WHY BUILD A MEMORIAL?
Remembering the Holocaust in the City of Murrieta
We, along with many good friends and colleagues, are proud members of this community and have been active over the years in promoting and empowering Israel-U.S. friendship in this region. We believe that standing up for what one believes in and living one’s values is the only way to build a community and show our younger generation the way forward.
We believe now is such a time to speak up, be heard, and do a good and righteous deed.
Shouts of “Jews will not replace us” and “White lives matter” echoed in the night as torch-wielding white supremacists marched around the University of Virginia. The next day, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of the so-called alt-right movement held a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly. Local police and the governor declared a state of emergency when the violence between the marchers and counterprotesters intensified with shoving, punching, and tear gas being tossed into the crowd. The violence peaked when one of the white supremacists rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer.
This is the reality in the United States in this day and age, a little over seven decades after the Holocaust—an abomination words cannot describe. Sadly, this is far from being a sole incident on U.S. soil. In a recent report, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) stated that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86% in the first quarter of 2017. ADL reports a massive increase in the amount of harassment of American Jews and a doubling of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at nondenominational K-12 grade schools. University students have been victims of anti-Semitic acts as well.
These anti-Semitic incidents have been felt across the country. But the states with the highest number of incidents, not surprisingly, tend to be those with large Jewish populations. Here are the top states, as of 2018:
- California (341 incidents)
- New York (340)
- New Jersey (200)
- Massachusetts (144)
The report states that anti-Semitic activity remains at near-historic levels since ADL started tracking this kind of data in the 1970s.
Here, in our very region, we face similar challenges. In July 2017, a Riverside imam called Jews “unjust tyrants” and prayed to Allah to “destroy them” in a recent sermon. His hatred was denounced by local leaders, but clearly we need to do more to counter the plague of anti-Semitism in our midst.
For this reason, it’s vital to have a deep knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust—to keep the commitment of “Never again!” in world memory. So we have proposed commemorating the Holocaust in the city of Murrieta as a regional cornerstone to uplift the tenets of humanity and decency, to teach our children a better future from our past, and to lead the way with knowledge to fight ignorance and intolerance in our society.
We approach this from two directions. First is our continuing “March of Remembrance” Holocaust Memorial annual event. Second is the building of the permanent Holocaust Educational Memorial in Murrieta's Town Square Park.
The response we have received from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. The Murrieta city council, the parks department, and the city manager have given their unanimous approval. We are deeply grateful for their vision and concern for the future generations of Murrieta residents.
It is worth noting that the Holocaust is more than a “Jewish” matter—it pertains to all of humanity. Here in the U.S., for example, the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning in Georgia hosts an annual Holocaust Remembrance program and ceremony, setting aside time to remember the United States’ role in rescuing Jews and millions of others from the hands of Nazis. The U.S. has long been a beacon of humanity in a dark world, a role we want to see us continue.
This is why we want our Holocaust Educational Memorial in Murrieta to be a “living memorial” where students can visit, ask questions, discuss, and remember—remember what we might become if we don’t face our own darkness and shine our inner light.