Holocaust Remembrance Day in the midst of COVID-19!

Posted by Olivier Melnick on April 16, 2020

We continue to shelter-in-place and practice social distancing as well as cover our faces with masks and hands with gloves. This might go on for a few more weeks and frankly, even as we re-open the country, a gradual re-entry into the economy will undoubtedly continue to incorporate the items that are quickly becoming our "new normal" for the foreseeable future. Additionally, more and more people are starting to hear of the death of someone they know. When this is all said and done, we will have a sobering reminder of how fragile humanity really is. Eventually, people around the world will have memorials to the victims of COVID-19, because remembering the positive AND the negative is part of our human fabric and is necessary for our survival as a global village.

On the subject of remembering, Israel and the global Jewish community are gearing up to remember the Holocaust during the 2020 Yom Ha Shoah (The Day of the Catastrophe) Commemoration. At 10:00 am in Israel on April 21, sirens will sound all over the land for 2 minutes, as all people will literally come to a halt wherever they are, including cars on roads. Some will say that the last thing we need to worry about is another Holocaust Memorial, especially when the whole world has its eyes fixed on COVID-19, the rising death counts and the race for a vaccine. It seems like just about all the news we get nowadays revolves around some aspect of the pandemic and its effect on the economy, so who cares about another event to remember one of the biggest human tragedy of all times? Well, we all should and here are some reasons:

 We Need to Shift Our Focus: It might do us some good to shift our focus onto something else even for a day. How many press conferences, News reports and hunts for toilet paper and hand sanitizers can we go through before we go insane? There is something very healthy about shifting our focus onto another person, group or event for a while so that our attention is no longer on our own situation. We can easily find a person or a cause worthy of our attention. The alternative is to negatively dwell on our own lives and as a result, ignore the rest of the world around us. Sure,  businesses, restaurants and many other places have closed for now, but there are many things that we can do to encourage, help and sustain others. Remembering the victims of the Holocaust will help shift our focus, even if for a day!

• Life goes on during a pandemic: Even though for the first time in the history of mankind the world literally came to a screeching halt, the earth still orbits the sun and we still have 24 hours in a day, divided between night and day. True, we are being introduced to a new normal that will most likely dictate our every moves for the next several months or possibly years. But this is no reason to forget or ignore important dates to be commemorated. It might be expressed differently amidst a pandemic, but we should not ignore the remembrance of the 6,000,000 for any reason whatsoever!

• The Fight against antisemitism is still needed:
Not only is it still needed, but it is needed more than ever. Our fight cannot be put on hold because people are forced to shelter in place for a while. As a matter of fact, one of the most lethal weapons against the Jewish people and Israel is the intricate web of social networks. Social networks have become the number one method of propagation for the longest hatred, and it can all continue as people are stuck in their homes. People get indoctrinated online as they buy conspiracy theories against the Jews, hook, line and sinker. Eventually, the propaganda turns people into propagators of antisemitic acts either against property or people. This is all happening right now in front of our very eyes.
A pastor–and in his case, we should use the term very loosely– recently told the Jewish community that they were being infected by COVID-19 because they rejected Jesus. Iran is accusing Israel of being behind the virus. White Supremacists are also connecting the virus to the Jews. Now is not the time to pause on either our fight against antisemitism or our recognition of its victims over history. Let us not give Holocaust deniers and historical revisionist one shred of an opportunity to push their evil agendas any further!
"We are all in this together" is as valid for the fight against the virus as it should be for the fight against antisemitism–another deadly virus!

Join me on Monday, April 20th at 6:00 pm when I will conduct a Virtual Service for Holocaust Remembrance Day live from my house. I promise you it will be uplifting. Register here

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