Light The Darkness: Holocaust Memorial Day.

Today is Holocaust memorial day. January 27th.
When you are Jewish, you are born into a community. A community that knows all of your business. A community that try and set you up on potential dates just because you're single. A community who shower you with praise and pick you apart all at the same time. But also, a community who will drop everything to make sure they are there for you at a family funeral. A community who help each other. A community who stick together.

Being Jewish does come with a set of responsibilities. Everyday responsibilities and responsibilities your parents put upon you through guilt. 
For example: 
"Mum, Dad, I'm going out for a drink on Friday Night." 
Response, "Well, that's your decision, we would obviously prefer you stayed home for dinner." 
Obviously you end up cancelling drinks.
"Grandma, I'm getting my ears pierced!" 
Response, "If God wanted you to have holes in your ears, he would have made you that way!"
"Family and friends, what's your opinion on marrying within the faith?" 
Response "We didn't survive persecution so you could kill us off by marrying out."
Usually followed with a quote from Fiddler On The Roof "A bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?" "No Chava, some things never change!"

Whilst it can feel tiresome being reminded of past persecution, as I've gotten older, I understand the importance of telling these stories and educating those who may not be aware.

I recently put out a question on Instagram asking how many Jewish people do you think there are in the world? 
Some of the answers were:
1 billion, 500 million (more than 1 person gave this answer), 30 million.

There are 17 million Jews in the world, that is 0.2% of the world population.
There really aren't a lot of us.
To put it into perspective, there were 18 million of us prior to The Holocaust. We still haven’t rebuilt the community even 76 years later.
Cue my parents and grandparents telling me to get a move on, if you know what I mean.

Being Jewish is a huge part of my identity, (if you hadn't already guessed). I am of mixed ethnicity within Judaism. My Dad is Ashkenazi and my Mum is Sephardi. These two sects have very different customs and traditions, but the melting pot of differences make me who I am.

Ashkenazim tend to have come from Russia, Lithuania, Poland and they spoke Yiddish. (Much like my Great Grandparents on my Dad's side, and those in Fiddler on the Roof).
Sephardim tend to be of Spanish and Portugese heritage and they spoke Ladino. Ladino is a mix of Hebrew and Spanish, a Judeo-Spanish language. (My Mum's family came from Italy, Turkey and Argentina).
There is more to my story than meets the eye.
As far as I know, my immediate family were not directly affected by the Holocaust. They lived in Buenos Aires and The UK, but they arrived in those countries having been exiled from somewhere else.
I took this picture at Iguazu Falls 🌈
It's no secret that this past year has been tough. We are constantly trying to navigate a way through to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The symbol of hope this year has been a rainbow. A rainbow has always symbolised inclusivity, whether it's love for the NHS or LGBTQIA+
In 1939 WW2 broke out. The Wizard of Oz was also released into cinemas across the globe. 
Many of you won't know this, but the song "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was written as a message of hope to the Jewish community in Europe. 
Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen were both children of Jewish Immigrants from Eastern Europe following the Pogroms.

"When all the world is a hopeless jumble, 
and the raindrops tumble all around. 
Heaven opens a magic lane. 
When all the clouds darken up the skyway, 
there's a rainbow highway to be found.
Leading from your windowpane, 
to a place beyond the sun, 
just a step beyond the rain."

I went to Poland when I was 16. The most difficult thing to comprehend is being able to see the horror and then walk out freely. There is that little voice in the back of your head saying "that could and would have been me." Some of my friends were literally walking in the footsteps of their grandparents.
The picture above is a bunker filled with shoes at Majdanek Concentration Camp. We gathered in a circle outside the bunker and told stories about where we had been in the shoes that we were wearing, and how lucky we were to have had those experiences. 

When writing blogs, I like to find humour and a way of showing light. Jews tend to use comedy in the face of adversity. However, when searching google images of funny things and Jewish memes, the only things I could find, were Holocaust Jokes. I was thinking more on the lines of "Hey, have you met my cousins, friends, mums son...I think you'd be a good match."

This year especially it feels important to talk about The Holocaust. We have seen major politicians found guilty of inciting antisemitism in the UK and the US, let's not forget the "Camp Auschwitz" T-shirts worn by some of those who stormed the US Capitol. 
We have seen a Rap artist banned from Twitter after spouting antisemitism and Jewish hate.
Whilst these major headlines seem outrageous and obviously antisemitic, there is an underbelly of much more sinister antisemitism that is still running rife. 

6 million wasn't enough

Whilst we may have been victimised, we have never considered ourselves as victims. We pack our suitcases and move on and make the best out of every situation.
We believe strongly in education and having a very driven work ethic to make good. At weddings and Barmitzva's we make a toast to the Queen as a way of saying Thank You for letting us live freely in your country. I know we have some weird traditions, but doesn't everyone?

Please don't hesitate to reach out. It's an important part of history that I am more that happy to talk about. We are the last generation with a direct link to survivors. It’s our duty to keep the memory alive.

Today we light candles for those who passed and we remember them. If you would like to join me, please light a candle in remembrance. 

Em x

Here is link to my piece last year


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