Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement of Concern, Rev. Lauren Lorincz, Pastor of Colchester Federated Church, April 7, 2021

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
—Martin Niemöller

I am honored to be with you this evening to speak out.  That famous poem was written by Reverend Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran Pastor and Theologian.[1]  He was a prominent member of the Confessing Church in Germany, that group was formed to oppose Christians who had aligned themselves with the Nazis.  Niemöller spent seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps because time and again, he spoke out.

It’s important to speak out when we see injustice.  To stand in solidarity with one another, even when our experiences or beliefs differ.  When the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting occurred in Pittsburgh in 2018 and that act of antisemitism saddened and shocked our country, some members of my congregation at the Colchester Federated Church came to worship with our Jewish neighbors in Colchester.  Because Rabbi Ken Alter invited us to be there, to be present.  Our pain was not the same.  Christians in this country do not have to begin to think about church security in the way that Jews in this country have to think about security in your synagogues.  Christians do not face overt discrimination because of our religious beliefs.  Yet, we could stand united as people of faith to say that this act of violence carried out in a House of Worship was wrong.  That hate has no home here.  To make sure that our Jewish neighbors knew that they were not alone in their grief.

Perhaps Christian Clergy like me have (God willing) learned about the importance of interfaith relationships in the years since the horrors of the Holocaust.  Perhaps we have realized that we truly are one another’s keeper.  That anytime we are hearing language from our leaders (be that political leaders or religious leaders) that hint at dehumanization, we must speak out.  Violent words can lead to violent actions.  Hateful words can lead to hate crimes.  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence and related, “The unity of God asks us to respect the stranger, the outsider, the alien, because even though he or she is not in our image — their ethnicity, faith or culture is not ours — nonetheless they are in God’s image.”[2] 

There is beauty in diversity.  My Christian faith is centered around loving my neighbor because we are all created in the image of God.  That belief is a shared belief among Christians and Jews.  So on this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am truly honored to gather with you, my Jewish neighbors.  I am honored to pray with you and mourn with you the loss of six million Jews who were dehumanized and murdered before the eyes of the world.  May we learn from the past so that the future is brighter for the next generations to come.  May we never forget.  And may the memories of those we remember and honor today be a blessing.  Amen.

[1] “Martin Niemöller Biography” in Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-biography
[2] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, 194-195.
Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash.