Remembering Our Past

Navigate your future by studying history

    One of the things that was instilled in me as I grew up was the importance of remembering…. the idea of memory and its impact on our lives. If you think about it, we are made up of more than just DNA but also our experiences and the people who have impacted or come into our lives throughout our lifetime.
    This idea of appreciating and remembering who we are and what made us who we are is an integral part of Judaism. It is why there is a Yizkor service on some of our most holy days because it reminds us of the importance of remembering.
    As I write this month’s column, I am preparing for this year’s Every Person Has A Name event. This annual event that we hold is an opportunity for our community to collectively remember the names of people who were murdered during the Holocaust for no other reason than they were Jewish. When I tell people about this event, they often ask me why we do it in January instead of near or on Yom Hashoah. Our Jewish Federation holds the event as close to January 27, UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as possible because by doing it then, our community has TWO opportunities to remember.
    I am always so moved by how much people appreciate us holding this event each year. The stories they share and being able to remember both family members and people they never got a chance to meet tie them to the past, and this memorable event allows them to help keep their memory alive. Doing it as a community collectively connects us to one another and to people and events that have impacted us as a whole.
    I was recently watching the movie The Holdovers. For those that still need to see it, I highly recommend it. In the film, there is a scene where Paul Hunham, a history teacher played by Paul Giamatti, discusses the importance of the past with one of his students. He stated, “There’s nothing new in human experience, Mr. Tully (student). Each generation thinks it invented debauchery or suffering or rebellion, but man’s every impulse and appetite from the disgusting to the sublime is on display right here all around you. So, before you dismiss something as boring or irrelevant, remember, if you truly want to understand the present or yourself, you must begin in the past. You see, history is not simply the study of the past. It is an explanation of the present.”
    We often forget this idea in the hustle and bustle of our everyday life. It is imperative that we keep this in mind, especially with everything we are witnessing and experiencing today. Not only can we take lessons from the past, but they can also influence how we respond to situations and moments.   

Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.



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