The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, falls during the period of the counting of the Omer. Hitler not only targeted Jews; he also targeted gays and lesbians. Yom HaShoah can be a day of education about discrimination and hatred against LGBT individuals.
Light an Additional Yahrzeit Candle
On the eve of Yom HaShoah, light an additional candle to commemorate the lives of gays, lesbians, gypsies and other non-Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. For families with younger children, this can be an opportunity to discuss the importance of respecting and treating everyone equally and fairly.
Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Online Exhibit: Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals
This online exhibit tells the story of Nazi persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust. Parents can visit this site with their children and religious schools can incorporate this site into their Holocaust education. A teacher’s section contains resources. The exhibit is at www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online.
Take a trip to a Holocaust Museum
Find out if your local Holocaust museum teaches about the Holocaust and gays and lesbians. Or, consider organizing a trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
Sponsor a Speaker About the Impact of the Holocaust on Gays and Lesbians
Congregation Chevrei Tikvah of Cleveland, OH, sponsored a lecture by Dr. Klaus Muller, Professor of European Studies at the University of Amsterdam, consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and renowned scholar on anti-gay Nazi policies and persecution. The congregation also presented the documentary film of gay Holocaust survivors entitled, “We Were Marked With a Big ‘A,’” (a German pejorative applied to homosexuals). The lecture drew over 260 people, of whom over 82 percent were from outside the congregation—specifically the lesbian and gay interfaith and Jewish communities. Later that year, the synagogue co-sponsored a trip to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.
This program helped introduce, or expand awareness of, the effects of the Holocaust on the lesbian and gay community. It placed their often forgotten story in the context of the Nazis’ vicious persecution. Participants were also reminded of the continued persecution of lesbians and gays after the death camps were liberated, and the growing threat of intolerance by hate groups toward lesbians and gay men.
Speak out Against Hate
As part of our Yom HaShoah observance, we can raise our voices in protest against the hatred and discrimination experienced by LGBT individuals in our society. According to the 2003 FBI report, sexual orientation-based bias crime is now the second highest category of hate crimes in the United States, accounting for about 14.6 percent of such crimes. Only race-based bias crime occurs at higher rates. Additionally, because these statistics are reported on a voluntary basis, many hate crimes go uncounted. These numbers do not track crimes based on bias against transgender individuals. The entire report is available online at www.fbi.gov.
The problem of hate speech is acute amongst teens. According to PFLAG’s web site, “The average high school student hears 25 anti-gay slurs daily; 97 percent of high school students regularly hear homophobic remarks. This harassment takes its toll: gay students are far more likely to skip classes, drop out of school and/or commit suicide.”
Speak out Against Hate at Home and at School
Refuse to participate in hate speech and let those around you know that you do not tolerate it. Talk with your teenagers about hate speech. Work with teachers and administrators to make schools safe for all students.
Learn about the effects of hatred and anti-gay bias by watching The Laramie Project, an HBO video written and directed by Moises Kaufman about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who lived in Laramie Wyoming. Or, consider hosting a performance of the play at your congregation.
Form Gay-Straight Alliances
One way to raise awareness of LGBT issues and to create safe schools is through gay-straight alliances. NFTY groups can work to create these sorts of groups at school or shul. More information is at www.glsen.org.
Search URJ.org and the other Reform websites: