By Shlomo Rudman
Across the country, under normal circumstances, local and national governments and agencies would hold ceremonies in memory of the over one million servicemen who have died in combat defending the United States from those that threaten American liberties and values. For families that suffered the loss of one of their own to war, Memorial Day is a somber one. Unfortunately, for those who are not directly related to a casualty of American conflict, corporate interests have largely made Memorial Day synonymous with vacations and car sales. It shouldn’t be this way.
As a Jew, the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor, I feel very strongly that all Jewish citizens of the United States should take Memorial Day seriously and take time to truly remember those who have given their lives for this country.
For literally thousands of years, Jews never had a country in which they could live without constant fear of spontaneous pogroms and laws enacted for no purpose other than to make the lives of Jews unbearable. For centuries, Jews were the scapegoats of every ill that befell the countries they inhabited.
With the creation of the United States, Jews were finally able to find a reprieve from religious persecution and incessant threats to their lives. When atrocities were committed by other nations, the United States was a land where Jews could find asylum and freedom to live by their beliefs.
This would not be possible without the brave soldiers of the US armed services. Each and every serviceman, past and present, deserves our thanks and praise. Multiply that many times over for the casualties of war, the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of preserving the special qualities and freedoms of the United States.
For me, Memorial Day is a time to be thankful and remember those that gave their lives so that I could live a religious life with freedom from oppression. It is a day that I remember those servicemen who died in the fight against the Nazis and in pursuit of freeing the world from the grasp of Hitler and his ilk. It is a day that I am thankful for the men and women who died trying to free my grandmother from the Auschwitz death factory.
Memorial Day should be for all Americans a holiday where the fallen are given tremendous honor for their sacrifice. But it should be so especially for Jews and other minorities who have found refuge and a safe haven for them to live in peace with their neighbors.
Today, take a moment for those that fell in battle fighting for the sake of your freedom, your liberty, and the values that make the land of the free and the home of the brave the greatest country on Earth.