Holocaust Remembrance Day and Inclusion



This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) is Thursday, April 8, 2021.  

With each year, my sense of urgency on this issue grows, and for good reason. According to a nationwide survey in 2020, 10 percent of those under the age of 40 reported that they did not recall hearing the word “Holocaust.” Other statistics, including the percentage of respondents blaming Jews for the Holocaust, are even more disturbing:

During the Holocaust, more than 11 million human beings were systemically murdered by the Nazis and their willing accomplices. Of course, every life matters equally and each life is mourned. [1]

But the impact on European Jews is particularly shocking. More than 6 million Jews, 2/3 of the European Jewish community at that time, were murdered. That percentage defies mastery.  

But what does this have to with work some may ask?

The Holocaust has affected some of us quite directly. Yes, this is very personal to me.

Most of my grandparents’ family members were killed in the Holocaust, and that forever informs my worldview. That some family members were saved by Catholic Churches at great personal risk also informs my worldview.

For others, the Holocaust shapes their lives in different ways. Family members may have been among the millions of American, British, and other servicemen and women who lost their lives in fighting Hitler’s genocidal machine.

Holocaust remembrance is an important piece of the mosaic of inclusion. Yet, in some organizations that pride themselves on inclusion, the silence on Holocaust remembrance speaks loudly.  

We can do better. We must.

Please consider posting on your Intranet a remembrance statement. You can find words and images all over the Internet. In particular, check out https://www.ushmm.org/remember/days-of-remembrance.

This is also an ideal topic for a DEI program. But one option to consider: invite a survivor to speak. Bear witness to someone who did.

There are so many things that businesses can do. I “ask” only that you do something.

After the Tree of Life massacre in 2018, I attended an interfaith service at my synagogue. People of myriad faiths, races, and ethnic backgrounds were there.

I heard from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim clergy. Political leaders from both major political parties and leaders of various racial and ethnic groups who were not Jewish made sure, along with the choir of clergy, that their Jewish brothers and sisters were not alone.

I was particularly touched by the words of a Lutheran Pastor. She said, in effect:

1.      When anything bad happens to any of us, it happens to all of us.

2.      When we do anything good for any of us, we do something good for all of us

Holocaust Remembrance Day provides all organizations with an opportunity to remind their employees of these universal truths and the organization’s commitment to them. But be careful not to universalize these truths in a way that erases the Jewish experience, less, to paraphrase Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel, we “kill twice.”

[1] Harriet Sherwood, "Nearly two-thirds of US young adults unaware 6m Jews killed in the Holocaust," The Guardian, September 16, 2020.

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