For many years, I’ve taken Confirmation students, our tenth graders, to Los Angeles to experience the Museum of Tolerance and its program for educating and understanding how the combination of racism and complacency lead to unspeakable circumstances.
Not everyone may make the trip to the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, but their traveling exhibit, The Courage to Remember has just arrived at CSU Fresno and for those not familiar with the atrocities humanity is capable of perpetrating, this powerful reminder is certainly worth seeing.
It was good to see the community out to support the exhibit with broad representation. Temple Beth Israel was well represented from members of our teen community on through more senior members.
I was quite impressed with the words of California Assemblymember Linda Halderman’s words in which she spoke of the members of her family who were killed in the Holocaust and the horrific events experienced by those who survived. She reminded us of the many people of varied ethnic backgrounds living here in the region who also continue to suffer discrimination and ended her remarks with Oseh Shalom, the Hebrew prayer for peace.
One of the speakers reminded us that it was not so long ago that Japanese Americans were detained here in Fresno simply because they looked like the wrong people.
Ephraim Hadjis from Congregation Beth Jacob here in Fresno briefly recounted his family’s experience from the Greek Jewish community and how the Jews of his community only survived because of a friendship between the rabbi and a local priest who tipped them off to the scheduled roundup.
There is already a measure of ties between the Jewish community here and other religious groups and I’m already building more. I enjoy doing so, but I also find that the better all of us of different backgrounds know each other and enjoy working together, the more good we do in and for the community.
As I looked around the student center today at the variety of faces and listened to the many thoughtful and positive messages shared, I thought about a particular image from the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem. The museum preserves many horrible images, but there’s a powerful positive image that continues to give me hope. Yad Vashem is surrounded by a forest. Each tree is planted for a non-Jew who risked life to save members of the Jewish community.
Today’s event reminded us that humanity is capable of horrible acts, but the wide representation from all ages and so many ethnic backgrounds reminds us that we are capable of coming together and working for peace.