Jewish Louisville is tasked with a holy mission: to preserve the memory of those killed in the Holocaust, to never forget what happened, and to see that it never happens again – to us or to anyone.
This informs much of what we do as a community. It plays a role in our support for the State of Israel. It is the reason why so many Jews are in leadership roles in causes around the world. It played a role in our JCRC’s support for a local Syrian refugee family.
“Never Again” is, in many ways, our guiding principle.
Part of this duty is to pay tribute to the victims of the Shoah and to educate the world about what happened. For many years we had first-hand accounts, for which there is no substitute. Hearing eyewitness testimony of what it was like to experience this horror brings a level of authenticity that is unmatched.
But the days of the first-hand account are fast coming to an end. Every year, the number of survivors left to tell their tale gets smaller. In the not-too-distant future, they will all be gone.
How will we tell their story then?
Well, one primary tool is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and this tool is invaluable. It does a wonderful job of telling the story of the Shoah, not only with its main exhibit, but also with its colors, its architecture and its sound.
Here in Louisville, our Federation funds and/or coordinates trips to the USHMM, an essential part of our overall Holocaust education mission. (This is in addition to our annual Yom HaShoah activities.)
Recently, a proposed federal budget included a cut in funding for the USHMM. Federal funding should be increased, not cut.
The USHMM needs to be used by an increasing number of Jewish and non-Jewish education and community institutions. Rarely do we take someone to the museum who is not deeply affected and transformed by it. The rest return to their respective communities to share and teach a universal message of tolerance. We urge President Donald Trump and Congress to increase funding, not decrease it.
The position of anti-Semitism envoy was created in 2004 by statute as part of a State Department plan to advise foreign leaders on combating anti-Semitism. This post has yet to be filled by the current administration and now, with plans to massively cut funding to the State Department, there is talk by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of leaving the position unfilled.
This would be a huge mistake.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic acts have increased in the United States by 86 percent in the first three months of this year. Worldwide, a recent ADL study shows that over 1 Billion people worldwide harbor anti-Semitic views.
Attacks against Jewish institutions in Europe have increased dramatically in recent years, and Jews cannot safely wear anything that is identifiably Jewish in many countries in Western Europe. This post is needed now more than ever. We also urge President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson to not leave this vital post unfilled and conduct a comprehensive search for the next envoy as soon as possible.
(Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)