CHICAGO — Thousands of Chicagoans came together Monday to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust and send a clear message for the future.
More than 250 Holocaust survivors gathered for the annual United States Holocaust Memorial Museum luncheon.
Rahm Emanuel was honored for his work in fighting anti-Semitism over the years, but in an emotional and energetic speech, Chicago’s former mayor told hundreds in the audience, that with hate crimes, and dangerous rhetoric rising, this is a time not only to remember, but also to respond.
“The museum is not just about memory it is about inspiration to act,” he said.
Without mentioning President Donald Trump by name, Emanuel issued a powerful rebuke of the president`s anti-immigration policies and rhetoric by drawing a parallel to the holocaust.
“Yesterday may have been Jacob, but today it is Jose,” he said “Yesterday may have been Saul, today it is Sol. Yesterday it may have been Herman today it is Enrique.”
Emanuel, Chicago`s first Jewish mayor, issued a call to action. He said the audience was filled with the most influential Jewish community in history and they had an obligation to fight hate today while remembering .
“Are we going to accept rhetoric at a time that tells others they are criminal, they`re dirty, they don`t belong, they`re infesting?” Emanuel said. “We have seen it. We know what it leads to. Because if you dehumanize people you can do whatever you want.”
Emanuel was honored for his long-time commitment to the museum and to Holocaust remembrance.
The memories are still fresh for 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Estelle Glaser Laughlin. She was 10-years-old when Germany invaded Poland
“Immediately my life changed beyond recognition,” she said.
Her father was a member of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and was eventually executed in a concentration camp gas chamber
Laughlin escaped to America with her mother and sister and said she’s disturbed by the current climate in the country. Anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. doubled from 2017 to 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“If it happened once before, it could happen again,” Laughlin said. “The price we pay when we accommodate ourselves to tyrants - what it does to the conscience of a nation, what it does to love and trust. The beauty of this country was that America was the hope.”
The theme of the luncheon was “What You Do Matters,” and Cardinal Blasé Cupich said that starts with parents and making sure the value of humanity’s diversity is learned at home.
“Hatred so often that we see in young people is learned, it`s not something they have innately,” he said. “We as an old generation need to tell our children where hatred ends up and what we need to do to fight it.”
Tribune Media, the parent company of WGNTV and WGN Radio, was a corporate sponsor of the luncheon.
The money raised today will help keep the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington open and free to the public.