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70 Days for 70 Years

January 13, 2015

Rabbi Aubrey  Hersh

Our sages define a lifespan as being 70 years, which places us exactly one lifetime away from the events of the Holocaust. This interim has given the world the pretext to forget, such that anti-Semitism is no longer seen as politically incorrect. But as Jews we continue to remember, not so much to live our lives in their shadow or in sorrow, but to better be able to define values and life. And in various countries around the world, January 27th will be Holocaust Memorial Day, which will be an opportunity for survivors to be heard, often to a broader audience than usual.

Nevertheless, two elements of it ring somewhat hollow. Firstly the attempt by some to change its focus and turn it into an international genocide day, thus deflecting from the uniqueness of the Holocaust - which took place across an entire continent, which was instigated and perpetrated by cultured and advanced first world countries (Germany & Austria) by democratically elected political representatives and which, unlike other genocides, did not take place for land or political gain.

Secondly the date itself has been badly chosen. Although the Russians arrived in Auschwitz as liberators in January of 1945, there was little left to liberate. Out of 63,000 inmates, only 7,000 were still in the camp, the rest having already been taken on a death march which the vast majority would not survive.

Yet January 2015 will be somewhat different, because this year will see the launch of a programme and a book entitled 70 Days for 70 Years which will remember those who died, through learning about Judaism and about our history.

 

Fittingly the 70 days will end on the first night of Pesach, the winter giving way to a new spring, spurred on hopefully as a result of greater knowledge, awareness and interest in who we are and what we believe. The next three months, as we go through Tu B’Shvat, Purim and the cycles of time, provide an opportunity to move from winter to a re-birth.

 

Rabbi Aubrey Hersh