Demonstrators in Nairobi, Kenya rally against wave of anti-gay legislation in Africa. Photo: Getty Images.
The ancient rabbi Hillel famously asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” I feel it is important to answer the first two questions in the way Hillel hoped—that we must stand up for both ourselves and for others. (After 40 years as a legislator, my answer to the third is “as soon as we have the votes.”)
On Purim, Jews remember the oppression we faced and overcame in ancient Persia and throughout our history. With Hillel’s questions in mind, we must rededicate ourselves to combating anti-Semitism throughout the world and to combating the oppression of others.
Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. Department of State's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
The following remarks were originally posted on the website of the U.S. Department of State and shared on May 30th with the Cream City Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. I am the daughter of a man who was literally marked by a badge of “difference” – a yellow star that not only made him stand out as non-German in the eyes of the Nazis, but also placed a bounty on his head. A survivor of Buchenwald, my father experienced what hate, left unchecked, can do. As a result of his experiences, he instilled in me an urgency to fight not only anti-Semitism, but also intolerance in all of its forms.
The Holocaust is one of the darkest chapters of human history – a democratically elected leader was allowed to turn hatred into genocide because good people didn’t stop him. Good people didn’t stand up and prevent the cattle cars from carrying their neighbors to the gas chambers. Good people didn’t say no when their neighbors were stripped of their German citizenship simply because they were Jewish. Yes, there were thousands of rescuers – a fact I talk about widely – but it was not enough. Society failed and millions of Jews, Roma, and LGBT individuals were the innocent victims of what the power of hatred left unchecked can achieve. Read More