by Ryan C, Northeastern University

Being at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and viewing the Auschwitz exhibit was a true privilege. It was a reminder to stop and appreciate that I am alive and I am free. My visit also caused me to recognize that if my ancestors had not fled, I would not be here today. I thought about my great grandfathers who escaped religious persecution in Poland and Russia. Their bravery and determination inspires me to support Jewish causes. However, I often ask myself, “How do I effect change?” One may argue, one person cannot make a significant impact. To that, I say, I must try and I must act now.

 While at the museum, I saw this little tiny shoe, with the sock left in it. This shoe presumably belonged to a little boy under the age of five. All day, I thought about who this child was and how he came to lose his shoe. What was his story? What would he be doing if he were alive today? 

As I looked at it, my heart got heavy, and my mind started racing. This little shoe made me question my own life and my mission.

There are fewer living Jewish people in the world today than there were before the Holocaust. The prevalence of intermarriage and the recent resurgence of Anti-Semitism further the threat of a decline in the global Jewish population, which currently stands at around 14 million people, only about 0.2% of the world’s population. Yet it doesn’t appear that the American secular community itself perceives this crisis. We are encouraged to mourn Holocaust deaths and learn about these atrocities, but there is not enough focus on combating current Anti-Semitism. The hatred has not stopped and genocides continue. An apathy towards Anti-Semitism has developed, as only major incidents are sensationalized in the news, and micro-aggressions are rationalized as “jokes.” There is too little being done to address Anti-Semitism, as the collective apathy of the American Secular Jewish community appears to be growing.

I am a member of the last generation that has the privilege of meeting and learning from Holocaust survivors. Though we will always remember the 6 million lives lost, we must also focus on what can we do to stop the next event from occurring. Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, notes, “It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen anywhere.”