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Never Again

This past week the entire Jewish world commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Yom HaShoah. For so many years the Jewish community has focused on this date to remember our six million murdered brothers and sisters. I remember vividly growing up in my father’s shul amongst many survivors of European massacres. What I remember most about this incredible group of people was their love of life. They remembered their lost family yet somehow they were able to move forward and rebuild their lives into testaments of honor. Today, so many from that generation have left this world to be reunited with those they lost. 


I started my week in the San Francisco Bay area. I met with several friends and supporters of Aish. As I landed and drove to a friend’s home in Oakland I spotted a few cars driving with oversized Palestinian flags. Wherever I went, Jews told me of the intimidation that was happening in the streets of their communities. It was hard to hear as the anxiety of the Jewish community is palpable.


Yury Izrailevsky together with Rabbi Steven Burg in San Francisco


Thankfully, we also spent time talking about the efforts of Aish online to counter the fear and intimidation with knowledge of Jewish wisdom and pride in our Jewish heritage. We spoke about our efforts to build our new community space online. So many Jews are feeling isolated today. Creating safe spaces for conversation and spiritual growth is our current priority. We have aggressively moved up our timeline to create and launch this innovative online space for Jewish university students to connect with each other. I believe this effort to be crucial as our greatest strength as Jews is to be supported and elevated by our fellow Jews.


Rabbi Steven Burg with the Levy family in Oakland


I quickly flew back from the West Coast to Washington D.C. to attend the Holocaust commemoration ceremonies in the United States Capitol. Each year, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum hosts a memorial event where every US Army Battalion that was involved in liberating the concentration camps presents its flag. It is an important reminder of America’s role in stopping the Nazi atrocities. I was joined by Aish partner Bari Erber and Danielle Siegel.


Rabbi Steven Burg together with Bari Erber at the U.S. National Holocaust Museum


This year’s ceremony took on added importance as President Biden had decided to speak at this event. As we mingled before the event, many people asked me about the mood in Israel. There was clear apprehension in the room as only seven months ago on October 7, we witnessed the greatest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. One person candidly asked me why I was there as Aish seemed more focused on the spiritual growth of our people. I explained that Aish is one of the largest international Jewish communities in the world, and our movement has an important voice that must be heard during these uncertain times.


President Biden Speaking at the Yom Hashoah Ceremony at the U.S. National Holocaust Museum


As I listened to the President’s remarks, I was moved by his words. He said all the right things in that ornate, beautiful room. We had an opportunity to interact with the survivors who were present and they too took pride in America’s long-standing commitment to freedom. Yet, the very next day, the United States Government had started to give public ultimatums to Israel. The one place where we know our brothers and sisters are being held captive by terrorists was declared ‘off limits’ to the IDF and crucial armaments are being withheld from Israel. The words I heard in the Capitol were not being matched by action.


As disheartening as it has been to see the mayhem that antisemites have caused on campus and now to see the stumbling blocks put in front of the modern-day liberators of Jews, we must remember a few things. First and foremost, the Almighty loves us and will never abandon His people. Ultimately, we must continue to beseech him and storm the gates of Heaven with our prayers. Secondly, we must continue to unify the Jewish people to the best of our ability. Aish will work hard towards this end through our robust technology and help alleviate the loneliness felt by so many of us at this time.


Thirdly, we must make our voices heard. You all have a voice. We must express our thoughts and feelings to those in places of power that what is happening in our communities around the world is outrageous and wrong. As we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, we must remember the lesson of Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”