April 22, 2009

Yom Hashoah

Hsinju Lin and Yenming Chen in the Museum (photo by Melanie Einzig)

Here are the short remarks I delivered at the Museum's staff and volunteer Yom Hashoah commemoration:

I had a professor in college who used to point out the paradox that people would gather together to carry out an essentially private act – learning. "You can only learn by yourself," he said, "yet you come together to learn." You come together to be alone. This conceit made an impression on me at the time, and I am always reminded of it on Yom Hashoah each year. We gather together so we can be intensely alone – alone with our thought, our prayers, our memories.

There is another kind of paradox today, and that is we observe this day at the Museum by doing what we do every day – commemorate and teach about the Holocaust. Of all people, one could argue, we do not need a special day to remind us of what we do every day. I would argue just the opposite. We need it just as much as anyone else. Perhaps more. We need it to remind us and to inspire us. And we have chosen a way to mark this day that speaks so powerfully to what we are as an institution. As our visitors walk through the Museum’s galleries on this Yom HaShoah, they will encounter survivors, who will talk about their objects – bringing life to them and to their memories.

Of all of the Yom Hashoah events around the world – in their manifold approaches – candles, music, political speeches, survivor testimonies, the reading of names -- our small one, right here, for our family, has the most meaning for me. I can’t imagine any other group I would rather be alone with.