State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh,(Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).
State and local leaders gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to remember victims of the Holocaust and to warn Pennsylvanians of the dangers of not speaking out against hatred and discrimination in the commonwealth.
Gathered in the Governor’s Reception room hours before the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day of Yom HaShoah is set to begin on Wednesday evening, state and local officials, and the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition came together to commemorate the solemn occasion.
“The Holocaust was a monstrous, horrific period in human history,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “An immense evil perpetrated not by one extraordinary monster, but rather built on a foundation of bias, discrimination, hatred, and bigotry that is all too human, and all too familiar even these many decades later.
Wolf called on Pennsylvanians to “speak out against bigotry,” as hate crimes have increased in Pennsylvania and the United States in recent years.
“… We remind ourselves that every day, all of us share a responsibility to guard against hate, to speak out against discrimination, and to take action to end violence,” Wolf said.
In 2021, the Pennsylvania State Police’s Uniform Crime Reporting System logged 290 hate crime offenses. The state police have recorded 70 hate crime offenses so far in 2022, according to the same data.
Similarly, incidents of anti-Semitism hit an all-time high in the United States in 2021 with 2,717 reported incidents, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League.
Wolf added that reducing hate crimes “must be a top priority” for the commonwealth.
Linda Marshak, a Polish-born holocaust survivor whose granddaughter is Rabbi Ariana Capptauber at Harrisburg’s Beth El Temple, was just three-years-old when Nazis rounded up and killed Jews in her town, including her two older siblings.
Marshak echoed Wolf’s concerns about the uptick in anti-Semitism in Pennsylvania and across the country.
“Today, anti-semitism is on the rise again,” Marshak said. “From the marchers in Charlottesville, to graffiti swastikas on synagogues – including right here in Harrisburg – Jews are made to feel in danger again.”
Still, Marshak said that she has hope that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will continue to thrive.
“I hope they will live in a world in which they can feel safe as Jews,” Marshak said.
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, a Lehigh County Democrat whose grandparents survived the Holocaust and met at a refugee camp, said that he lives with the traumatic legacy of the Holocaust everyday.
“I owe my existence, the existence of my children, to the Holocaust,” Schlossberg said. “This is a complicated legacy. There are traumas, the physical and psychological scars left by the agony that my grandparents suffered weighed on them, as it weighs on my mom, as it weighs on me.”
Pointing to the “massive upsurge in white supremacy, racist rhetoric and violent attacks or Jews,” Schlossberg concluded that “our struggles are far from over” when it comes to addressing hatred and discrimination.
“Civilization may have failed my grandparents,” Schlossberg said, “but the modern world must not fail my children or those around me.”
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