For the past six days I have struggled with how best to respond to Charlottesville and its aftermath, both individually and as the Founding Director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust.
How does an organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the millions of people who were killed during the Holocaust react to a group of 250 neo-Nazis marching in an organized manner, carrying flags adorned with swastikas and torches lit with the fuel of hatred?
How do those of us who have dedicated our lives to ensuring that "Never Again" is more than just a rallying cry respond to 250 people chanting in unison, "Jews will not replace us?"
How do I, as the founding director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, an organization founded on the idea that the best way to protect the future is by reflecting upon the past, reconcile the evil that took place during the Holocaust with the events that transpired last weekend in Charlottesville?
I wish there were easy answers to these questions. I wish that there was a way to understand or explain why hatred of this magnitude has persevered throughout history. I wish I could simply issue a strongly worded statement condemning anti-Semitism, racism, hatred and violence of any type and have that be enough to make a difference.
However, what I have learned from studying history, from listening to stories of survivors, from witnessing recent examples of intolerance and hatred is that there are no easy answers. Our society, our world, seems to be broken at its very core, and there is only one thing we can do to repair it.
In the 1930s and 1940s, we remained silent while millions of innocent victims lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. In 2017, we must not make the same mistake. Elie Wiesel warned that “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We cannot afford to be silent anymore.
As MIMEH's founding director, I pledge to use my voice to continue working tirelessly to educate people about the events that took place during the Holocaust and their ramifications for modern society. I pledge to continue to fight injustice wherever and whenever it appears because all people- regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other qualifier society chooses to impose- deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I pledge to continue to utilize MIMEH as a place for people to learn about history in order to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of our past. I pledge to protect the stories of those who have been the victims of injustice and intolerance, to pass their stories down from generation to generation, and to do my very best to create a better future where people are treated with equality and respect because that is the very foundation of what it means to be human.
Our voices are stronger together than they are apart. WE are stronger together than we are apart. So I invite you to join me and the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics, and the Holocaust as we pledge to speak up, speak out, and replace the language of hate threatening to poison our world with one of understanding, acceptance and love.
-Stacy Gallin, Founding Director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust