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June 1, 2016

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Holocaust Remembrance Day

“A peaceful future depends on our everyday acts and gestures. Let us educate for tolerance in our schools and communities, in our homes and workplaces and, most of all, in our hearts and minds.” — Federico Mayor, Director General of UNESCO, from his address at the dedication of the Museum of Tolerance, February 8, 1993.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. There are many ways to observe this day, and different people have their own traditions. Some hold memorial services, read poetry, or light candles in honor of the dead. In Israel, a two-minute siren sounds as everyone stops what they are doing to stand in silent memory of the millions who perished.

As the granddaughter of survivors, it’s impossible for me to think about the Holocaust without thinking of my own family. I remember hearing stories when I was a little girl, and feeling completely fascinated and horrified by the things my grandparents experienced. As hard as it was to hear their painful stories, it was also very humbling. It made me realize from a very young age how incredibly lucky I am to have grown up in a country that honors cultural differences and promotes tolerance of all races and creeds.

Living in New York, a city that celebrates its diversity and values uniqueness and individuality, it can be difficult to imagine something like the Holocaust ever happening again. That’s why it’s so important that we take time to remember the horrific events that occurred almost 70 years ago. Forgetting, denying, avoiding—these can be natural reactions to such an unpalatable reality, making it all the more essential for us to force ourselves to remember. Remembering is a painful but ultimately hopeful act. By remembering, we hope to ensure that such an atrocity is never repeated.

Unfortunately, the Holocaust is not the only genocide in recent history. Today is also an opportunity to remember and talk about the hatred and prejudice that continue to exist all over the world, and to educate ourselves and our children about the importance of tolerance and understanding as the building blocks for peace.

Dana Shaked is the promotions manager for the teacher pages of the Book Club catalogs.

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April 19, 2012