On the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we vow never again to be silent

On November 9, we will illuminate our congregations as part of #LetThereBeLight 2020, an international event organized by the March of the Living.

Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali (photo credit: MARCH OF THE LIVING)
Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali
(photo credit: MARCH OF THE LIVING)
On November 9, the two of us will illuminate our respective New York area congregations, the Hampton Synagogue and Jamaica Muslim Center, as part of #LetThereBeLight 2020, an international event organized by the March of the Living commemorating the 82nd anniversary of Nazi Germany’s savage Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9-10, 1938, -- during which more than 1400 synagogues were destroyed, 91 Jews killed and more than 30,000 arrested and incarcerated.
During #LetThereBeLight, people of diverse faiths around the world will light up their places of worship to respond to the darkness of the human spirit manifested on Kristallnacht with a luminous message of hope and solidarity in a shared struggle against anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of bigotry.
The first-ever joint participation in #Let There Be Light by a mosque and synagogue is testament to improved relations between Muslims and Jews around the world, a process in which the two of us have been actively engaged since 2007. This year, the joining together of Muslims and Jews in many countries for twinning events dedicated to building friendship and trust, has been powerfully enhanced by the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  

As the two of us pointed out when we spoke at the Jewish-Muslim event in Vienna in 2013 commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the international community, including religious leaders, utterly failed to protest that eruption of violent savagery against the Jews in 1938; a passivity which Hitler and his minions took to be acquiescence to, or even covert support for, their persecution of the Jews. At that time, very few faith leaders, including those living in democratic countries, had the wisdom or courage to denounce the Nazi brutality against defenseless German Jewry as immoral and ungodly. For many of them, events in Nazi Germany seemed far away and someone else’s problem. Little did they realize that within a year, Hitler and the Nazis would commence World War II, conquer most of Europe, and embark on a path, foreshadowed by Kristallnacht, that would soon lead to extermination of six million Jews.  
The 18th century British philosopher Edmund Burke stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Indeed, Kristallnacht and the subsequent horror of the Holocaust vividly show us the lethal consequences of silence in the face of bigotry. Amidst the tumultuous events of 2020, with disturbing spikes in extremist violence in many countries—including the horrific terrorist attack last week in Vienna, the very locale where we spoke seven years ago—the two of us and our congregations feel uplifted and empowered to participate together in #LetThereBeLight. It is an honor and privilege to be part of this event bringing together members of the Interfaith community around the world to declare that we must never again be silent. This time we pledge to speak out loudly and insistently against hatred; and to stand up for each other if any faith or ethnic community is victimized by violence or incitement.   
Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founding Rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue, and Imam Shamsi Ali, Spiritual Leader of the Jamaica Muslim Center, are co-authors of the 2013 book Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation About the Issues That Unite and Divide Jews and Muslims