Rabbi reflects on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 20:04:32-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Seventy five years ago today, Jewish prisoners were liberated from the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenhau concentration camp. That is why January 27 is designated as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Inside the Holocaust Memorial Museum at the Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, there are plenty of pieces of history from the Holocaust. Those pieces include newspaper clippings and photos.

But of all the historical artifacts in the museum, one sticks out most to Rabbi David Wirtschafter, who has served as Rabbi of Temple Adath Israel since 2015. That piece is a pair of boots that were worn by someone who suffered through the Holocaust.

"We go beyond numbers, and we go beyond dates, and you see something concrete," Wirtschafter said.

"I look at those empty boots, and I think that these boots had an owner who had feet and had legs and wanted to eat and sleep just like you and I. Millions of people were complicit and cooperative in the deaths of millions of people. To me, those shoes have a power to tell a story and have a power to make us think about the next steps we are going to take."

While the Holocaust ended in 1945, the museum serves as a remembrance of the biggest genocide in the history of the world, something Wirtschafter hopes will never happen again.

"It's essential to us that our community remember and that all our visitors, remember what happened," Wirtschafter noted.

"I think it's essential to remember that Nazism, that extremism, that tyranny is typically gradual in its escalation. It does not take place overnight. It didn't go from zero to 60 in a nanosecond. We don't go from living democratically and civilly to gas chambers in a month. This was a careful systematic deliberate process that demanded, relied upon the complicity, the participation and, in some ways, inaction the silence of millions of people. And so the most important thing that we can do is to lend our voices and to speak out from the very moment, that that systematic and organized hatred begins."