January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day, to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
King’s Jewish Chaplain, Dr Harrie Cedar, has kindly written us a blog post on this year’s theme of We Stand Together. You can also find out more about events taking place around King’s for Holocaust Memorial Day on our Events page.
Some places make us feel at home. They may be unexpected places, but somehow, there is a culture that makes us feel at ease. For me, new to the role here, Kings is one such place. That strikes me as strange because, many years ago, I decided not to do my undergraduate degree here as it seemed very old and stuck in its ways. Things change.
Like all people, I am on a journey. After completing a PhD, I became a research scientist. Then for many years, I worked as a university academic. I liked the students, a very diverse group and I loved teaching them. They were a lesson in life for me. During that time, I came to Kings on a sabbatical to the Stem Cell Laboratory of Dr Stephen Minger. I had not been doing serious research science for a while, but instantly felt at home among young PhD students and Post Docs who were from all over the world. Each semester we would also inherit some Kings BSc students doing a final year project. Overseeing them was a joy. Many described themselves or their parents as ‘off the boat’, but they were so ‘London’; enthusiastic, curious and great fun; often very observant in their beliefs, but inclusive to all. I had a wonderful time and was sad to leave – which I never really did- going on to study for an MA in Jewish Studies at Kings a few years ago.
Now, I am back at Kings in a different role, as a Jewish Chaplain, in this huge, diverse community. My colleagues are very inclusive, sharing a common belief in respect for others, but encouraging a range of religious practises. I feel included in. That is a wonderful feeling.
Being included in, rather than ‘included out’, allows the best of people to shine. Each one of us is unique, regardless of the labels that society gives us (male/female, straight/gay, British/French, liberal/conservative etc). And each one of us counts. Nobody else can be us, even in an age where we can digitally (and genetically) clone people. Or as Oscar Wilde put it “Be yourself; everybody else is taken”. It is hard to be yourself and to fit in. But that is the glory of Kings. We Stand Together as a university, as a community recognising everybody as themselves on their individual journey to become themselves.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, I remember 6 million people who were killed not because of who they were, but as a need to label them as just one part of themselves, Jewish. Their lives, and 1.5 million of them were children, were cut off before their full potential could be realised. Each person, a light extinguished; a dream denied. In Judaism, to kill a person is to destroy a world. All the things that person would have done vanishes All the generations they may have produced are never realised. In the three Abrahamic traditions, we believe that each and every human is made in the image and likeness of G-d and, therefore, killing someone is destroying a part of G-d, a truly wicked thing. We are each irreplaceable and should never try to diminish another. Even without killing somebody, trying to dim another’s light does not make your light shine brighter.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, We Stand Together, remembering the terrible consequences of division. We Stand Together, not as a ‘Uni’ a one thing, but as a ‘Universe’ (-ity) where we all belong. We Stand Together to allow each person to be themselves, to realise their full potential. We Stand Together to let each individual’s light shine.