Bucks County Jewish groups reflect on Holocaust Remembrance Day

For Rabbi Aaron Gaber, the importance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day takes on a different tenor this year.

Gaber, the spiritual leader of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown, said Jewish communities are preparing to mark this Jan. 27 — the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in the Nazi-occupied suburbs of Polish city Oswiecim — and several other significant dates on the Jewish calendar in the face of rising antisemitism at home and abroad.

"There is an uptick in antisemitism, racism and hate. I look around even in Bucks County where I live, and the incidents have been on the rise for years here," Gaber said. "And that has to do with, I think, that we as a community allowed it to start and rise."

The rabbi said he's glad Bucks County communities are fighting back against antisemitism.

"More often than not, there are folks from the Jewish community, the Black community and people of color from other communities, along with the Peace Center, standing together to say that hate has no home here."

According to the Anti-Defamation League's hate, extremism, antisemitism and terrorism tracker, there were 82 antisemitism incidents of antisemitism in Pennsylvania in 2022, including incidents in Furlong, New Britain, Warminster and Warrington.

Aside from his work with Congregation Brothers of Israel, Gaber also serves as a chaplain in the U.S. Army National Guard, and recently volunteered for a holiday mission in Kuwait. There, Gaber said he witnessed antisemitism in a myriad of forms, and it was his job to foster understanding and tolerance.

"Part of my job was to help soldiers celebrate the holidays to the fullest extent," Gaber said. "I worked with Christian chaplains and Muslim chaplains, and the soldiers who were Jewish invited their non-Jewish friends along. That's one way to combat antisemitism and hate, by being open to that education."

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International Holocaust Remembrance Day's importance in Bucks County, abroad

Gaber said members of his congregation will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day individually, and that the gravity of the day cannot be understated.

"It marks the liberation of the the largest and most significant death camp where where millions of Jews were slaughtered," Gaber said.

Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust before and during World War II.

"The Nazis had a particular vision for the world, and if you didn't fit or have that vision they were going to kill you."

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Rabbi Seth Frisch, the rabbi-in-residence of Congregation Tiferes B’nai Israel in Warrington, said the rise of antisemitism highlights the importance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"When we look back on the Holocaust, or the Shoah, some look at it as as moment in time, but I am here to tell you, the ideology, and the ugly, murderous language is still being articulated today," Frisch said, citing the Oct. 27, 2018, mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 and wounded six others, including four police officers, in the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history. "It should give us all pause to remember friends, family members and loved ones who perished because of hatred."

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bucks County Jewish reflect on Holocaust Remembrance Day