Rabbi Yehudah Potok is the director of the Jewish Education Program at Facing History and Ourselves, where he leads organizational efforts in Jewish educational settings. He also serves as the Project Lead for Facing History’s Contemporary Antisemitism initiative. Prior to joining Facing History, Yehudah has over two decades of leadership in formal and experiential Jewish education. Yehudah has written and lectured extensively on various topics regarding organizational change, school culture, educational technology, contemporary antisemitism, and Holocaust education.

In The Shadow of Our History, In the Pain of Our Present, In The Hope of Our Future


This year, as we observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the significance of the day takes on a new depth in the wake of October 7th. Resonating strongly for us, is the pain of our present moment with the recent Hamas attack being the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust and with antisemitism on a precipitous rise around the world. The very ideals we swore to protect, the lessons we learned from our history, are tested once again. The shadows of the past stretch into our present, compelling us all the more to confront prejudice, hatred, and violence head-on.

Within the history of the Holocaust, we find echoes of countless voices silenced but not forgotten. We remember those who suffered, the lost individuals’ whose potential has gone unfulfilled, the families torn apart, and the communities forever changed. We are the torchbearers of their stories, entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the world never forgets. And yet, we are acutely aware of the challenges we face today. The battle against antisemitism, in all of its forms, is not a relic of the past; it is an ongoing struggle that demands our attention and commitment. As Elie Wiesel said, “Even in the darkness, it is possible to create light.” We must find the strength to stand united against discrimination and violent hate. We draw inspiration from the resilience of our ancestors, from the stories of survival and unwavering human spirit. 

Despite the weight of our history and the challenges of our present moment, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is also a time to look toward the hope of our future. We carry the torch of remembrance, have a responsibility to educate, and have an obligation to advocate. We can be the architects of a world that learns from its past and rejects hatred. We understand that our actions today shape the world our future generations will inherit.

Rabbi Sacks wrote, “Antisemitism is never ultimately about Jews. It is about a profound human failure to accept the fact that we are diverse and must create space for diversity if we are to preserve our humanity.” Our commitment to the principles instilled in us through our Jewish tradition and values is unwavering. It is a commitment to the sacredness of life, to our shared humanity, to the Jewish people and our homeland, and that we should have the ability as Jews to live safely wherever we are in the world. In the hope of our future, we envision a world where the lessons of the Holocaust guide us toward a more compassionate and just society.

We have a shared commitment. The Jewish people have not simply survived, we have persevered. It is not because of our tragedies but because of the beauty and spirit of our tradition. We take pride in our heritage and our ability to effect positive change. As we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, let us reflect on the shadows of our history, confront the pain of our present, and strive to illuminate the path toward a brighter, more inclusive future.