This is a week of remembrance. It started on Sunday with the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. As I write this on Thursday morning, we mark Yom Ha’Shoah v’laGevurah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day). Established by Israel’s Knesset in 1951, it is a time for us to gather and remember the six million Jews who were killed in the Shoah (and is differentiated from International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January which honors, as well, all of the victims of the Nazis).
Also this week, the ADL released its annual audit of antisemitic incidents. We sadly confirmed what we’ve been experiencing recently – a 48% increase in antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts in 2021, a rate even higher than the 34% rise nationally.
However, we did receive some good news this week as well. JCRC successfully advocated for an addition of $500,000 toward the Genocide Education Trust Fund, included in the MA House budget that was finalized on Wednesday. The Trust, a public-private partnership, supports the implementation of the Genocide Education mandate that we worked hard to enact in close partnership with ADL New England, the Armenian community, and others. While the budget continues through the legislative process, we are grateful to Speaker Mariano, House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, and to Representative Jeff Roy for their continued leadership in championing this cause. We look forward to the Senate taking this up in their budget in May, where we have two great champions for genocide education, Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues.
This coming Sunday at 2:00pm we will gather for the virtual community-wide commemoration of Yom HaShoah, hosted by JCRC. We’ll be hearing from survivor Frieda Grayzel, Dachau liberator Colonel Cranston “Chan” Rogers and others, including Mayor Michelle Wu, who will be delivering her first Yom HaShoah remarks as mayor.
Earlier on Sunday, at 10:00am, I’ll be joining Boston 3G and the Israeli-American Council for #6MillionSteps, a walk from the State House to the New England Holocaust Memorial to form a “last living link” around the memorial, to recognize that we are coming to the end of the era in which the survivors of the Holocaust continue to live amongst us.
I was reminded, again, of the personal connection of JCRC to this work – confronting Nazis and fighting antisemitism – on Tuesday. We invited Father Charles Gallagher S.J., associate professor of history at Boston College, to sit down with me for a public conversation about his book, Nazis of Copley Square. Professor Gallagher’s research documents the Nazi spy ring in Boston in late 30’s and early 40’s and analyzes the role of the Catholic church and local leaders in this ‘Christian Front.’
I was aware from the book’s footnotes that Professor Gallagher had relied, among other sources, on JCRC’s historical archives. Even so, I caught my breath when Professor Gallagher shared onscreen a memo written by my predecessor, Robert E. Segal, the founding director of JCRC, discussing the beating of Jewish boys in the streets of Boston and the antisemitism that led to JCRC’s foundation in 1944 (on the right below).
Eighty years later, as we again experience rising antisemitism in our region, and as the generation of those who experienced the Holocaust is diminishing in numbers, our origin and our purpose remain a central part of who we are and what we do. We at JCRC embrace the need to both challenge and encourage our neighbors to be upstanders in this work, as we also strive to be partners with them in the work of combating all hatred and bigotry.
I hope you’ll join us on Sunday, in-person and online, and in the year ahead as we continue to do this work with both our members and our partners.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,
p.s. This month is National Poetry Month, and today is also ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day.’ Our Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy volunteers are celebrating this week by inviting local poets to share their writing with students at our partner schools.
Most of you already know my passion for poetry and my daily reading practice (and if you don’t, follow me on Instagram). This week I’m reading the new translation of ‘Flights and Metamorphosis’ by Nobel Literature Prize winner Nelly Sachs. Her work after the Shoah was deeply informed by her experience fleeing the Nazis. I encourage you to check it out.