In 2003 one of my closest friend’s father was murdered because he was Jewish. Again in 2003, two synagogues in Istanbul were bombed on a Saturday morning while people prayed. My grandfather was in one of the synagogues when the attack happened, but he managed to get out alive. He was lucky, but the 57 people who died were not. Nor the 700 injured.
We all have different identities, personalities and backgrounds. I am a Turkish/Italian woman who is Jewish and living in Norwich. Living in different countries allows you to meet people from diverse backgrounds and shows you that everyone has a different story to tell. Stories they grew up with or stories and have affected their lives – stories like mine.
Last month, one of my friends asked me if I had ever experienced an anti-Semitic act, which got me thinking. Had someone disrespected me because I am Jewish? Or made an inappropriate joke about my beliefs? Although I admitted I have never experienced one personally, growing up, I witnessed anti-Semitic acts that made me question the world I live in. I promised myself that, I am going to honour the lives of the people we lost during Holocaust or anti-Semitic acts whenever and however I can.
If we go back in time, to the Holocaust, my grandmother hid her family in a house in Greece to escape from German soldiers. The rest of her family members were murdered in concentration camps. We might think that throughout the years, Anti-Semitism and the anti-Semitic acts around the world have decreased. However, in July 2018, it was reported by The Independent that more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents are happening in the UK every month. These incidents include hate mail, abuse, social media posts and graffiti drawings. Some of these acts happened in schools, some of them occurred in London and Manchester, cities considered to have the highest Jewish population.
The Pittsburg synagogue shooting was one of the worst attacks in 2018. 11 innocent people were killed and 6 injured. Thousands of people stood up and showed their support for the those who lost their friends and families while social media campaigns and statements from foreign leaders were published everywhere. The reaction people gave after this attack happened shows that people are aware of the gravity these events hold. The Pittsburg attack acts as a reminder that anti-Semitism still exists and it does not look like it will disappear soon.
27 of January is Holocaust Memorial Day, where we remember the lives we lost during the Holocaust. It is also the day when the Auschwitz concentration camps were liberated in 1945. Each year, on this day, people show their support by remembering what happened. In 2018 UEA’s student union made a formal apology on their failure to acknowledge the day. In response, a member of UEA Jewish Soc said ‘Peaceful coexistence begins in small communities such as our campus at UEA.’
UEA failing to honour the death of millions of Jewish people highlights potential ignorance of those unaffected by anti-semitism, and encourages me to fight for it’s recognition. You do not need to give long speeches or talk about the history of the Holocaust. You don’t need to be Jewish to remember. You don’t need to have a family member that lost their lives in the concentration camps. Just talking about it, understanding the importance of it and remembering is enough. Because once you start to forget what happened, there is a higher chance for that history to repeat itself.
As Anne Frank beautifully states in her diary, ‘What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it from happening again.’ That is why I will keep on writing, keep on talking, and I will make sure that every person who has ever been in my life or crossed paths with me will have knowledge about these horrible acts and events and see how powerful we are. I will do this for my grandma, my aunt, for all my family that lost their lives in concentration camps and for all the Jewish people who we lost during the holocaust. ‘We Remember’ and we will keep on remembering until our last breath.