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  • Reverend James Squire

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Photo by Marcin Czerniawski


Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day! It is a sacred time in the Jewish community because it speaks to the heart and genetics of the Jewish People. One of my goals for the worship in the chapel at EA was to make sure that our community could see themselves at some point during the academic year in terms of what we honored in chapel. The German war machine was interested in wiping out the Jewish people as though they never existed. People don’t always know that there was an attempt to do this to the Armenian people as well.


People never forgot what the Vestry and I did to honor their loved ones during the horrors of the Holocaust. Recently Matt Gaetz voted against the bill to stamp out antisemitism. He did that because it didn’t conform to his interpretation of the Bible that the Jews killed Jesus, one of the places that began antisemitism in its long history to existence today.


I had Dr. Leon Bass, a close friend and part of the black liberation troops that was one of the first to discover the death camps speak in chapel. He also talked about when we have mini-Holocausts in schools when we bully and discriminate. He was an inner-city Principal who turned his school around with love.


Another speaker was the grandmother of one of the members of the faculty. She lived through the Holocaust in the camps. At one point she pulled back her sleeve and pointed to the numbers on her forearm that identified her in a world of oppression where your name didn’t account. When she did this absolute silence filled the chapel. Dr. Bass would always receive a standing long ovation because he knew kids and what impacts them.


The vestry and I had him in like a booster shot to remove antisemitism and other forms of discrimination. In group dynamics once you identify forms of behavior, it is difficult to repeat them because you now know better.


The Jewish ethic which I covered in ethics class needs to be understood to grasp the ethical complexity of the Hamas and Israel War.


Not many people know that the second most purchased book on the Holocaust is Victor Frankl’s, Man’s Search For Meaning behind the Diary of Anne Frank. Frankl survived a death camp and wrote a book about what he learned in his camp and translated that into Logotherapy where the things that you need to have to possess meaning is a sense of your identity and the belief that you will leave the camp, future thinking, as well as memories of loved ones.


What is disturbing on college campuses is that some know the ingredients of the Jewish ethic. First, you need to realize that there are different perspectives regarding acting in Judaism found in the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform traditions.


At the heart of the Jewish Ethic is the “Law of the Pursuer” where you have the right to defend yourself if your life is threatened. In the abortion controversy, the pursuer van be the fetus. The right to self defense is there, but there is another aspect of the ethic that is causing all the protests across college campuses. The defense must be in moderation as Judaism is a life affirming ethic. It is impossible to justify Netanyahu and the right-wing government’s response as it is extreme.


What has made it difficult on this Day of Remembrance is that the Holocaust is not a distant memory. It is part of the Jewish soul whether a practicing Jew or a Jew in name only.

Right now, in my opinion, the Jewish response is not based in their ethics of moderation in all things. The international Court System has high expectations on what is happening to the Palestinians because it is outside of the regular experience of Jewish people.


In my opinion it is because of the Holocaust. It would be like someone breaking into our homes, killing a loved one, and taking photo albums away with them. We would change the locks on the door and simmer with intense anger. It is a human response.


I would suggest that every American including the protesters take a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington to touch and embrace the total Jewish experience. If we moved Netanyahu out, we could see the ethic in it purest form, one that embraces all of life affirming including the Palestinian people.  


But there is a question that has not been asked. Why did Hamas attack Israel in the worst possible way on October7? Surely, they knew that the right-wing government and Netanyahu would attack back in a furious fashion. I have lived in the Palestinian section and know that Israel has gone from being oppressed to being the oppressor.


Recall after the Holocaust, there was not a cry for retribution from the Jewish world. They had the support of the world order. Is it possible that Hamas wanted to change world opinion of Israel. If so, Netanyahu played into their hands. It is the only explanation that makes sense! Hamas is looking at America and is thrilled with the response of the protests. How do I know about the ethical honorable nature of the Jewish people. It is because I oversaw the spiritual lives of a diverse community where everyone counted.


One Jewish parent helped me save a student’s life and another former Jewish student helped save my own life when he was a resident at Jefferson Hospital. That is the lens through which I see the Jewish people, life-saving and life affirming! There were Jewish students who referred to me as their rabbi because I lived and died metaphorically with them daily.  Let’s get rid of Netanyahu which will change the dynamics in the protests as well. It can’t happen soon enough! Never forget is in their bones!

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