By Dana Fleitman, Program Coordinator
This question is posed by Rachel Finn, a longtime advocate for Holocaust education and genocide awareness who recently joined the Enough Project (a non-profit that works to end genocide, mass atrocities and crimes against humanity) as their Campaign Organizer. Today, Rachel works with grassroots and grasstops activists to build and grow the movement against genocide. “I’ve been talking to students about the history of the Holocaust for years, and now’s the time for me to really take action on these issues and do something that affects what’s happening on the ground today,” explains Rachel.
Rachel’s interest in genocide history was sparked by a trip to she took to Berlin examining the Holocaust and post-genocidal Germany through Tufts University’s Hillel. She has since focused on education and awareness, co-founding a student group on genocide advocacy at Tufts Hillel, interning at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, teaching classes on Holocaust history and legacy in Massachusetts and interning with Facing History and Ourselves.
Rachel urges people to understand the connection between the Holocaust and modern genocide. “There are unique qualities to the Holocaust, and some very specific things about each instance of genocide that’s taken place throughout history. Genocides aren’t all the same. However, the ability for a human to commit genocide…well, history has shown us that this is sadly a universal ability. It’s something that can happen anywhere, even where you think it can’t…it can happen to anyone, at any point in history, anywhere in the world.”
Rachel explains, “As Jews, genocide is not unique to us….we need to engage with other communities to keep the legacy and the memory of the Holocaust alive and to fight modern genocide….there is a lot of great work going on in the Jewish community and elsewhere, and everyone should be a part of this movement. The more bridges we build, the more we can use our history and experience as Jews to connect with other people; the more we’ll be able to protect others, and the more they’ll be able to protect us.”
Rachel is inspired by her strong Jewish identity, and the values she was taught by her family and in her synagogue growing up. Particularly, the concept that saving a life is valued above all else makes a big impression on her. “The law that trumps all others in Judaism is saving a life…for me, that really elevates the necessity to take action on genocide. Through the Talmud, we learn that you cannot stand idly by the blood of your neighbors….my neighbors are not just my family or the people I live near. The boundaries of my country, continent and region don’t exist when we’re talking about humanity, when another group is being harmed in some way.” She adds, “we have to take care of other people the way that we would want and hope people would take care of us.”
Genocidal violence impacts women and girls worldwide. Genocide is defined as the intent to destroy a certain group, and systematic rape has become a deliberate weapon strategically used in places like Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) helps the United States lead a global response to gender-based violence. Learn more and urge your representatives to support IVAWA today.