Righteous gentiles

Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Holocaust Memorial Day 2019

Originally written for the Birmingham Jewish Newsletter
This week’s sidra is named after Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. It begins with Jethro advising Moses on how to set up a system of courts of law so that the people do not have to stand all day waiting for Moses to judge them in person. In this way, they are prepared for the giving of the ten commandments and the establishment of a system of justice.

Jethro is not Jewish, but he makes a major contribution to the Jewish people. As we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day in the coming days, we think of the sufferings of our people. However, we were not alone in our suffering. Non-Jews risked their lives to save Jews. Although their numbers were few compared to the perpetrators and the bystanders, their courage was immense. Many of them are remembered in the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem. The woman who saved my father, Truude Wijsmuller, is amongst them. However, the names of many righteous gentiles remain hidden, lost because they were murdered alongside those they tried to save.

Jethro himself is considered a righteous gentile in rabbinic tradition. He had the courage and wisdom to offer help when it was needed. As we remember the millions of our people who perished, let us also remember the righteous among the nations who had the courage to risk their lives to do what is right and may their memory remain an inspiration to us.

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