Nissan is a month of remembrance and observance. For the past eight days we have celebrated Pesach with joy and happiness as we sat with family and friends retelling our story of national liberation and freedom. On this Wednesday evening, we sit together in sadness and grief as we collectively observe Yom HaZikaron laShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, to recall the genocide of our six million brethren.
Our holidays always require us to do two things: first, remember them; secondly, then keep or observe them. Pesach and Yom HaShoah, two observances inextricably linked together, calling us…no shouting at us… to observe them not just with prayer but with action. Eli Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize historian of the Holocaust, wrote “I love Passover because for me it is a cry against indifference, a cry for compassion.”
The late British Rabbi, Morris Joseph (1848-1930) wrote, “Passover has a message for the conscience and the heart of all mankind. For what does it commemorate? It commemorates the deliverance of a people from degrading slavery, from most foul and cruel tyranny. And so, it is Israel’s—nay, God’s protest against unrighteousness, whether individual or national.”
Today we are witnessing a holocaust in the making in China against the Uyghur (Uighur) Muslims, in northwestern China, in the Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. Reportedly, 3 million people out of a population of 10 million are in concentration camps. There are reports of women being sterilized and raped; the disappearances of individuals due to the alleged harvesting of their organs; and children taken from their families and put in “re-education” programs.
British Jewy has been extremely vocal regarding the Uyghurs. “Reflecting upon the deep pain of Jewish persecution throughout the ages, I feel compelled to speak out,” Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote in a Dec. 15, 2020 op-ed in The Guardian titled “As chief rabbi, I can no longer remain silent about the plight of the Uighurs.”
I firmly believe that we, as Jews, need to speak out and to take action on behalf of the Uyghurs. Our institutions need to take a public stand and not buy products made in China especially those using forced labor and ask their members to also boycott Chinese products. There are 83 companies using forced Uyghur labor including popular clothing companies Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Gap, Calvin Klein, H&M, L.L.Bean, Lacoste, Nike, The North Face, Polo Ralph Lauren, Puma, Skechers, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara, and Victoria’s Secret, as well as General Motors, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and more. The United States government is not allowing cotton shipments to enter until the companies can prove they are not using forced labor from the camps (https://dailycaller.com/2020/12/30/uighur-slave-labor-companies-brands-china/).
As Jews our religion and history demands we not be silent in face of oppression, enslavement, and extermination of any group. We can honor our six million this Yom HaShoah by taking action on behalf of the Uyghur people.
We know what Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Jewish World Watch is a leader in this action: https://www.jww.org.)