We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
— Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Prize Laureate Eli Wiesel
Since November 9, 2016, when The Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity at Western Washington University commemorated the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has recorded more than 1,094 incidents of hate against minorities. In its spring report, the SPLC also highlights the disturbingly rapid increase of hate groups for a second consecutive year.
We strongly condemn these incidents of hate, violence against minorities, and racist and xenophobic rhetoric. As WWU President Sabah Randhawa reminds us in regards to our own community “harassment and discrimination have no place at Western”. We celebrate our diversity, find strength in our differences, and pledge not to remain silent in the face of injustice.
On December 6, 2016, members of the Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO) released a statement in which they called “upon all elected officials as well as all civic and religious leaders to forcefully and explicitly condemn the rise in hate speech and any attacks on our democratic principles.” The Ray Wolpow Institute proudly joined more than 91 other Holocaust remembrance institutions along with more than 71 Holocaust scholars and educators from around the world in signing and thus supporting this call. You can access the full statement here.
On February 1, 2017, we renewed our pledge not to remain silent in light of a) the misrepresentation of the Holocaust in the official White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (1/27/17), b) its subsequent explanations by the Trump administration, c) the symbolic announcement of the executive order “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry to The United States” on the day the world remembered the Shoah and d) the growing threats and attacks against Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh congregations and communities in the U.S. and Canada. The institute strongly denounces all minority violence, prejudice, and bias directed at individuals and groups, and we call on our elected officials to do the same.
In February, we joined Holocaust educational organizations across the United States in protesting “the purposeful omission of Jews and antisemitism from the official White House statement” (Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University). “Redemptive antisemitism,” a term coined by Historian Saul Friedländer, was the core of Nazi ideology, which resulted in the discrimination, isolation, persecution, displacement, deportation, incarceration and annihilation of six million European Jews. “The choice to obscure the Nazis’ primary motivation and their specific target for genocide is indeed not a remembrance at all. It is the deliberate elision of history that Holocaust education and remembrance are meant to combat. A spokesperson defended the exclusion claiming a wish to recognize all who suffered. We find this idea of inclusion is not merited by this historical example and is countered by the executive order on the same day to selectively limit admission of refugees and immigrants based on ethnicity and nationality. This is an egregious misuse of the Holocaust, and it underscores the ongoing need for Holocaust education and remembrance”(HEF).
In addition, we stand in solidarity with our undocumented students and our international students, staff, faculty, and administrators. We proudly support President Sabah Randhawa’s public statement of 1/30/2017 . “Western has had many international students and faculty in the past and continues to do so today. We strongly support our international students, faculty, staff and visitors; we benefit from their presence and the richness they bring to our community.” Please also read the following statement by the Institute for Global Engagement at WWU for more information.
On March 6, 2017, we renewed our call for action. We supported HEF’s call on elected officials “to condemn and investigate thoroughly the recent rash of antisemitic and other racially charged attacks”. “Over 100 bomb threats to JCCs around the nation, the desecration of three Jewish cemeteries, the firing of a gun into a synagogue, and multiple instances of hate speech characterized by the use of Nazi symbolism no longer may be dismissed as isolated events carried out by a fringe minority. They must be recognized instead as the actions of people emboldened by an environment seemingly accepting of antisemitic, racial, ethnic, and gender-based hatred and discrimination. The time for non-committal statements and tepid denunciations is past.”
And as in December 2016, we joined and supported yet another joint statement by the Association of Holocaust Organizations in March 2017, which garnered the signatures of more than 100 institutions, scholars, and educators. The Ray Wolpow Institute has been a member of this association since the institute’s creation. “We are alarmed by reports that the President plans to defund the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism […] We urge the US government to maintain and strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to create a new agency to address this urgent issue domestically. The need becomes clearer by the day as hatred, like a tidal wave, sweeps across the nation. Cemeteries, synagogues, churches and mosques are being desecrated. Jewish Community Centers and schools are targets of bomb threats and shootings. Swastikas and white supremacist threats appear on walls and on social media. Now is the time to increase vigilance, not roll it back.” You can access the full statement here: Holocaust Organizations and Scholars Statement
On August 14, 2017, we joined the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in unequivocally condemning the violence in light of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virigina and the “neo-Nazi, racist, and antisemitic symbols and language used by some of the participants, including reported chants of, “The Jews will not replace us” (USHMM). Along with the Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University, “We call out the lack of leadership from the highest levels, which has fostered an environment that continues to embolden antisemitic, racial, ethnic, and gender-based hatred and discrimination. As part of the hard work of rooting out bigotry in our daily lives, we encourage all to speak out against racist extremism, oppose policies that strip recent civil rights gains, and examine the incipient bias that permeates our society.” (HEF, August 23, 2017). Likewise, we are deeply alarmed by the vandalism at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston in the aftermath of Charlottesville. “This act is an egregious affront to Holocaust memory and Holocaust survivors as well as American society.” (USHMM, August 15, 2017) And we, once again, strongly support WWU President Sabah Randhawa’s public statement: “At Western and all universities, the power of education must show the way to genuine acceptance and understanding, a counterweight to the ugliness and violence of racism and hatred.”
On August 25, 2017, we unequivocally condemned the vandalism in our own community – the display of Nazi symbolism and language in downtown businesses and schools, hate speech directed at our LGBTQ community, and the destruction of property at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship. We stand in unity with those affected.
On September 7, 2017, we join higher education leadership nationwide in expressing “our unwavering support for our undocumented students as well as our profound dismay over President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program […] This program helps hundreds of thousands of young students and workers across the country, including many Western students, their families and their friends.” (WWU Faculty Senate & UFWW). The institute strongly protests and condemns demonizing and targeting our Latinx communities with policies of isolation, persecution, internment, and deportation.