HHREC Board Chair Statement on Jan. 6th Capitol Riots

Over the last three years the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) has had to address several horrific incidents. The Tree of Life atrocity, the Christchurch New Zealand massacre and the murder of George Floyd are three examples. Each demonstrate humankind’s capacity for violence and intolerance. The HHREC is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and teaching its lessons. Our educational programs are intended to reduce the likelihood of future atrocities. Our goal is to preserve all peoples’ right to be respected and live in peace and security.

As a rule, we try, as best we can, to remain apolitical while still being true to our mission and values. No doubt, this can be a difficult line to draw.

Yesterday’s disaster has drawn us over the line.

I see no other way to characterize these events than as being instigated by the President of the United States, arguably, the most powerful man in the world.

The reality of Mr. Trump’s power places more, not less, responsibility on him as the leader of our Nation. The issues we confront as a Nation are clearly complex and run deep. They were not created over these last four years, nor will they be remedied over the next four. However, leadership matters. Words matter. Body language matters. The incendiary messages, both overt and implied, that have been utilized for political purposes, to galvanize and divide the country, have had a corrosive effect which culminated in yesterday’s tragedy.

Again, incredibly, incited by the President of the United States.

We cannot let this stand. It is no exaggeration to say that we are, and have been, on a slippery slope towards authoritarianism. The indicia of governmentally sanctioned violence have been multiplying right before our eyes. No amount of prosperity or power is worth its price. There will always be some significant minority of our country whose fear and intolerance overcome their humanity. It is our job, it is our duty, it is our obligation to defend our values against this onslaught.

As Elie Wiesel so eloquently taught us:
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe,” in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on Dec. 10, 1986.
In anger and with hope,
Joseph Kaidanow
Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center