KRAKOW, Poland — Hundreds of student participants in the annual “March of the Living” Holocaust memorial gathered on the eve of the ceremony to draft a resolution condemning antisemitism and committing to fight it.
Speakers from around the world shared their outrage and frustration with what they described as a growing climate of antisemitism in places where Jews once felt welcome, including in many “progressive” political communities. The conference took place against the backdrop of recent events, with antisemitic violence and propaganda in the news just days before the annual Holocaust memorial observation.
Alberto Levy of Panama City, Panama, told Breitbart News that he hoped the document would “reflect [on] what happened int he past, understand what’s happening now, face the reality, and call to a strong, organized action against antisemitism and any other kind of racism, bigotry, and intolerance.” The most important commitment, he said, would be to encourage every Jewish person to speak out and not to be a bystander to racism.
Asked whether discussing other forms of bigotry would dilute the document, Levy acknowledged that the topic had been a controversial one among the students. They would like resolve it, he said, by dividing the document into three separate sections — the “past” and “present” sections dealing with the specific issue of antisemitism, and the “future” section calling for action not only against antisemitism but against all other forms of prejudice.
Izzy Lenga, a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham, spoke of her difficult struggle with the creeping anti-Jewish prejudice of the British Labour Party, which she refused to leave, but which she said had forced many good people out because of its tolerance of antisemitism. “You don’t fight hatred by walking away,” she told Breitbart News, though she added that she still respected those who did.
Rabbi Dr. Danny Schiff of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asked: “Who could have imagined, when we planned this conference, that we would be coming together when just last Shabbat a gunman entered yet another synagogue on a Shabbat morning on the last day of Pesach [Passover] and spread bullets around the sanctuary, targeting the individuals in that room for one reason and one reason alone — because they are Jews?
“Who could have imagined that we would be here in the week that the New York Times, one of the most prominent newspapers in the world, would publish an antisemitic cartoon that would make Nazi propagandist [Joseph] Goebbels proud?”
Renowned Jewish educator Dr. Zohar Raviv told participants that as they commemorated tragedy, hatred, and victimhood,”do not let those events define us as Jews.” Rather he said, they should live up to Jewish values.
He added that while it was true that antisemitism is rising, “it is also true, at least in America, that there is a rising number of whose who would embrace us, and support us, and hold us up when we feel like we are falling down.”
He also encouraged those in attendance to “embrace our Judaism” as the “best way” to frustrate antisemitism.
The final draft of the declaration will be read publicly as part of the March of the Living ceremonies Thursday.
The annual March of the Living, founded in 1988, brings together Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as government representatives, civil society groups, and youth groups, from around the world to walk the three-kilometer path between the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz and the death camp of Birkenau.
Though the United Nations established international Holocaust Memorial Day in January, Jews have traditionally observed it as “Yom HaShoah,” following the establishment of that date as Israel’s official commemoration in 1951.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.