First the good news! The Holocaust center here in Dallas may very well be the best “ambassador” that our local community has to the outside world. On any given day, there are in all likelihood, hundreds of non-Jews from all color and creed who walk through the doors at 211 North Record Street to learn about man’s inhumanity against man. School buses from communities in rural Texas, lined up one behind the other, parked in front of the Holocaust center, are not all that uncommon a sight on any given school day, as teachers and chaperones usher students – many of whom have never encountered a Jew in their lives, into a building that reveals the results of anti-Semitism gone out of control. This past Sunday, the Center held its Holocaust Commemoration Day ceremony in keeping with resolution 6/70 passed by the United Nations several years back. Speaking on behalf of the Jewish community, I addressed a room filled with a significant number of non-Jews who were in attendance because they felt it important enough to mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Russian army 71 years ago.
Now the bad news! Aside from a handful of survivors as well as those who accompanied them, there was at best a paltry number of Jews in attendance. Although I’m not aware of any survivor bringing this unacceptable phenomenon to the forefront, those who managed to defy Hitler by staying alive have every right to denounce American Jews: “It’s bad enough, you were afraid to speak up when we needed you most, now when we ask you to join us in remembering, you don’t even care enough to show up!” In 1964, Look Magazine ran a feature article entitled The Vanishing American Jew. While any number of rabbis, including yours truly have smugly commented on Look Magazine’s prognosis with more than a modicum of self-righteousness, from a totally different perspective, perhaps Look Magazine wasn’t so far off the mark after all! The attendance or perhaps better stated lack of attendance of “American Jews” with no direct link to the Holocaust at Sunday’s program pretty much says it all.
The reality is that the “Holocaust clock is ticking”. With the passage of each year, more and more survivors are being taken from this world. The time will come in the not too distant future when only the children (many of them practically septuagenarians) and grandchildren of survivors will be acknowledged at Holocaust memorials. I’ve already contacted those in charge at the Holocaust center and suggested better publicity on their part prior to such memorials. I would also hope that congregational rabbis along with their synagogue presidents be encouraged to designate one Shabbat a year, whether it be in January prior to Holocaust Commemoration Day or after Passover just before Yom HaShoah that a speaker be brought in or that the rabbi bring the Holocaust to mind as well as to the hearts of those in attendance.
The full name of the Dallas Holocaust Museum is Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance. Tolerance however has its limits, especially when it comes to apathy and indifference concerning the Holocaust on the part of American Jews.