Faith & Reason: The Danger for Jews of a Holocaust-Centred Identity ; Tomorrow's Memorial Day Must Not Make the Mistake of Only Looking Back. the Jewish Notion of Remembrance Also Demands a Changed Future
Kessler, Ed, The Independent (London, England)
TOMORROW MARKS the second Holocaust Memorial Day, to commemorate the millions who were murdered between 1933 and 1945 simply because of who they were. It is important that we remember all those who died - both the six million Jews and the five million non-Jews who are all too often forgotten when the subject is discussed. In part this is a question of common humanity; the Holocaust of 11 million shows we are inextricably linked, caught, in the words of Martin Luther King, "in an inescapable network of mutuality - whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly". But it is also something which we Jews need to do to avoid the trap of allowing our Jewish identity to become Holocaust-centred.
For many of us the Holocaust has resulted in a new commandment which stresses that it is incumbent upon Jews to survive as Jews. In other words, one remains a Jew so as not to provide Hitler a posthumous victory. The danger is that by focusing solely on the Holocaust we will gain a distorted view of who we are - constructing a negative Jewish identity which, without the positive side of Judaism, will impoverish the sense of self we hand down to future generations. Jews did not disappear from the horizons of history at the end of the biblical period only to reappear again in 1933; in the intervening centuries a rich Jewish inheritance was developed which offers a far more positive focus for our sense of self.
But there is another danger too, and it concerns not just how we feel about ourselves, but how we relate to others in a society which, despite the advance of secularisation, is still primarily Christian in its assumptions. We have to face the fact that positive relations cannot be built solely on responses to anti-semitism and feelings of guilt. No healthy and enduring relationship between people is built on guilt. The future of the Jewish-Christian relationship, indeed the future of interfaith relations as a whole, lies not simply in the study of the Holocaust but in greater understanding and in dialogue. In the words of Hans Kung:
There will be no peace between the nations without peace between the religions. There will be no peace between the religions without understanding between the religions. There will be no understanding between the religions without dialogue between the religions.
How do we prevent these words from remaining platitudes, particularly on Holocaust Memorial Day? One way is to explore the meaning of the Hebrew word for memory, "zakhor", a term which is often associated with responses to the Holocaust. The need to remember should …
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Publication information: Article title: Faith & Reason: The Danger for Jews of a Holocaust-Centred Identity ; Tomorrow's Memorial Day Must Not Make the Mistake of Only Looking Back. the Jewish Notion of Remembrance Also Demands a Changed Future. Contributors: Kessler, Ed - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 26, 2002. Page number: 6. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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