouring, and gathering strength and support from each other. We have two commemorative events coming up that bring us together to do just that. Yom HaShoah is on Monday, May 6 and we will hold a ceremony and presentation at 7 p.m. at the Beth Israel Synagogue. Leon Kagan will share his Second Voices project, telling the Holocaust survival story of his father, Paul Kagan, z’l. I hope you can attend to witness this testimony and feel the fortitude and resilience that Paul’s story inspires.  

Yom HaZikaron, a memorial service commemorating both fallen soldiers and victims of terror, is on Monday, May 13 at Beth Shalom Synagogue. Clearly, a poignant and important occasion to mark this year. Immediately following is Yom Ha’atzmaut on Tuesday, May 14. The juxtaposition of these two days on the calendar is by design. First, we mourn, then we hope. The theme for our Yom Ha’atzmaut gathering is “stronger together”. Leaning into being connected in community is one thing that will guide us through this difficult time. The event is going to include a brief ceremony, family activities, an Israeli meal and a sing-along. Registration is required, so please sign up right away. Get your tickets now.  

As we emerge from our festival of freedom in a year that is marked by so much pain and uncertainty, we remember that our strength and resilience have always come from leaning into the community. As we continue to face the challenges of the moment, let us do so united. I hope to see you at these upcoming events and programs so that we can affirm that never again is now. 

Shabbat shalom,