The courage to stand tall
Over the past year, since last Holocaust Memorial Day, there have
been more articles, features and posts about the fear that Jews are experiencing in Europe, Israel and worldwide than I can ever remember. These fears are justified as we have witnessed horrific attacks on innocent civilians on a scale that is unprecedented in recent years. Just this week, Angela Merkel made the powerful statement that, "anti-Semitism is more widespread than we imagined. And that is why we must act intensively against it."
Anti-Semitism and all forms of racial hatred and intolerance cannot and must not be swept under the carpet. Racial hatred must be identified and rooted out wherever it rears its ugly head. However, the more that we read or hear of anti-Semitic or any kind of terror attacks, the more fearful we become. Indeed, a major by-product of terror is the disruption that it causes to everyday life. Our enemies are reading news reports, comments and posts and rubbing their hands with glee, because this is exactly what they want.
Fear makes us feel vulnerable, susceptible, as we realise that we are neither in control nor the masters of our own destiny. Fear can paralyse. Fear can inhibit. Fear can harm. Fear can destroy lives. In a certain sense, the immortal words of President Roosevelt come to mind, "we have nothing to fear but fear itself". Of course we have to take all necessary precautions to ensure our security, but the one thing we must not hand over to those who seek to sow the seeds of terror, is control over our state of mind.
I have had the privilege of meeting and interviewing scores of Holocaust Survivors during my research for our educational programmes and initiatives. Of course it goes without saying that every Survivor processed and dealt with the pain, the trauma and the loss in their own way, and there is no 'right way' to respond to such a loss.
However, in my experience there has been a common theme amongst those who have managed to rebuild their lives. They would be forgiven for being paralysed in fear, having endured the most unspeakable hardships and stared death in the face numerous times. But these are people who have exhibited a steely sense of bravery and courage. They are without a doubt the bravest people I have ever met.
The only fear that I have heard them express is a fear for the future of the Jewish people and of the free world at large that is largely in our hands. A fear that the Jewish people would fail to rebuild after the Holocaust. Fear that the Western world would fall back to cowering in the face of tyranny. However, they took their fear, faced up to it, channelled it and built beautiful homes. They have remarkably succeeded in taking the energy that fear produces and using it for positive reasons.
The antidote to fear is trust, trust in G-d, trust in each other and the power and resilience of the Jewish people who have survived a history of adversity to rebuild in an unprecedented fashion. When our hearts are unified with faith and trust, we demonstrate a resilience that sends a clear message to those who seek to harm us that they will never succeed.
In the current climate, we need to embolden ourselves and encourage each other to stand tall, proud in what we believe in. We salute and thank those who liberated our people from Auschwitz 71 years ago today and who fight tirelessly today to secure and protect western democracy and the liberty that comes with it that has enabled the Jewish nation to rebuild.
Rabbi Naftali Schiff
Executive Director, JRoots
JRoots was established to provide meaningful and educational Jewish journeys to places of Jewish heritage.
We are not just about visiting and photographing places from a distance, JRoots journeys are designed to engage with
Jewish history and to get to know the places, the people and their lives. Each of our trips is accompanied by a
JRoots educator whose role it is to bring the places to life and make it meaningful to the
participants whether it is a private family trip or one of our multi-bus missions.
Find out more