The Importance and Power of Remembrance

Every day, I am reminded of the importance of remembering. It feels trivial to commit this observation to paper. Or to make this obvious statement to my daughter or husband as I prepare for work. Nevertheless, the importance of remembrance bears repeating.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve attended four extraordinary events. All reinforce the value our community places on lessons drawn from studying Jewish history. And each exemplified the importance of remembrance.

The first event honored individuals who helped create the Jaffe Professorship in Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Western Washington University. The second was to stand with others, as a representative of Federation, to support Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s efforts to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Washington State. The third was to celebrate the Anti-Defamation League’s 2016 Torch of Liberty Dinner, honoring William Goldberg, held on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. And the fourth was a fundraiser for Seattle Hadassah.

Western Washington University leads our State in teacher training. As one of only five tenured professorships, the permanent scholar in Jewish History and Holocaust Studies will be an ever-important resource for those entering the education field. The time, energy and effort put into funding this professorship reflect the premium WWU places on learning from the past. Teaching this history is about keeping our memories alive for generations to come.

Our community has been a victim of gun violence. None of us will forget the tragedy that struck our Federation, the deaths in Marysville, and most recently the losses in Mukilteo. The passion with which we support the ban on assault weapons draws its strength from emotions and people who live on in our memories. Federation joins with those who support sensible laws that protect human rights, in consort with honoring civil liberties.      

Sitting among supporters of the ADL on 9/11, I could not help reflecting upon the challenges we face as a community. Seattle Police Deputy Chief Carmen Best, the keynote speaker, talked about ways in which we need to work together to learn from and respect each other. The Seattle Police Department, in partnership with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, will participate in programs supporting bias-free policing. She and others from the department attended classes in Washington, DC that focus on “Lessons of the Holocaust.” These workshops juxtapose the authority these officials command with the personal responsibility they possess.  

At dinner, I was reminded there is a generation born after 9/11, with no memories of that unimaginable horror. As we do with the Holocaust, we have a responsibility to keep those memories alive, to raise awareness of prejudices and their dangerous power to divide us. And to honor the common humanity that gives us hope.

At the Hadassah event, I witnessed again how extraordinary this community of Jewish women is. The featured speaker, Barbara Goldstein, spoke with humor and conviction about Hadassah’s history, its support for medical research and health care, and its unwavering connection to Israel. Barbara also spoke about the importance of remembrance. When memories become history, they can become distant from our lives - words in a book or images on a screen. Barbara reminded us that our memories are living testimonies of our past.

It took hard work and cooperation among multiple constituencies to fund the Jaffe Professorship. It will take consensus across the aisle to pass reasonable gun responsibility legislation. It takes commitment among us all to embrace our shared history. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we work together.

Every morning, I take a moment to remember someone, some place or an event that connects me to my past. I recognize that everyone in our community is part of our shared history, and with every decision we make, we’re responsible for making a little future history. And as Barbara Goldstein reminded us, when we share our memories, their recounting touches our hearts, minds and our souls.