“Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone.” – Sophia Scholl
A while ago I was invited to present a certificate to the winner of the Waldman International Arts and Writing Competition sponsored by the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh. The middle school winner was Andrea Holber, who wrote the words of Sophia Scholl on a paper and fashioned that paper into a rose to create a beautiful work of art. Sophia Scholl was a member of an anti-Nazi student organization, The White Rose, and was killed by the Nazi secret police along with her brother and a friend.
As I presented the certificate to Andrea, I turned to the graduating students expressing my hope that the eight years they had spent at the Community Day School had prepared them in their knowledge of Judaism, its virtues and its customs to stand up proud and sometimes alone as they go out into a hostile world.
While I was on the subject, it made me reflect on many others in history who stood up alone: Mordecai Anielewicz, a leader in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; human rights activist and former Soviet prisoner Natan Sharansky; Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov; Nelson Mandela; the lone student who faced a tank in Tiananmen Square; and the scattered voices of dissent against violence and hatred in the Muslim world. And above all, I recognize the Jewish people who stood alone during the Holocaust and throughout many years in the Diaspora going as far back as the time of the prophets who stood up against the corrupt authorities.
It is astonishing to me that seventy years after the Holocaust we are living in a world where the Jewish State and Jews as a people are facing hatred, demonization, and violent attacks on a daily basis. When I see who is against us, I am proud being who I am. I pray that we have the strength and the stamina to withstand all of this and am hoping that we will not have to stand alone.
Signals from History
May 31, 1943: A Nazi prison administrator in Minsk, Belarus reports that 516 German and Russian Jews have been killed in late May, their gold crowns and fillings taken from their mouths before their deaths.
June 1-6, 1943: During the liquidation of the ghetto of Sosnowiec, a spirited resistance is led by Zvi Dunski. Ill-armed Jews fight back as deportations proceed. The Jewish ghetto at Buczacz, Ukraine is liquidated. Some Jews resist and escape.