“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
– Elie Wiesel
generations of Change
The Maimonides Institute was founded on a simple idea: Remember the Past; Protect the Future. As we continue to grow and expand, we have realized that while this guiding principle remains important, it is incomplete as a paradigm for affecting change in our current society. We must not lose sight of the present - of the things we can do here and now to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are applied to the promotion of human dignity and the ethical treatment of all people. We must do more than simply remember the past if we truly want to protect the future. We must act now.
Just as we turned to Maimonides, the 12th century physician, rabbi, philosopher and founding father of Jewish medical ethics, for inspiration regarding utilizing historical lessons to inform contemporary practice, we now look to the Hebrew phrase, L'dor V'dor - from generation to generation - for guidance in how best to take action. This expression refers to the essential task in Judaism of passing down traditions and education from one generation to another. It is how we honor our ancestors - by telling their stories and our stories to our children and encouraging them to build upon the library of stories as they talk to their children. It is particularly important as a mechanism for preserving the memory of those who lost their lives during the Holocaust and making sure the world never forgets. Remember the past; protect the future; act now.
However, there is more to it than that. The Maimonides Institute was born out of a responsibility to our ancestors who were persecuted and killed for being Jewish to tell their stories, to pass down their traditions, and to educate and empower the next generation to become active agents of social change who will fight for freedom, tolerance and justice for all people. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us, to give a voice to the generation before us who were silenced and to help the next generation find and amplify their voice.
In the wake of a global pandemic, it has become evident that now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to make connections between generations. Much can be learned from revisiting the history of minority cultures and vulnerable populations in times of distress. We must remember what can happen when political or social constructs are used to discriminate and divide us. Understanding the ways that basic ethical principles have been distorted by outside forces in the past can help us recognize when history threatens to repeat itself. Medicine and science do not exist in a vacuum. Political agendas are still present. We are still being asked to define the value of human life and determine a hierarchy of worth that is being used to guide the ethical foundations of policy and practice.
MIMEH realizes that we have a duty to act now. We are proud to announce the Generations of Change Initiative. Consistent with MIMEH's mission, this new program will help empower the next generation by identifying leaders who are actively working to remember the past and protect the future by acting now. We will provide mentorship and guidance as these emerging scholars and activists develop programs that promote human dignity, health care reform, human rights endeavors and ethical leadership. Just as we owe it to those whose lives were changed irrevocably by the Holocaust to not only remember, but to learn, educate and do better, our response to this global pandemic cannot end when the crisis does.
L'dor V'dor, from generation to generation, we are committed to unifying and amplifying the voices of the past, present and future in a call to action for a more tolerant and righteous world.