Visitors at the Birkenau Museum view the many faces of the men, women and children at the Auschwitz II Birkenau which was built in March 1942 in the village of Brzezinka, Poland. | Scott Barbour/Getty Images
The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution recognizing April 18 as Holocaust Remembrance Day, but not before its sponsor said words were not enough in the face of a documented increase in antisemitism.
The resolution, SR 34, was sponsored by state Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), who is Jewish. He began by noting the refrain “Never again” that is often invoked about the Holocaust, but has seemingly lost some of its power in recent years.
“When I was growing up in metro Detroit’s Jewish community, ‘Never again’ seemed so obvious,” said Moss. “Of course, never again. In my youth, I learned about the Holocaust as a part of our history as a people and personally knew elders in our community who endured, escaped and survived. Their mere existence surely was enough evidence to keep these horrors in our history never to be repeated, as they were the direct witnesses to acts of evil so outrageous that in a way it seems so disconnected to the world as I knew it. How could these conditions possibly exist again?”
Moss noted that in just the last year, a multitude of incidents have made it clear that now only could they exist; they did exist.
“Nationally, Kanye West amplifies Holocaust denialism and other conspiracies, expresses his admiration for Hitler and threatens violence against Jews,” he said. “When he tweeted his antisemitic tweets, he had more Twitter followers than there are Jews in the world.”
Closer to home, Moss pointed to an incident late last year in which a man was charged after threatening families and security staff at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills.
“Preschoolers walking into a synagogue in my district,” he said. “These are young and impressionable children who are at risk of only knowing a world of cruelty against them, just because of their religion, culture, and identity.”
Moss also related receiving what he described as a “jarring call from the FBI,” about the impending arrest of a heavily armed man who made credible threats to kill Jewish officials in Michigan, the exact type of threat his ancestors fled to America to avoid.
“I told the story of my family on this floor of my great grandfather who fled emerging antisemitism in Eastern Europe while his siblings stayed behind and were shot to death by Nazis,” said Moss. “You don’t think he could possibly imagine that when he came here and escaped the fate of his siblings, his great-grandson would meet the same threats a few generations later?”
Moss told the chamber that these personal incidents were backed up by data, noting that since the last Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) reported antisemitic incidents had increased 36%, including an increase in assaults by 26%, harassment by 29% and acts of vandalism by 52%.
Moss closed by saying that adopting the resolution sends an important message that the Michigan Senate takes seriously the enduring legacy of the Holocaust, which he said was to accept diverse populations and prevent extreme bigotry from escalating into violence and genocide.
“But the words in this resolution are not enough, and they may never be,” he said. “Your actions on a day to day basis to combat antisemitism will be the measure of whether ‘Never again’ can hold true.”
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