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A monument and a memorial

I listened to two different tour leaders at the exit to Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Museum, summarize their experience to their groups. The first, speaking to a group of religious girls, argued that really the Holocaust wasn’t perpetrated by Nazis only, but by all anti-Semites. She continued by noting that religious Jews were the primary target. She listed the typical religious dress (in whch the girls were currently attired), and then said that those who wore it “were picked out first.” “You need to know this!” she practically shouted. Her core message: as religious Jews, you are still the primary target of powerful anti-Semites.

The second guide was speaking to a group of American Jewish teens. First he showed them a view in which one could see new residential buildings being constructed. “This gives me hope. We just saw all that destruction and here you see building.” Later he said, “You are citizens of the most powerful government force since the Roman Empire” he said to them. He argued that they must go back home and do everything they can to support the state of Israel.

I heard two messages: you are always potential victims, and you must support Israel. More universal lessons, however, occurred to me. For example, I thought of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The museum also brought to mind the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations: “We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained…have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”

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