It is truly a joy to be here in this diverse, caring and involved New Mexico Jewish community. These first six weeks as your new Executive Director at the Jewish Federation of New Mexico have shown me that our community is vibrant! And together we share a deep commitment to expanding Jewish education and activism.
Education and activism coincide especially when it comes to our response to the realities of antisemitism. We combat antisemitism and all forms of racism and hate by being sure to share the truth about the Holocaust and all genocide. Knowledge is the antidote to ignorance. Ignorance is the womb of hatred.
As was aptly illustrated in the old Broadway favorite, “South Pacific,” (1949) in the Richard Rogers song, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” racism, hate and antisemitism are learned. (Click https://youtu.be/VPf6ITsjsgk to see/hear the song).
In addition, in most of the United States, students may not be taught about the Holocaust. Only 11 states mandate Holocaust education. To get a picture of this crisis of ignorance, watch this video by Rhonda Fink-Whitman (Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V4bmm6yJMw to watch).
Consequently, we face the multiple challenges of lack of knowledge, the onslaught of Holocaust denials and vocal antisemitic and racist screeds, combined with the deteriorating, polarizing tone of public discourse.
The reality is: Antisemitic acts of violence have increased dramatically around the world in recent times, and we have faced the worst antisemitic violence in American history at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg, along with the attack at the Chabad synagogue in Poway. ADL reports that in 2018, “the number of incidents last year remained at near-historic levels – 48 percent higher than the total for 2016 and 99 percent higher than in 2015.”
There always is light within the darkness.
August 4th, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of the arrest of Anne Frank and her family by the Nazis. Her story has touched generations of people of all faiths across the world, because she epitomizes the particularly Jewish dimension of the Holocaust, and…the universal power of hope and faith in humanity. Anne Frank’s life and story are a beacon of light for the power of goodness, hope, and humanism that will always prevail against the darkness of antisemitism, racism, and all hatred.
Here in New Mexico, August 4th 2019 will be declared by proclamation of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as, “Anne Frank Remembrance Day.”
And as we understand so well, the process of fighting the darkness with the light of knowledge must go on!
That is why I am personally inviting you to a world-class event in our work to advance knowledge and understanding and fight against the darkness of hate.
This coming Sunday, August 4th, 2019, under the Jewish Federation of New Mexico’s initiative, “United Against Antisemitism and All Forms of Racism and Hate,” Please join us for this seminal event in our year-long series:
Professor Deborah Lipstadt is among the world’s leading authorities on the history and reality of antisemitism and responding to Holocaust deniers. Her message will be compelling, timely, and relevant as we all confront antisemitism and hatred in all forms.
I hope to see you there as we stand together against ignorance and hate. And as we learn together, we will also resolve to be beacons of light and knowledge in the spirit of Anne Frank.
Robert B. Lennick