Honor those who were oppressed, but recognize it’s still legal in Idaho to persecute

Rabbi Dan Fink
Rabbi Dan Fink Idaho Statesman

The state of Idaho has commemorated Yom HaShoah – the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust – for the past 38 years. The ceremony, held in the Capitol, is jointly sponsored and organized by Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel and the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. The occasion is marked with songs, poems and prayers, recalling the horrors of the Holocaust, remembering the victims and honoring those who risked – and sometimes lost – their lives. This year, Gov. Brad Little spoke at the event and issued an official proclamation marking the day.

What follows are the remarks I offered at this year’s commemoration. In short, I believe that is impossible to genuinely honor human rights while we continue to deny them, legally, to large numbers of Idahoans. I hope and pray that our legislators will take note.

“For the Jewish people, remembering is not an academic or apolitical exercise. It is, instead, a radical and redemptive project that demands a clarion call to action.

We Jews remember the past in order to heal the present and redeem the future.

Our every act of remembering is rooted in the mother lode of Jewish memory: recalling that we were slaves in Egypt.

Thirty-six times the Torah reminds us of this, our first, formative experience of communal suffering and oppression, all for one overarching and enduring purpose:

To teach us to welcome the stranger, the immigrant, the Other – whenever and wherever we are.

And so, my friends, to mourn without a tikkun – a concerted commitment to just repair – would be deeply, fatally remiss.

For far too many years, the state and government of Idaho has issued proclamations and marked this day to remember, while concurrently denying equal rights to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

Lo zo ha-derech! This is not the way!

If Idaho’s leaders and legislators truly wish to honor the victims of the Shoah with integrity, we must add the four words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act – unencumbered by language that would, God forbid, allow folks to justify their bigotry in the name of their religion.

May our remembering today propel us all to long overdue just action in this coming year.”

Dan Fink is the rabbi for the Ahavath Beth Israel congregation.

The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.