A Leaders Update - Remembering the particulars

The following blog first appeared Friday, April 13, as an email update from Keith Krivitzky, CEO, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.



Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am sharing my prepared remarks for Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration with Chhange, 4.13.18:

This week, we commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Jewish Federation is proud to support this event at Chhange, as well as other Remembrance events throughout our community. We are also privileged to be the leading funder for services for Holocaust survivors in the Heart of New Jersey, helping more than 100 local survivors through our social service partners at Jewish Family & Childrens Services in Monmouth, Jewish Family Services in Middlesex, and the Jewish Social Service Agency. This is one of the most important elements of the work we do.

Headlines this week have talked about how more and more people in this country, especially younger people, don’t know what the Holocaust is…or what Auschwitz means. Part of this is a result of the passage of time and the passing of living witnesses to the Shoah. But it’s hard to take the lessons of the Holocaust to heart when you don’t know or understand what actually happened or the particulars.

And those lessons are needed more than ever today.

We say often that “Hate has no home in our community” and yet hate seems to keep happening and springing up around us, online and in our schools.

We say “Never Again” to any more genocides, and yet it seems that every year YET AGAIN there is another mass killing targeting a particular group or attempted genocide around the world.

We hear more and more people talk about hate and bias and bigotry as being bad or evil but something is not working; there seems to be a disconnect between our hearts and our hands, our ability to counter these trends in practice.

I think one reason is that we use these terms in the abstract. We want to make them universal, to take away any personalized nuance or meaning or association with a particular group. If you focus on one particularism or identity…you need to focus on them all.

But that doesn’t work. Hate isn’t generic or abstract. Hate is particular and specific. Hate is targeted to individual groups and identities. And to counter hate, we also have to be specific and label that particular hatred whenever and wherever we see it whether it is anti-semitism, anti-black, anti-gay, anti-muslim, anti-whatever. We can’t just offer platitudes and all-inclusive words that speak about hate being bad or coming together and sharing universal values.

An approach that focuses on countering hate without starting with the particular people and victims targeted by that hate will fall short. Only when we do that will people understand what hate really means and we can stand together to be effective in making a difference.

(Well-intentioned people say we need to counter hate with love, universal love. I disagree, or rather, I don’t think this is sufficient though a little more love in this world would not be a bad thing. There is a well-known phrase: the opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference. I think that makes a lot of sense. When we are indifferent to where or to whom hate is targeted, we actually open the door to more hate.)

That’s why the work and approach of Chhange is so critical. Chhange stands for the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education. It seeks to take the lessons of the Holocaust and apply them to real world situations and instances of hate. I think this shift to focusing on how to take the lessons of the Holocaust and apply them is so vitally important today.

And it does so not just by railing against the universal aspects of hate, but by focusing on the particular peoples or groups targeted, hearing and sharing their story, and seeing how hate manifested itself in their particular circumstances. We see that with their exhibits on the Rwandan Genocide, the Armenian Genocide and in their new permanent exhibit.

We need to make sure this particular message is shared more widely. Only when more and more people focus on the particulars, and understand what the Holocaust means to Jews and other targeted tragedies mean to other victims, can we make a difference in making sure hate has no home in our world.

I also want to call your attention to the Pledge for the Other, started by a Muslim leader who just went on an Inferfaith Clergy Journey to Israel sponsored by the Federation. By taking this pledge, you commit to standing up against hatred or bigotry whenever you hear or see it, and supporting those who are targeted. Learn more and sign it at www.jewishheartnj.org/standup.

The Jewish Federation is pleased to be a partner with and for Chhange, is committed to working to counter anti-semitism and hate in our community, and to continue helping the survivors who are most vulnerable in our midst.

Thank you.

With that, reads for the warm weekend:

Best for a Shabbat Shalom.


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