Yesterday was Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and for those of us whose families suffered in that genocide, who have written about, painted, composed, and studied about it, this is a somber day. The rise in antisemitic acts, the rise in gun violence, the trauma of the Middle East and the divisiveness of our political world are enough to send us into isolation and hopelessness. Take heart. Let me share an inspirational experience with four women, whose combined 325 years of life demonstrate the power of resilience, devotion to human rights, the will to cross boundaries and make common ground with “the other” and the power of philanthropy to effect change.
Sakena Yacoobi established the Afghan Institute of learning to provide education to Afghan girls and medical clinics to help women and children access health care, despite the danger this put her in.
Ruth Messinger is the global ambassador and former President of American Jewish World Service, speaking out on behalf of oppressed and persecuted communities worldwide.
Irene Butter is a Holocaust survivor, educator, author, peace activist, and co-founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Lecture Series at the University of Michigan, whose mantra is “Never a Bystander”
Patti Askwith Kenner, after careers as an educator and company President, now serves as trustee on multiple boards, including the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan, and advocates for arts education, women in politics, Holocaust history and education, and much more.
These extraordinary women gathered in my home at the end of a weekend to celebrate the launch and initial success of the Irene Butter Fund for Holocaust and Human Rights Education. The fund was established by a group of Generations After – children and descendants of Holocaust survivors. (Learn more about the fund here..
Their combined messages:
1. Stories of our lives are important to hear and to tell.
2. We can and must work from our commonalities in striving for freedom and dignity for all.
3. Battle the hopelessness and ennui that threatens with all that is wrong in the world with action.. even the smallest.. spend energy on determining what we can do rather than focusing on what we cannot.
4. Find and provide support, mentorship, kinship and inspiration with those of like mind and especially with those who may seem to be “other.”
I am grateful to have been a part of this important effort!