(photo credit: REUTERS)
The memory of the Holocaust is fading with every day that passes. Seven decades after the end of the Second World War, two-thirds of the world’s population have never heard about the Holocaust – or they deny it. The survivors among us are dwindling and soon no one will be left who can recount first-hand the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Meanwhile, antisemitism is on the rise again and Jews across the world feel increasingly less safe.
That is why I participated in the Run for Remembrance in Rome last Sunday – the first sports race in Europe to commemorate the Holocaust – together with hundreds of people from all over the world. The race was in the heart of Rome and the course took us past several sites related to the Holocaust.
The organizers accurately argued that the use of sports as a means for coming together is effective as it “offers the possibility of celebrating our humanity regardless of religion, creed, gender, or cultural background, and personal encounter is a precious occasion to overcome barriers and borders.”
Another important ongoing initiative is the #WeRemember campaign by the World Jewish Congress, a campaign that encourages people to post pictures of themselves on social media with a sign that says “We Remember,” to honor the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. In two weeks the campaign has reached one hundred million people worldwide through social media and newspaper coverage.
These kinds of initiatives are important because they reach people who otherwise might not be actively engaged in their communities, politics or combating antisemitism. While it is obviously crucial that Jewish communities commemorate the Holocaust, it is much more important to reach beyond our own communities.
In today’s fast-paced and digital world, the old recipe of commemorations that consist of a room filled with people listening to speeches is not good enough. To reach past the walls of the Jewish communities and out to the masses we need to think of innovative and creative concepts such as the run in Rome and the #WeRemember campaign.
Fortunately, our opportunities to reach out to people beyond our circle of friends and communities, and across religious faiths, ethnicities, age groups and political affiliations have never been greater.
With the emergence of social media and the invention of the smartphone, almost half of the world’s population has the opportunity to reach millions all over the world from the palm of their hand. No longer are only a handful of people in control of the distribution of information as we are all the editors-in-chief of our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. More than half of online users get their news from social media. With the right message, good intentions, a little creativity and a great deal of perseverance, we all have the potential to become influential role models and leaders.
The key to mobilizing non-Jews in the fight against antisemitism is to convince them of this simple truth: antisemitism not only threatens the Jewish people, but all of humanity. While it always starts with targeting just the Jews, it never ends there. Eventually it will target democracy and freedom, other religious or ethnic minorities, the LGBT community and many others. Therefore everyone who cherishes democracy, freedom and justice must unite and fight antisemitism together as one.
It is time for each and every one of us to rise to the occasion and capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity to make our voices heard and stand up for what is right. When your grandchildren ask you what you did to help your fellow man you should be able to tell them that you acted, spoke up and stood shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish people, freedom and justice. Never Again has to mean Never Again.The author is a member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a flagship program of the World Jewish Congress and a board member of the Zionist Federation in Sweden. Follow him on Twitter: @GabRosenberg.