Yom HaShoah means more than saying, Never again by Sam Gejdenson

Together, we will recount the tragedies borne of one man's driving ambition to destroy a people and of the world's indifference to their suffering. Hitler well understood international indifference.

When he first advanced his proposal to exterminate the Jews, many of his advisers reproached him and warned that the world would not stand idly by during such a mass murder.

Yet Hitler silenced his opposition by asking, "Who remembers the Armenians?"

He plainly understood the self-involvement of countries that refused to let Jews into their midst, of conferences destined to failure and of empty rhetoric. The world's inaction signaled tacit consent with the process of destruction.

As we commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, many of us will inevitably utter the words "Never again."

Never again shall the world so callously turn a blind eye to the acts of human suffering and injustice. Never again shall a people's cries fall on deaf ears.

Nazism sought not only to exterminate all Jews, but also to erase even the memory of their existence. As Jews, it is our obligation to recall the horrors of the Shoah, so that its victims shall never be forgotten. And yet, we cannot focus solely on our own suffering. Instead, we must use this opportunity to shine a light on the atrocities committed against others in need – whether in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Rwanda, Northern Ireland or within our own country.

Indeed, the truest display of courage stems from one's willingness to "do the right thing" in spite of its consequences. As a child born in a Displaced Persons camp in Europe and as the first son of Holocaust survivors, this is a lesson that I have carried with me throughout my life.

This past year I had the opportunity to visit the birthplaces of each of my parents: my mother's Vilna in modern-day Lithuania and my father's Parfianovo in modern-day Belarus.

While fleeing the Nazis at the beginning of World War II, my father and his brother were taken in by an old Catholic woman, a Righteous Gentile, who gave them shelter in her family's barn.

One night, the woman's son came home to find his mother crying. "What is wrong?" he asked. In tears, she responded, "We have eight children and not enough food. I'm hiding two Jews in the barn, and now that I've told you, you'll get drunk and tell your friends. Your friends will tell the Nazis and they will come and kill the Jews."

"No, mother," the son replied. "If I get drunk and tell my friends, the Nazis will kill our entire family and maybe even the whole village."

Like so many others who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, this woman displayed a kind of courage to which we can all only aspire.

Since childhood, I have often asked myself, "If faced with similar circumstances, would I have the courage to act so selflessly?" Today, as a husband and the father of four children, would I do the right thing? As a people who has known the cost of indifference and the pain of injustice, we ought to ask ourselves the same question.

And though we may never have to face such an incredible test, we are given the opportunity to speak out each and every day here in the United States.

Where are the Jewish voices when Bob Jones University demonizes Catholics? Where were we when others tried to denigrate Hispanic-Americans by pursuing English-only education? Where are we when gay rights come under attack? Where is the indignation we felt when the world was silent to our own suffering?

Some would argue that in America we are too assimilated and too comfortable to commiserate with or even relate to those less fortunate. Barred for years from exclusive country clubs and associations, Jews now run these clubs. We're part of the "in" crowd. And yet, many will recall that we've been comfortable before.

Jews occupied a privileged rank in German society before their identity was threatened by the Nazis at the outset of World War II. We had lived comfortably in Spain and Portugal for hundreds of years before our expulsion during the Inquisition.

We must not forget that the freedoms that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League fought for are not guaranteed for our children unless we fight for them ourselves.

The challenges we face today are much more subtle. Gone are the yellow arm bands and the numbered tattoos intended to rob us of our identity. In their place are much more subtle questions, such as aid for parochial schools or the battle over school prayer.

How many of us have said, "Well, maybe aid for parochial school wouldn't be so bad. After all, some of these are even Jewish schools. What's the harm done in saying a prayer at the beginning of class?" Yet, we fail to realize that it is the separation of church and state that has made this country great. We neglect to consider the alternatives — places like Bosnia or Kosovo, where religion continues to drive a wedge between people.

The answer is not to elect more Jewish politicians. Nor is it to elect a Jewish president. Rather, the answer to these challenges lies within our own communities — in the increased participation and activism of Jews committed to rooting out evil and injustice wherever they may appear.

We who know the cost of indifference, who know the pain of injustice, cannot dare to ignore the fate of others. For though Jews may not be the first victims of hatred, we are seldom the last.

As Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has said, "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."