By David R. Cohen | firstname.lastname@example.org
The United States is not doing enough to educate future generations about the Holocaust or to take care of the remaining survivors, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat said April 19 at the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.
“We have an urgent responsibility to educate future generations on the Holocaust when there are no more survivors to testify,” he said. About 500,000 survivors remain, but even the youngest of them are in their 70s.
More than 200 people gathered to hear Eizenstat, who grew up in Morningside and attended Ahavath Achim Synagogue before moving to Washington with the Carter administration, talk about issues facing the world’s estimated 13.5 million Jews, including insufficient Holocaust education in the United States, European anti-Semitism, intermarriage and Iran’s nuclear program.
“Education is key,” Eizenstat said, noting that Holocaust education is mandatory in Germany but in only eight U.S. states. Georgia is one of them.
He complained that 25 percent of all Holocaust survivors in the United States live in or near poverty, including nearly 30,000 of the 60,000 who live in the New York area. “We must do everything possible so that those who survived can live out their days in dignity,” he said.
Eizenstat outlined the lengths that Germany has gone to in providing reparations. “The German government has done its part,” he said. “Since 1952, Germany has paid $60 billion to recoveries and pensions for survivors.”
The Sunday afternoon event at the Breman was part of the community observance of Yom HaShoah and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps and the end of World War II. Eizenstat spoke earlier in the day at the Greenwood Cemetery ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Memorial to the Six Million, which was unveiled April 25, 1965.
Eizenstat also addressed rising anti-Semitism in Europe, where he was the ambassador to the European Union under President Bill Clinton. “Until very recently,” he said, “I was not one who thought that I would see modern-day anti-Semitism rise again in Europe. It’s now painfully clear that there is in fact a rise.”
A report from Tel Aviv University on April 15 found a 40 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide in 2014 from the previous year, with most of the trouble in Western Europe.
The last subject Eizenstat covered was perhaps the most troubling. He asked how we as Jews can ensure our continuity when so many Jewish millennials disengage from Jewish life and faith. He pointed out that in the 2013 Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Survey, only 68 percent of Jewish millennials identified as Jewish.
But just as he had during his shorter speech at Greenwood Cemetery that day, Eizenstat finished on an optimistic note. “We have survived,” he said. “We are here, and we are going to stay.”