When I was in my late 20’s I migrated from Zimbabwe to South Africa to marry my wife. I landed myself this plum job as an English teacher at a very posh school in Johannesburg. The school was one of a number Jewish Day Schools servicing the Jewish families of Johannesburg and I spent nearly two years of my life there teaching and taking part in many Jewish traditions and rituals. Every Friday I would wear my Yarmulke and attend shul (synagogue), I went to Bat Mitzvahs and Bar Mitzvahs and the Brit Milah (Bris) prayers for newborn boys and showed my respects for families sitting Shiva during the seven days of mourning. Whilst I was teaching at this school the movie Schindler’s List was released. The staff attended the South African premier and at the end of the movie a number of survivors from the original list of 1000 names Oskar Schindler drew up to help Jews avoid extermination stood up as a testament to the redemptive work of Schindler. It was one of those moments that made the Holocaust more than an event I had learned about in history. Then the children and grandchildren of these survivors surrounded them and I became intensely aware of what a remarkable legacy Oskar Schindler had left. Here in Africa, many, many miles away from Auschwitz and the other death camps stood these families who had made new lives for themselves and started new businesses and were healing the wounds from such a dark past.
One of the most powerful ceremonies I witnessed as a teacher at the Jewish day School was Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). This year’s anniversary was a particularly poignant one as it marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. All around the world memorial candles will have been lit and the Kaddish (prayer for the departed) will have been said. And whilst this may sound like a very solemn and perhaps even macabre event for me to recall in my thought provoker know that remembrance is a way of showing the greatness of heart that has grown out of suffering.
When I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC at the start of this year I was again reminded of what a dreadful stain the Holocaust is on our humanity. The last display at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. is a Pledge Room. A quarter of a million people (myself included) have written a pledge saying what they will do to meet the challenge of genocide today. My pledge was to use my opportunities as an educator, a father and a communicator to heighten the awareness in others of the horrors of genocide. Genocide continues to this day, it is happening right now at this moment that you are reading this thought provoker and so I am wondering what do you pledge to do to stand up against genocide?