In a poignant and symbolic act, Jewish students from the UK recently paid tribute to the nearly 200 remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, by placing their photos on the train tracks leading to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous Nazi death camp. This gesture, organized by JRoots during a trip to Poland for students from London’s JFS, powerfully linked the past horrors of the Holocaust to the ongoing struggle against antisemitism and terrorism.
Zak Jeffay, director of Jewish education at JRoots, emphasized that Auschwitz represents the ultimate symbol of Jew hatred, making it a fitting place to remember the Israeli hostages. This act of remembrance connects the students with the grim reality of ongoing antisemitism and the threats facing the Jewish community today.
Talia Giffin, a teacher accompanying the students, highlighted the importance of this gesture, stating that it serves as a strong reminder of the unrelenting hatred towards Jews. The images of the hostages at the entrance to Auschwitz starkly remind us that the atrocities of the past are echoed in the events of today, such as the horrific attacks by Hamas on October 7.
Giffin also pointed out how the gesture underscores the inseparable bond between Israel and Judaism, reinforcing the message that anti-Zionism is intrinsically linked to antisemitism. The students’ action at Auschwitz clearly illustrates that hostility towards Israel is often a veil for deeper antisemitic sentiments.
The global surge in antisemitism following the October 7 massacre by Hamas, where Palestinian terrorists killed 1,200 people and kidnapped over 240, has alarmed communities worldwide. Holocaust survivors have voiced their fears, feeling threatened once again in the wake of these attacks.
During the six-day trip, which also included visits to Jewish sites in Warsaw, Lublin, and Krakow, the students engaged deeply with the history of the Holocaust. Menucha Sampson and Jake Kushner, students from the group, reflected on how placing the hostages’ images at Auschwitz bridged the gap between past and present struggles, reminding them that the fight against antisemitism is far from over.
Yet, despite the grim reminders of past and present hostilities, the trip concluded with a resilient and hopeful note. Kushner shared that their final moments at the camp were spent singing “Am Yisrael Chai” (“the nation of Israel lives”), a powerful declaration of the enduring spirit and strength of the Jewish people.
This educational journey, merging the past with the present, serves not only as a solemn remembrance of those who have suffered but also as a clarion call to the world. It underscores the importance of vigilance and unity in the face of ongoing threats to the Jewish community. The State of Israel, embodying these values, continues to be a beacon of hope and resilience, upholding the legacy of its past and ensuring the safety and security of its people.