October 7th 2023, marks a tragic and heart-wrenching day for Jewish communities both in Israel and worldwide. This date witnessed the highest number of Jews murdered in one day since the Holocaust.
We condemn the acts of violence committed by Hamas without qualification. Our hearts are heavy with sorrow, and the enormity of the tragedy feels deeply personal. Hearing from our friends and colleagues about loved ones lost and those still missing intensifies our anguish. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of Hamas’s brutality, and to the kidnapped Israelis – we fervently hope for their safe return to their loved ones.
The implications of the ongoing turmoil on ordinary people in Gaza also deepen our heartache. Every innocent life lost, every dream prematurely ended, and every displaced individual, regardless of their origins, is a poignant reminder of the despair that arises from conflict.
We are deeply concerned about the ripple effects of this conflict on Jewish and Muslim communities here in the UK. The alarming rise in antisemitic incidents and harassment, with an increase of over 700% since October 7th (as reported by the Community Security Trust), is a stark reminder of the challenges we face, with hatred and prejudice threatening the safety and well-being of the Jewish community. Similarly, a six-fold increase in Islamophobic threats has been recorded by Tell MAMA.
As we navigate these tumultuous waters, it is absolutely imperative that we don’t mistake the ongoing adversities as bounds to our mission or the strength of our ideals. Even if some dreams of a better world are deferred, they are the compass that will lead us through this storm to clearer days ahead. In the face of such adversities, our unwavering commitment remains clear: to tirelessly promote understanding and to always rise above the shadows of hatred.
Listening To Survivors: Statement From Our Chair, Jenny Kagan.
Holocaust Centre North is unique in that it was formed by a group of survivors who came together to share their experiences, both to support each other and to make their stories heard in the wider community. We have sadly and inevitably lost so many of the original group who started the journey, and yet our mission remains unchanged: to perpetuate the vision of our core founding members.
The term survivors implies a cohesive shared experience, and yet in many ways, that is misleading. Our founder members, our survivors, came from a host of different countries, backgrounds and cultures and their experiences during the Holocaust varied tremendously. But there was one thing that united them – their hope. Their hope that through the sharing of their suffering, the world would become more compassionate, kinder and safer; and that humanity would never again inflict such pain and suffering on fellow human beings.
And now, at this seismic moment when the fragility of the security we felt when emerging from the Holocaust resonates most keenly, I truly mourn the loss of those whom I wish we could turn to at this moment for words of guidance. However, I suspect their words might be dominated by profound sorrow. And so is it down to us, to the next generations, to translate the stories our parents told us, the lessons they learned, to this new world reality?
Just as their experiences differed, so would their responses to the events of this week – but their hope is again the thing that I believe would unify them; the hope that drove them to survive through the horrors, the hope that drove them to set up the foundations of what is now Holocaust Centre North, the hope that if we see one another as fellow individuals and treat each other without prejudice and without fear then there is the prospect of a better world.
The increase in antisemitism both globally and on our doorstep is truly terrifying, and we must not underestimate the danger it poses. We have no voice in the international theatre of conflict and war – but we do have a voice in our communities and in our networks. A voice to condemn all those who commit atrocities, who make judgements based on race or creed and who spread hatred and fear. And to recognise that not all those who differ from us are our enemies.
Can we use this horrific tear in the fabric of our world to stitch new bonds and alliances, to cleave together with others who long for a more just and safe society, to support and show love for all those who live in fear because of their difference? That’s the question I believe our founding survivors would ask. I see them in my mind’s eye. They are devastated beyond measure – but they gather themselves. They wipe away tears, slap the table with their hands and say, ‘Now, more than ever, we must work. We cannot – we must not – surrender to those who want to tear us apart.’
Chair of Holocaust Centre North