After the recent increase in anti-Semitic attacks, one German Jewish leader is advising his community not to wear items that easily identify them as Jewish, while a daughter of Holocaust survivors is urging Americans to take every step possible to remember the Holocaust.
In Germany, the leader of the country’s Jewish community has recommended Jewish people avoid wearing the traditional headcoverings known as kippahs (or kippot in Hebrew) after two young men wearing kippahs were attacked last week in Berlin.
During the attack, which was filmed, the attacker was shouting “Yahudi,” an Arabic word for Jews.
Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, warned Jews to be careful and acknowledged the difficulty of simultaneously avoiding danger and celebrating their faith.
“Defiantly showing your colors would in principle be the right way to go [to fight anti-Semitism],” he said. “Nevertheless, I would advise individual people against openly wearing a kippah in big Germany cities.”
Not all German Jewish organizations agree. A spokesperson for the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism stated that Jews “must take up this fight and be visible again in public.”
Fortunately, it seems as though a significant portion of the public is horrified by rising anti-Semitism.
The most recent response by the German public to anti-Semitic attacks is reassuring and provides reason to be encouraged: In a show of support for the Jewish community, Germans marched against anti-Semitism on Wednesday. According to the LA Times, thousands of Germans participated and wore kippahs “to show their solidarity with the estimated 200,000 Jewish people in Germany.”
And in America, one woman is taking seriously the results of a recent survey, which revealed that Americans, and particularly the youngest adult generation (known as millennials), are unfamiliar with the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.
Former Texas state senator Florence Shapiro, daughter of Holocaust survivors and chair of the board of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, wrote in the Dallas Morning News:
It just doesn’t seem possible something so real could ever fade from the collective American consciousness, but this is the reality that our nation is grappling with. If we do not address this knowledge gap, it will only get worse. Lessons learned from the Holocaust are as relevant today in our society as ever before.
In the past, Shapiro co-sponsored legislation to create the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, which she says ensured the “State Board of Education adopted Holocaust curricula as part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies.”
Now, she points out that few states have created similar organizations or implemented similar requirements regarding Holocaust lessons. In her piece, she urges them to do so.
Shapiro noted in the Dallas Morning News the importance of taking such steps:
We must do this in honor of survivors like my parents. But, as important, we must do this for the sake of our children, and we must do this for the future of humanity, so that this generation’s command to “Never forget” becomes the next generation’s affirmation, “We remember.”
If we truly wish for #NeverAgain to mean never again, we must do a better job educating the youth of today and tomorrow about the pure evil that took place less than a lifetime ago. We cannot prevent what we forget. Recent events in Germany, across Europe, and even in the United States should raise a giant red flag, and the ignorance of events of the Holocaust here in the United States is worrisome.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.