We all have different identities, different personalities and different backgrounds. For example I am a Turkish/Italian girl who is Jewish and currently lives in Norwich. Travelling to various countries, and most importantly living in a different country, allows you to meet with people from diverse backgrounds. And everyone has a different story to tell. Stories that they grew up with or stories that affected their life.
Last month, one of my friends asked me if I had ever personally witnessed an anti-Semitic attack, and it got me thinking: has anyone disrespected me because I was Jewish, or have they made inappropriate jokes? I realised I have never personally witnessed one, which makes me a lucky person. Whenever I tell someone I am Jewish, people always act interested and ask questions about it. Whenever there is a special holiday they always message me, which makes me feel special. However, this does not change the fact that anti-Semitic acts do not exist all around the world. Just because I have never had a bad experience in my life does not mean that my friends or Jewish people worldwide always feel welcomed and safe.
Growing up, I heard about some horrible anti-Semitic acts that made me question the world I am living in. In 2003 one of my closest friend’s father was murdered just because he was Jewish. Again in 2003, two synagogues in Istanbul were bombed at the same time on a Saturday morning while people were praying. My grandfather was praying in one of those synagogues when the attack happened, but thankfully he managed to get out of there alive. He was lucky, but a lot of people were not, many lost their lives. The only reason for the bombing was that they were Jewish and they were there on a Saturday morning for Shabbat prayers.
If we go back in time, during the Holocaust, my grandmother and her family hid in a house in Greece to escape from the German soldiers, while all of their family members were murdered in concentration camps. So maybe I have never been treated bad or different because of my Jewish identity, but I grew up listening to these stories and hearing of these horrible attacks. And I promised myself that no matter what happens, I am going to honour the lives of the people we lost during the Holocaust or anti-Semitic attacks whenever and however I can.
We might think that throughout the years, anti-Semitism and the anti-Semitic acts around the world have decreased. However, it is the opposite. In July 2018, it was reported that there are more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents happening in the UK every month. These incidents included hate mail, abuse, social media posts and graffiti drawings. Some of these acts happened in schools, and some of them happened in London and Manchester, cities which are considered to have the highest Jewish population.
The 2018 Pittsburg synagogue shooting was one of the worst attacks that happened last year. 11 innocent lives were killed while six people were injured. In response, thousands of people stood up and showed their support for the people who lost their families and friends while social media campaigns and statements from foreign leaders were being published everywhere. The reaction to the attack shows that people are aware of how awful the attack was, and find it hard to understand how a person could do this so easily. However, this act is also another reminder that anti-Semitism still exists, and it does not look like the hate some people have for Jewish people will disappear soon.
27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day. It is the 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 saying that they remember what happened. You do not need to give long speeches, or talk about the history of Holocaust. You don’t need to have a family member that lost their lives in the concentration camps. You don’t even need to be Jewish to remember this day. Just talking about it, understanding the importance of it and remembering is enough. Because once you start to forget history, there is a higher chance that it is going to repeat itself.
As Anne Frank beautifully states in her diary, ‘What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it 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 this condemnable act 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 that time. ‘We Remember’ and we will keep on remembering until our last breath.